An Executive Director's point of view


July 01, 2015: Do less, not more

Category: Planning
Posted by: David M Patt
Associations want to succeed. Sometimes, that means doing less, not more.

It's often better to conduct one or two excellent programs than it is to do a less than excellent job at eight or nine.

Measure success by how much you accomplish, not by how much you try to accomplish.

June 30, 2015: More boring sessions?

Category: Learning
Posted by: David M Patt
I'm getting ready for an educational conference and the same old issues have popped up - bad presentations and bad use of slides.

Whatever techniques you use, keep your session interesting and present in a way that meets attendee needs.
Category: Planning
Posted by: David M Patt
Association professionals spend a great deal of time analyzing data, both anecdotal and what appears to be statistically valid.

In many instances, that is done to determine how to pitch membership, publications, conferences, and other organizational activities to various audiences. The intent is to find out what people want and how they want it presented to them. Programs are then designed to meet audience needs.

But often, associations seek to persuade people to support programs (and ideas) that have already been crafted. They want to advance programs and ideas that have not been embraced by the majority of their audiences, or those that may even conflict with existing practices.

That doesn't mean the groups are poorly informed or misdirected. It means they want to change the way things are done and they are using the data to help them decide how to do that.

They hope to create demand, not respond to it.

June 25, 2015: Criticizing co-workers

Posted by: David M Patt
In an association where I was the CEO, the staffer who was supposed to compile packets that day for an upcoming event assured me she would have everything done on schedule - provided she received all of the materials she needed.

That was her way of telling me that her co-worker who was supposed to have prepared those materials had not done so.

Don't ever accept blame for something that is not your fault. But be careful about criticizing your co-workers whose fault it is. That could make you an outcast on the staff and cause people to stop cooperating with you (or even talking to you).

So, get the message across to your boss tactfully and, if possible, innocently (like she did), so that the situation can be corrected and you aren't labeled a tattler.
Category: Governance
Posted by: David M Patt
Committee Chairs may be very successful in their professions. But they may be ill-equipped to chair meetings and facilitate association decision-making.

You can help them.

When doing so, always appear helpful and supportive, not challenging or critical, and show respect for the Chair, the committee members, and the profession.

Behind the curtain, though, you need to be adept at utilizing political skill to obtain the desired results. And you should not be afraid of conflict. Those qualities may provide you with an edge over members who are less sophisticated about organizational processes.

Here are some things you can do to help a poor committee Chair:

1. Offer to draft the agenda. Many committee Chairs don't know how to do that and will be relieved to have somebody else do it for them. Submit a "proposed agenda," and ask what changes they would like. They may be fine with your draft.

2. Tell them, or list for them, the desired outcomes of the meeting. It may help them better understand how to get from point A (the agenda) to point B (the final decisions).

3. Offer some tips about chairing the meeting - how to select speakers, ask for motions and seconds, conduct discussions, mediate debate, stick to the agenda, etc.

4. Warn the committee Chair ahead of time of any problems you anticipate with committee members or matters under discussion. Suggest ways of handling those problems and offer to handle them yourself.

5. Offer to intervene to prevent members from hijacking the meeting. A poor committee chair may be reluctant to do that and will meekly withdraw in the face of assertive challengers who raise issues that are not on the agenda or who too forcefully pursue their proposals.

6. Assuming your offer of help is accepted, intervene as necessary, to stymie hijackers. Your willingness to confront them may be enough to stop them.

7. Speak out in the meeting, but be sure to act as a committee resource, not as a committee member. State the pros and cons of proposals as you see them. The committee Chair may not ask for your opinion, but that may simply be because your role in the meeting is not understood.

8. As much as possible, support the committee Chair and protect the Chair's leadership position. Your job is to ensure the committee meeting functions properly. That will be easier if the committee Chair functions properly.

9. If the committee meeting yields inappropriate results, notify the Board Chair and develop a strategy to undo bad decisions at the Board meeting.

10. If, in your opinion, the committee Chair performs poorly, notify the Board Chair of the need to establish stronger committee leadership.

June 17, 2015: Certification problem

Category: Stuff, other
Posted by: David M Patt
An association found that more than one-fourth of its certified members had not renewed their credential nor sought the higher credentialing levels that were available. And that number was increasing each year.

The profession was not licensed, so it was felt that certification was necessary to identify practitioners who were truly qualified. Thus, additional requirements were added every few years to keep pace with developments in the field. And the changes applied to everybody.

Many certified members, though, felt the additional requirements were being promoted by those who had earned the higher credentials and merely wanted to gain a professional advantage over their less-credentialed colleagues.

Question: At what point will the credential no longer be valued?

If the majority of members reject the credentialing process, will non-credentialed members outnumber those who are credentialed? Will the association then phase out the credential or scale back the requirements? Will the non-renewed members create a competing association that will claim the credential is not necessary?

Don't ignore the problem if this happens in your organization. If you think the credential holds value, determine why people are forgoing the process and find a responsible way to accommodate their concerns. Otherwise, you might be left with a worthless credentialing process.

June 16, 2015: Do people read ads?

Category: Marketing
Posted by: David M Patt
You'd think so, since companies spend billions of dollars a year on advertising.

But do your target audiences view ads?

Do they utilize ad blockers on the internet?
Do they click "skip ad" when viewing YouTube videos?
Do they disable banner ads and pop-ups on web sites?
Do they silence audio ads?
Do they walk away from the television during commercial time?
Do they watch ad-free movies and TV shows on their laptops?
Do they ignore ads in printed publications?

Ads usually tell what the advertiser want you to know rather than what you might want to know. So lots of people ignore them, delete them, or tune them out.

When considering advertising your association, or selling ad space to sponsors, ask yourself: Do my prospects pay attention to ads? Do they want to be forced to view ads when they're doing something else? What will they think of the organization and its sponsors if ads appear where they didn't expect them and might not want them?

Don't just do what seems popular or profitable. Know your audiences, approach them in the way they want to be approached, and provide them with a message they'll want to hear.

June 15, 2015: Link rot

Category: Technology
Posted by: David M Patt
It's when a link on an old blog post no longer connects to anything.

If you post links, here's what you should know about that problem.
Posted by: David M Patt
Here are some suggestions.

June 10, 2015: Speaker diversity

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
An Associations Now article reminded me of a gender diversity problem I had to deal with when producing an all-day program for a small association.

We recruited six speakers - three men and three women. Diversity was very important, as the majority of the audience was female, and they weren't thrilled about listening to men all day long.

Well, all three female speakers canceled the week prior to the event but promised to send substitutes. They did - they all sent men.

I made a bigger deal than I would have about the lineup when we kicked off the meeting. I didn't want the audience to think that program planning had just been a "guy thing."

Diversity - whether based on gender, race, age, or anything else - is not just symbolic. It tells the audience who you are and who you care about.

So take diversity seriously.
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