An Executive Director's point of view
May 20, 2013: Charging speakers for equipment
Many speakers, for example, do not want to be tethered to a podium. They don't want to be seated behind a table or chained to a stationary microphone.
They want to be able to step onto the stage or the front of the room to chat with, and interact with, the audience.
They want to eliminate the barriers between speaker and attendee and not be forced to deliver a rigid, speak-from-the-lectern type of presentation.
So, give them a lavaliere microphone and don't make them pay for it.
May 13, 2013: Little things matter
I didn't believe that could be possible, since this was the first day of registration. It was more likely the ribbons had been lost, somebody had forgotten to bring them, or nobody realized they needed to be reordered in time for the meeting.
Well, I never thought I would care about something so minor. But I did. Although "CAE" was printed on my badge, I wanted the ribbon to display the status I had achieved as a Certified Association Executive (and all the money I had spent to continually recertify).
When preparing badges, ribbons, and other meeting materials, be sure that attendee credentials are complete, accurate, and properly displayed. It may not seem that important to you, but it really matters to the people who are entitled to recognition.
May 06, 2013: Things happen
Only one lavaliere microphone is connected to the sound system. Two were ordered.
The pallet with exhibit booth materials was not delivered. (Actually, it was, but to the wrong booth).
The electricity connection in the booth isn't working.
The box containing some of the conference handouts cannot be found.
The Park District meeting room that was contracted and paid for is locked and not available for use. And there is nobody onsite with authority to open it.
The state-of-the-art audio-visual system in the hospital auditorium doesn't boot up. And the facility a/v department is closed.
Lots of things happen that shouldn't happen in the course of producing meetings, conferences, and expos. So, always allow time to discover those problems, fix them, or put contingencies in place.
Arrive early, carry a list of contact numbers for anybody who may need to be contacted, have access to original copies of documents, be pushy (in a tactful way, of course), and be decisive when opting for alternatives.
Leave time to take care of things that really should have already been taken care of.
It's surprising how many people don't do that. They show up at the last minute and frantically scurry about, trying to solve problems they apparently hadn't expected.
Best case scenario? Everything happens as planned, you have extra time you don't need, and you can approach the event in a much more relaxed manner.
April 26, 2013: Missing pens
People are less likely to absent-mindedly walk off with a writing utensil that has an exposed point.
March 22, 2013: Meeting disasters
Meeting disasters do happen. Here's how some associations have dealt with them (click to page 14 in the linked publication).
February 17, 2013: Long sleeves
During summer, meeting facilities are usually air-conditioned - and chilly. During winter, they'll be heated, but still somewhat chilly.
If you are cold during meetings and educational sessions, you'll be distracted and uncomfortable. If you ask for the heat to be turned up, you'll just irritate your colleagues who may think the room temperature is just fine.
So wear long sleeves. And think about conference business, not thermostat settings.
February 11, 2013: Online educational conferences?
Although attendees will miss out on the face-to-face networking, they can still acquire a lot of information.
But attending an online conference requires sitting in front of a computer screen for many hours, sometimes for two or three days in a row, focused on a single activity.
Many association professionals just can't do that. They're distracted by other activities and they may experience computer-screen-watching fatigue.
And while they'll save on travel expenses, they won't save any time. They'll still have to block out huge amounts of each day to "attend" the meeting.
So, before offering online attendance, ask your audience if it will use it. It may not be worth the effort.
November 27, 2012: Suspicious meeting locations
Some governmental units, in fact, will pay meeting registration fees but not travel or hotel expenses. Many won't provide a per diem even for legitimate items. It just doesn't look good at election time.
Most Americans never attend professional meetings or conferences. Some may participate in mandatory training programs, but those are often held close to home and in uninteresting venues - like corporate headquarters.
So, if public reaction is an important consideration for your association (even if your members are privately employed), avoid vacation sites and upscale hotels or resorts. Stress the meeting content of the event, not the attractiveness of the location, and don't encourage attendees to bring their families along.
Make clear the event is catering to professional needs, not personal needs.
November 26, 2012: Meal guarantees
A volunteer leader called a restaurant to alert it to the number of people who might show up for a small dinner. He, too, was surprised to find out the association was financially liable for the number of meals prepared regardless of how many were actually served.
You'd think with all the people planning weddings, bar mitzvah parties, and family reunions, they'd understand hotel and restaurant policies about food and beverage events.
Well, they don't. So make sure those arrangements are handled by people who do understand how these things work.
November 15, 2012: Association members boycott hotel
Association leaders say it would be too expensive to cancel its contract, but the two groups have moved some conference events to other locations and have alerted their members to the controversy. Some association members have arranged for lodging elsewhere, even though it might be less convenient and more expensive.
"As pastors and rabbis, you listen to your people when they're asking you to stand with them in a situation where they're calling for justice," says one supporter of the boycott.
Bottom line for associations? Listen to your people.