Five Tips for an ASAE Annual Conference First Timer

We’re just a few weeks away from ASAE’s 2012 Annual Conference in Dallas, TX. If you’re like me, you’ve been looking forward to this since last August. I’ve already started looking at sessions I want to attend, events that look exciting, and can’t wait to connect with old and new friends in Dallas. Last year’s annual conference was my first ASAE conference and I thought I’d take some time to address some first-timer conference questions.

What do I wear?

I’ve always been really good at over packing and returning with outfits I didn’t touch. That’s just how I work and I have no plans to change that. You will probably want a few different outfits for you as a daytime conference attendee and others for evening activities. ASAE’s dress code for the conference is:

We want you to be comfortable so you can enjoy your meeting experience! Therefore, business casual dress is strongly encouraged. We suggest bringing a light sweater or jacket with you during the day as meeting rooms are air conditioned.

This means leave the suits (and ties) at home but look nice. I usually go with a dress shirt, dress slacks/khakis, and dress shoes during the day and dress down for evening events. Check out ASAE’s video, What to Wear to ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo’s Opening Reception as they’ve spelled it out for you this year:

The point is to be comfortable at the conference, so leave the suits at home. Unless you’ll be participating in the Monday Morning Awards Ceremony – you may want to consider something a little nicer for that. I’ve never been though so many someone else can chime in on this?

Do I have to have business cards?

YES! Bring more than you ever think you will ever need. You won’t believe the number of opportunities you will have to meet new people – and you will. One of the worst things that can happen is to run out of business cards at a conference.

Here’s a tip for those business cards you collect. After you’ve finished your conversation with someone, jot down a few notes on the back of the card to remind you about the conversation. Anything interesting they said, something that you want to follow up on, or a few fun facts that will help you remember them. Do it right after the conversation, or at least later that evening.

At the end of each day while I’m sitting in my hotel room I take all the cards I collected and make sure I have enough notes on the back of their card to remember them and the conversation once I’ve gotten back to the office. Most importantly, send a follow-up, “nice to meet you” email (at the least), or a hand-written card/note to thank them for their time after the conference. Isn’t the whole point of meeting someone to develop and continue the relationship? These will be the people you go to for advice, questions, resources on your day-to-day association life. For you younger association professionals, you may have even found a mentor to guide you along the way – I know I have!

What else should I bring?

This depends on your conference experience and how you work/network/learn the best. Below is my Pinterest board of items that I make sure I have when I’m on the conference floor (it’s a lot of stuff but I tend to be over-prepared).

These are just the items for my “day pack” while I’m at sessions and roaming around the conference center. Of course this means that after the daytime activities I’ll have to go back to my hotel room to drop these off before I head out for the night, which sometime can be cumbersome. If you’re looking for a good list of things to help you pack for the entire conference this Pack This Pad from Knock Knock may be useful for you.

Will I feel left out if I don’t know a lot of people?

You can feel left out if you want to be, but I don’t recommend it. Does it help to know some people at the conference already? Sure. Can you still enjoy yourself and have a great time even if you don’t know anyone? Absolutely, but it requires you be willing to put yourself out there and introduce yourself to other attendees. Introduce yourself to people at your table during sessions, in the hallways, at lunches, and evening social events (this is probably the easiest one). The conference can seem intimidating with so many people there but I promise but you’ll rarely meet someone who isn’t interested in meeting someone new.

Putting yourself out there can be scary for a lot of people, I think a great way to start is to tweet while you’re at the conference and converse using the #asae12 hashtag. It’s a great way to find out what’s happening during the conference, ask questions, and meet new people. Check out my twitter list of this year’s conference attendees and let me know if you want to be added.

How do I get the most out of attending?

It’s important to identify your current issues or questions. Pick a few and keep them in mind as you attend sessions and meet new people throughout the conference. The expo hall can be a great place to find solutions for your association as well.

