An Executive Director's point of view


July 14, 2014: Be specific

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
Really specific.

Many problems occur in associations because people think they've understood what others have said. But many people define words, actions, and situations differently. They may not interpret information in the same way nor be able to read others' signs.

So, be sure you and those with whom you interact understand each other. Clarify terms, restate goals and work directives, repeat discussion summaries, and confirm final decisions - even in writing, if necessary.

Don't be afraid of appearing slow or dumb or unable to remember things. Misunderstandings today can lead to monumental conflicts tomorrow.

January 03, 2014: Ditch the elevator pitch?

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
A memory dart may be better.

July 09, 2013: The tone of your email

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
"Don't read too much into it in terms of tone," suggests CPP, Inc., explaining to Associations Now the survey findings about ways people communicate through email.

Folks post messages in all sorts of ways, and they're usually just trying to get their messages across quickly in whatever way they feel most comfortable.

(I guess you shouldn't be overly concerned about grammar or spelling, either).

June 27, 2013: Bad instructions

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
An explanation for printing mailing labels began with the directive, "define your label."

But it didn't explain what that meant - nor how to do it.

When offering instructions about anything, don't assume people know what you are saying. Explain things in language users will understand.

June 16, 2013: No more technospeak

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
When writing, give your words the "conversational test."

Would you hand somebody a document and say, "enclosed, as per your request, please find documents pertaining to the new project?"

Not likely.

It would be better to say, "here are the new project documents you asked about."

Remember, technospeak does not impress people. And industry lingo is gibberish - even to many people in the industry.

May 31, 2013: Just plain dumb

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
An organization hired a consultant (not me) to deliver a presentation at its office. It provided the street address and directions.

1. It did not tell the consultant that the street name had been changed and now had a different name.

2. It did not tell the consultant that the highway exit ramp listed in the directions had been closed for some time.

3. The consultant called for different directions and was given alternatives - but those had also been closed for some time (the organization admitted that it knew that).

4. When the consultant called again, the switchboard had been closed (during normal business hours) and nobody answered the phone nor returned voicemail messages.

The organization was angry when the consultant arrived late.

April 09, 2013: When somebody dies

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
When somebody dies, it is customary to notify people who would want to know, so they can be aware of the person's passing, find out the time and place of memorial services, and be told how to offer condolences to family and friends of the deceased.

Notification should be done in a way that is most likely to reach those people swiftly. Simply posting a notice on Facebook is not the way to achieve that.

When a co-worker dies, use whatever method is most effective for informing people in the office and in the organization.

For everybody else, call them. Those closest to the deceased can call some people and ask them to call others. Yes, you can post on Facebook or LinkedIn, print a newspaper and online obituary, send emails, and announce the event in other venues, to reach a wider audience.

But you should still call the people who are most affected. You'll be able to communicate with them more quickly, better convey the seriousness of the event, and ensure they will know what has happened. Don't wait for them to read about it somewhere.

Facebook posts do not replace personal contact.

February 03, 2013: Bad slide presentation

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
Don't do these things if you are presenting a slide show.

January 30, 2013: Just talk

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
The Chair of an Association board broadcast a message to the members on YouTube.

He sat at his desk and spoke directly into the camera atop his computer monitor.

He wasn't coached. He didn't read from a script. It wasn't flashy. And he did not display very much charisma. He just talked to the members.

And they loved it.

They were delighted he took the time to tell them, personally (sort of), what was going on in the association. They appreciated his sincerity.

And they were impressed with his use of new (to them) technology, even though most of them were not regular users and some had never before viewed an online video.

The broadcast worked because he knew how to talk to his audience.

January 25, 2013: Do members read?

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
Many association members don't read everything they are sent. Quite a few don't read anything they are sent. And many who do read, try to read quickly.

So, like everything else, know your audiences and deliver the information they want, in the way they want it.

Here's what to do if they don't want to be burdened with a lot of reading:

1. Present information as concisely as possible.
2. Use brief (very brief) headers.
3. Lead with the main point. Don't bury it in the middle of a communication and definitely do not save it for the end.
4. Use a lot of line breaks.
5. Avoid long paragraphs.
6. Break up copy with headers and/or images.
7. Use words that people understand.
8. Avoid professional jargon if your audience includes people outside your industry or profession.
9. Don't send digital info to people who want print.
10. And don't send print to those who want digital.

Don't force your members to read lots and lots of pages, documents, and (heavens, no) books. They won't. Expecting them to read too much will just make each of you more annoyed with the other.
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