Ask yourself, “Why am I attending this conference?” or “What do I want to leave this conference with?” The answers to these will be different for everyone but asking yourself is important in guiding your conference experience. Are you here for the education? Are you looking to expand your network of association professionals? You can have multiple reasons for attending, but it’s important you know all your reasons. Otherwise, you’ll spend all of your time floundering around trying to take in everything and I think most ASAE conference veterans will tell you, there’s just too much.

The people are the most important thing for me, it’s a chance for me to re-connect with people whom I don’t’ normally see regularly and to meet new people to expand my network of contacts. Expanding my network of contacts doesn’t mean just collecting a lot of business cards. With more than 5,000 association professionals at this conference, there’s just too many people for one person to meet. That shouldn’t discourage you from meeting as many people as you can though, but don’t be one of those people that just works every room. Make an effort to establish some real connections that will prove valuable to you for the rest of your association career. These are the people you will most likely be emailing and calling for advice and feedback on future projects and issues.

Did I forget anything? Ask away. If this will be your first ASAE annual conference what questions do you have? For my fellow conference attendee regulars what advice do you have for this year’s conference first timers?

ASAE 2012 Annual Conference Hotel Map – Dallas

For those attending ASAE’s Annual Conference in Dallas, TX next August I’ve created a hotel map. If you’re like most people, you’re want to stay within walking distance of the Convention Center.

Note: The Hilton Antole and Ritz Carlton Dallas are not shown on this map.

ASAE 2012 Annual Conference Hotel MapClick to view larger version. Download a Hi-Res PDF.

I’m looking forward to attending my second ASAE’s annual conference this year. Last year was an amazing professional development opportunity. I made so many new friends and turned my online friends into offline friends! Will you be in Dallas this year?

Online friends turned offline at ASAE’s annual meeting

This week, I attended the ASAE (American Society of Association Executives) annual meeting in St. Louis. I can’t begin to express how excited I was to be there as a first time attendee. Adding to the excitement (and a little nervousness too) was the fact that I presented an Ignite talk; my first professional presentation and my first stand up presentation since grad school. For those of you unfamiliar with Ignite, it’s a fast-paced 5 minute talk with 20 slides set for auto-rotate every 15 seconds.

My talk was titled How Twitter Saved My Life; Not Really, But Maybe? It was the story of how I used Twitter to meet new people in DC and develop most of my social circles. I’ll write more about the Ignite talk in a future post. The focus of my talk was about connecting to people and building relationships; both online and offline.

Developing online relationships

One of the reasons I was excited to attend this conference was because I was eager to meet all of my association twitter friends. People I had been connecting with through #assnchat, #asae11, #asae, and #asaeyp. There were so many I was looking forward to finally see in person I don’t dare name all of them for fear of leaving some out. Chances are if I approached you, or asked you to meet somewhere you were one of them.

Photo of John Chen & Mandy Stall Online relationships and connections are great; I value every single one of them I have. Trust me, it’s the only way that I’ve been able to manage in DC. It’s how I’ve met new friends and connected with old ones. It’s how I’m able to keep in touch with so many people and not miss a beat when we hang out offline. We spend hours reading each other’s content, sharing links, and conversing online.

It is one of the main reasons I have such a large community of association colleagues and friends. I can’t imagine what I would do if I didn’t have #assnchat on Tuesday, or the likes of @Laurenhefner, @ElizabethB, @ewengel, @ltwhite, @chatterbachs, @teritally, @maryvig, @gmeliaCAE, @laurenawolfe, @kikilitalien, @maddiegrant, @maggielmcg, @sfeuer@mandydc, or @hduckworth (just to name a few, there are so many more out there) to help me through this association journey. Sometimes, we need to take it one step further.

Isn’t an online relationship enough?

During my Ignite talk, I spoke to the fact that the real power of twitter is when you take it offline. As much as I love all of my online friends, there’s something to be said about taking that online relationship, offline. Here’s the strange thing, we expose more of our inner selves through online relationships while at the same time hiding (or perhaps just sharing less) of our outer selves. Like John Graham, CEO of ASAE said during the annual conference, those of us tweeting are certainly not shy.

Photo of John Chen & Lauren Hefner As much as we are open with each other. As much of a social media junkie as I am. As much as I love to connect and share with friends online. I know it can never fully replace the power of an in-person interaction. I need that physical presence that you get from a friend sitting next to you. I need the warmth of a hug from you and to be able to read your body language, and the tone in which you speak to me (how many times arguments and misunderstandings have happened because we can’t convey tone through text? BTW, I like to use a lot of emoticons but apparently they’re not appropriate for work emails). My online association friends mean so much to me and they fulfill a very special role. Why are the important to me?

What makes association friends special?

Our happiest, saddest, and scariest moments are shared with your friends. My recent scariest moment was presenting my Ignite talk on Monday. I can’t believe how much support I received before, during, and after the talk; the number of people that came to the room to cheer me on was unbelievable. They help me learn, lift me up when I am down, and support me in more ways than I can imagine. They’re proven themselves time and time again to be a huge resource in my life.

Photo of John Chen & Andrea Holovach The association friends I’ve made online are just as important as the ones I have made offline. The young association professionals I have met through ASAE’s Association of the Future Project, Leadership Academy (Go class of 2012!), and veterans through conferences such as Great Ideas or Marketing, Membership, & Communications and Annual Meting & Expo 2011 have been amazing. I truly cherish each one of you.

Beyond being there to support me, I know they understand me as well. They face the same things I face everyday in their own jobs. As association professionals we’re all doing what we can to serve our members. Sometimes, it’s not as easy as it sounds and there are lots of things that get in the way of us being able to do that. The support of this community (evidenced by the 5,000+ attendees at the conference this week) is what helps me each and everyday in career.

Thank you

My association friends comfort me when I am sad, laugh with me when I am happy, and cheer me on when I succeed. They always give me good advice, help me solve my problems, and I can always count on them to treat me nice. Thank you to all my association friends past, present, and future. I wouldn’t be where I am without you all.

Why I am Looking Forward to my First ASAE Annual Conference

Yesterday, I arrived in St. Louis for my first ASAE annual conference. It would be an understatement to say that I was fired up to be here. To be honest, I was (and still am) more excited to be at my first ASAE annual conference than I was the first time I went to Disney World. If Disney World is the happiest place on Earth then what does that make ASAE?

ASAE has been an amazing professional home to me since I joined the association world after college. I’ve been fortunate to have an organization who supports my professional development and a professional home that has welcomed me open arms.

How Did I Get Involved With ASAE?
Association of the Future. I first got involved with ASAE when I applied (and was accepted) for a new pilot project, the Association of the Future, . The Association of the Future (AOTF) was collaborative project that created a mock association “staffed” purely by young association professionals. Mock staff and board of directors participated in a yearlong simulation address a variety of current and future association trends. After participating in this project, I was hooked on ASAE.

Leadership Academy. After AOTF, I was encouraged to apply for ASAE’s Leadership Academy, a two-year program designed to provide learning opportunities and develop the next generation of association executives. I’m only 8 months into this program, but I’m serious when I say; this has been a career altering experience for me already. I’ve met amazing classmate whom I now call friends, connected with veteran association executives whom I would have been had the opportunity, and learned so much about myself and what I am able to achieve.

Why Do I Love ASAE so Much?
Reason 1. The thing that has made my professional home absolutely amazing has been the people; the members, the staff, the volunteers have been so open and willing with their time. I’ve been paired up with a handful of mentors (both officially and unofficially) whom have provided so much personal and professional guidance to me. Complete strangers in the association world have taken time out of their busy schedules and lives to sit down with me and provide me with valuable insight, direction, and wisdom which would have taken me years to figure out (and probably a lot of hardship along the way)

Reason 2. The staff at ASAE is top notch. As association professionals, we all know what’s involved in doing our best to service our members. Members who work in a variety of industries from aerospace to zoology. Each day we strive to provide the best professional home we can. The interesting thing about ASAE for me; their members are also their industry colleagues. I can’t imagine what it is like having your members work in the same field as you. On the flip side, it’s interesting to me to have a professional home full of staff who do the same things as me. It creates an interesting dynamic on both sides of the fence.

I’m looking forward to a great annual conference this week and a life long relationship with ASAE. They won’t be getting rid of me anytime soon. What are you looking forward to this week?

What I learned on my first day at Great Ideas

Yesterday was the first day of ASAE’s Great Ideas conference. For those who are unfamiliar with either, ASAE is the American Society of Association Executives, a professional membership association dedicated to the growth and development of the association community and those who work within it. The Great Ideas conference is held in March and serves as a medium for new strategies, new ideas, and new tactics for association and association-related staff.

I’m fortunate enough to be here due to ASAE and its Leadership Academy. The Leadership Academy is a new program from ASAE specifically focused on developing the next generation of association leaders (those with 2-5 years of association experience). During the two-year program students embark on a professional development journey of monthly webinars, professional growth readings, four conferences each with a pre-conference session designed specifically for the Leadership Academy. Acceptance to the leadership academy is based on an application process requiring short answer responses, resumes, and letters of recommendation.

If you’ve never been to one of ASAE’s Great Ideas conference, I strongly recommend you do. Being surrounded by 500 passionate and innovate association professionals is a rush. There are so many wonderful people to meet, stories to share, and new information to soak up. Below are some of the themes I’ve learned from the first day. These aren’t concepts I’ve learned during the idea labs, but wonderful advice, stories, tips shared from seasoned professionals outside of the idea labs. I was fortunate to have a handful of amazing conversations with some genuinely interesting people during the reception and throughout the evening.

The easy route isn’t always the right route
Break the habit of keeping yourself in a comfortable environment. If you are here with your colleagues, or a group of people you already know, take the opportunity to introduce yourself to a new group. It’s easy to share space with people you already know, but it’s always exciting to hear a new story from someone you just met

Never underestimate the power of your story
Everyone has amazing stories to share; about their personal and professional lives, family, how they turned an obstacle into an opportunity. People want to know your story, so go out there and share it. Never feel that your story isn’t interesting enough to the person next to you.

Network to build relationships, not for the sake of networking
It’s not about the number of business cards you collect. It’s about the number of conversations you have 6 months down the road. Meet with the intention of creating long-lasting relationships. It may not always work out that way but it should be your approach. I would rather spend the entire night developing potential long-term relations than have a stack of 25 business cards.

The only way to fail is to not try
What’s great about conferences is that everyone is always willing to talk and share. Sometimes it may not go beyond a brief conversation but imagine the possibilities if it does. Every conversation, no matter how long or short, is going to provide you value and interest, but you have to be willing to engage. The worst conversations are the ones that never happen.

Ask yourself the why & what question
Why do you want to go to this session? What do you hope to get out of it? Have a purpose for everything you do. Why do you want to meet them? What do you want to happen after you talk to them?

Flair is fun!
Enough said 🙂

I want to thank everyone who took the time to speak with me yesterday. Whether it was a quick introduction during a session, a hallway conversation, or an in-depth conversation over drinks at the end of the night. You continue to energize my passion for the association world. If you see me over the next few days, please say hello and share your story.

A special thanks to Jeff Hurt (@JeffHurt), Cynthia D’Amour (@CynthiaDAmour), Kiki L’Italien (@kikilitalien), Greg Melia (@gmeliaCAE), Holly Duckworth (@hduckworth), Glenn Thayer (@glennthayer), and Dean West for your insights and stories yesterday.

Lastly, a shout out to my leadership academy class of 2012. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to speak to one of us please do (look for the leadership academy blue square button on our name tags). I look forward to our two-year journey together.

I’d love to hear what you learned yesterday!

I can’t wait to get today started!

Virgin America I adore you, but sometimes you disappoint

Those that know me can attest to how strongly I vouch for Virgin America (@virginamerica) flights. I frequently go out of my way to ensure I fly Virgin America. Last Thursday’s flight, was somewhat of a disappointment compared to their normal excellent service.

I opted to upgrade to Main Cabin Select which is a bit pricey considering what you get but sometimes worth the upgrade fee. For those who haven’t flow Main Cabin Select you receive much more leg room, access to all their on-demand videos ($8.00 each), all the food, drink, alcohol you can possibly consume, priority boarding, and priority security access (my personal favorite).

I never buy my Main Cabin Select seat outright; I wait until I check-in to see how many of the seats are available. If I can snag an aisle seat and the middle seat is empty I’ll upgrade right before my flight. I think upgrades the day of tend to be a little bit cheaper. I usually pay $110 for my upgrade, but I can check my bag w/o any additional fees ($25 value) so my upgrade fee ends up being $85.

This flight experience left something to be desired. I’m sure my sub-par Virgin America experience would have beat any other airline I could have taken.

Items of concern

  • Hair found in sink
  • Consoles in row froze multiple times
  • Safety video was not played – old school demonstration, delayed departure time
  • Flight crew seemed disoriented and disorganized prior to take off
  • Excessive amount of pre-boarding for those who obviously did not need the extra time. As a Main Cabin Select passenger there were approximately 20 people on the plane when I boarded. One of the main reasons I upgrade is to be able to walk right to my seat. Today, I was 5 back waiting in the walkway to board the plane
  • Flight Crew Captain asked all passengers to refrain from using Google Maps on Red due to excessive unit freezing

Saving grace

  • Google’s free wifi made the flight more bearable
  • Luckily no one was in the middle seat (I normally take aisle)
  • That I upgraded to Main Cabin select (not really your saving grace as I paid a premium upgrade fee)
  • Amazing Red interactive environment (when it wasn’t frozen)
  • Satellite television at every seat
  • AC Power Plugs at every seat for your laptop, iPod and anything else you need power for

Things that added to my annoyance but out of their control

  • Crying babies
  • Turbulent flight
  • Consider offering a voucher for Main Cabin Select and First Class passengers for GoGo In-flight wifi.

I will admit that I am the one that decided to travel during Thanksgiving. Being away from family for most of Thanksgiving Day is bad enough. I don’t think I was asking much, I was just hoping for the normal Virgin America experience. Hopefully my return flight will fare better.

 

My first date with TSA

For the last few weeks I’ve been debating what I would do when I arrived at security. I’ll admit that I’m not a hard-core civil liberties activist and we need to be proactive to keep our skies safe. The discussions, blog posts, horror stories, news articles, and tweets about the new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) procedures left me apprehensive.

There is something about the whole-body imaging that doesn’t sit right with me. Keep in mind TSA is using two types of whole-body imagine technology, Millimeter Wave and Backscatter technology. The latest uproar has been around Backscatter technology which uses “low intensity” radiation to create a detailed outline of your body. I prefer to limit my radiation exposure and am not yet to be sold on the “safe levels” the new whole-body imaging machines produce. It’s essentially a digital strip search and I feel there has to be a better way to ensure security.

On the other hand, I recognize that security procedures are always changing and in someone’s mind the TSA is doing what they can to keep everyone safe. Personally, I feel like every time TSA installs a new security procedure, it’s a reactive event. Maybe we just don’t hear about the security procedures that prevent incidents before they happen.

I arrived at the airport about 3 hours before my flight. The combination of Thanksgiving day, new security procedures, and whoknows what else I didn’t want to take a risk getting stuck in security. With that in mind, I upgraded my flight class, which allowed me to go through the premium security line (it’s that other entrance that’s always empty and puts you at the front of the line). It’s just a shame that there were only about a dozen people in line for security when I showed up. Minor failure on my part.

Now I’m a pragmatist, if I was running behind and thought I would miss my flight I likely would have given in to whole-body imaging. I wasn’t trying to be difficult, but I wanted to experience the hype about the new pat-down procedures. I had plenty of time to catch my flight, there was only one person in front of me that opted out. I told the TSA agent of my desire to opt out. I sense a little annoyance on his part as he tried to quickly describe what would happen in a distasteful way to persuade me to change my mind.

I told him I understood and he asked me to stand to the side. Over his radio he reported a male-opt out and requested an additional TSA agent for the pat down. The TSA agent came promptly (I waited about 2 mins) and I was asked to check my pockets one last time and step through the metal detector. He asked me to identify my items and repeatedly told me not to touch anything.

I sat down and as he was putting on the gloves he asked if I had this procedure before and then explained exactly what he would be doing. I told him I understood and stood up and faced the wall with my arms out. I’ll admit, I didn’t really care about the pat down; I’ve been gone through pat-downs before. Yes, this was the “enhanced pat-down” that was creating lots of controversy so I wanted to see what the “enhanced” part entailed.

So what did he do?

  • Ran hands up and down my legs and checked my inner thighs
  • Checked my inner belt line very thoroughly
  • Ran his hands over my back, chest, and stomach area
  • Very thoroughly checked my collar
  • Repeatedly told me not to touch anything
  • Aggressively told me not to touch anything when someone tried to hand me my phone that fell onto the conveyor belt (Side note: the other passenger who found my found was yelling at me like it was my fault. To which I wanted to say “Don’t look at me, the TSA agent grabbed my stuff from the conveyor belt”)
  • Overall, he acted very professionally about the pat down

What didn’t he do?

  • He didn’t grope me in the way a doctor would
  • He didn’t belittle me
  • He didn’t make any remarks or distasteful comments
  • He didn’t make me feel like he was doing anything inappropriate

What did I think?
There were brief instances in which I felt apprehensive about the process but I never felt violated or treated less than humanely. I’m sure it’s wasn’t the highlight of his day either. I’ve read about the stories of other passengers feeling violated; the father who had to listen to the TSA agents making suggestive comments about his daughter, the passenger who had his urine bag expelled on himself, the woman who had her breasts groped and then bra snapped, and the list goes on. Obviously, these are valid complaints and I think these agents should be held dealt with accordingly.

My personal experience was not as intrusive or traumatic. My belief is that it largely depends on the TSA agent performing the enhanced pat down. I had the good fortune of having my enhanced pat-down performed by a very quiet yet professional TSA agent who at no point made me feel like I had done something wrong or that he was doing anything but his job.

What’s next?
I have three more “dates” with TSA before the end of the year. It will be situation dependent, but if it’s not going to cause me to miss my flight (since I refuse to fly anything but @virginamerica my options for being re-booked are limited to slim) then I’ll consider going through the enhanced pat-down. I’ll be describing each of my “dates” with TSA in future posts.

Addendum: Before beginning the enhanced pat-down I was required to pass through a metal detector.

How about a better new year’s resolution?

The last two weeks we’ve all been bombarded with New Year’s goals. They’re all over the place with status updates, tweets, Twitter polls, blog postings, and news articles. Now I’ve never been a hardcore New Year’s goal setter, I always have a few in mind and by the end of the week of the first week in January I’ve probably forgotten them and by the 3rd week I’ve likely given up on them completely.

Does this sound familiar?

I wanted to know if it was just I. Do I lack the simple self-discpline to stick with my goals? According to 2008 research study by Stephen Shapiro and the Opinion Research Corporation in Princeton, NJ:

Number of people that make New Year’s resolutions/goals
• 45% of Americans usually set New Year’s Resolutions
• 17% infrequently set resolutions
• 38% absolutely never set resolutions

Success rates
• 8% of people are always successful in achieving their resolutions
• 19% achieve their resolutions every other year.
• 49% have infrequent success
• 24% (one in four people) NEVER succeed and have failed on every resolution every year

Types of resolutions set
• 34% set resolutions related to money
• 38% set resolutions related to weight
• 47% set resolutions related to self-improvement or education
• 31% set resolutions related to relationships

The younger you are, the more likely you are to succeed
• 39% of those in their twenties achieve their resolutions every year or every other year
• Less than 15% of those over 50 achieve their resolutions every year or every other year

So what’s the problem? Why do people continually set new goals when they know they only have a 1 in 4 chance succeeding? Is it a lack of commitment? Lack of self-confidence? Lack of planning? Lack of management? Lack of Energy? Lack of support?

Or is it too many goals? Too many obstacles? Too much to do in a day? Too many “I’ll get to it tomorrow”?

Maybe some of these are the reasons, maybe all of them are. I believe most New Year’s resolutions/goals lack a proper plan and process achieve them. If people are serious about achieving a goal they need to be serious in the time they spend to achieve it. This begins with the proper road map and a plan.

Sidenote: If I have to hear the term S.M.A.R.T goal one more time I’m going to lose it. Yes the acronym works because I remember it so I’ll give credit to George, Arthur and James. But talk about beating a dead horse. . . and then kicking it again once it’s on the ground.

Goals are great, but goals aren’t what you do to accomplish them. To “accomplish” a goal you need to a process to create the a successfull outcome. The process I use in my everyday life is ADDIE (analysis, design, development, implementation, evaluation). It’s a simple process used by instructional designers and workplace performance practitioners (whose purpose is to help make the workplace more effective – surely it can work for new year’s goals too).

Analysis
The first step is to clarify the goal, establish the objectives (these are the action items that complete your goal). Some questions to ask yourself:

• What is your expected outcome?
• What obstacles might you face(self, external, environmental)?
• What have you done in the past? Did it work? Why or whynot?
• What methods/ways can you achieve your goal?
• What is the deadline for completion?

Design
The second step is designing your plan. This should be a very specific plan with dates, ranges, times, calories, time required. If you can’t give your plan to someone else to duplicate with the same results then it’s not detailed enough. This document describes the structure and strategies you will use.

• Document your strategy
• Design your activities (a blended approach is significantly more effective)
• How will you evaluate your success? Will there be periodic updates/check-ins?

Development
The third step is where you create and assemble all the materials/tools/parts needed that were detailed in the design phase. Tools are purchased. Memberships are purchased. Vacation time and dates are requested. Research into programs is conducted. You don’t start your actual goals yet. Think of a hamster hoarding food in its cheeks getting ready to eat during winter.

Implementation
The fourth step is the fun part and where you’ll spend most of your time. This is when you follow the plan you made in step two. Take the materials/tools/parts you got together in step three and use your design plan to start achieving your goal. Essentially – put your plan into action!

Evaluation
The fifth step is determining how you did. Notice I didn’t say final step because you should be constantly evaluating your progress. After you do your analysis you’ll ask yourself if you thought of everything. After you design your plan you’ll ask yourself if this is something you can really do? After development and gathering your tools you’ll ask if you got everything you needed. The most evaluating will occur during your implementation. There should be lots of evaluating – perhaps on a daily schedule? Weekly? Monthly? Don’t wait until your deadline to see how you are doing.

Creative ways to get creative ideas

We’ve all been there. You’re sitting at your desk, banging your head against the keyboard praying or a creative thought to fall out. Whether you work in marketing, writing, publishing, design, sales, etc you need to come up with an interesting solution to any problem you’re solving. The more creative you are the better the solution.

So what is creativity? A “define: creativity” google search tells us the following:
• The ability to create
• Creativity is a mental and social process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the creative mind between existing ideas or concepts.
• Creativity is a monthly magazine covering all things creative in advertising and design. The magazine, launched in 1986, provides a showcase of the best ideas across all areas of consumer culture, an exploration of the talent and techniques behind the work and insight on the people and the …
• Creative – promoting construction or creation; “creative work”
• Creatively – in a creative manner; “she solved the problem creatively”
• Creative – “Creative” is a song written by Peter Gordeno, Chris Porter and Howard New. Leon said in episode 21 of his Bebo Leon’s Life series broadcast on …
• Using imagination rather than imitating something else. Generation of ideas, images and/or solutions.
• The process of developing new, uncommon, or unique ideas. The federal definition of giftedness identifies creativity as a specific component of giftedness.
• Refers to the act of generating new and useful ideas, or of re-evaluating or combining old ideas, so as to develop new and useful perspectives in order to satisfy a need. …
• Generates and/or recognises how best practice and imaginative ideas can be applied to different situations.
• The production of previously non-existent information. All new items of information are based on preceding ones, and they are “new” …
• The degree of innovation and dynamism (bounded rationality).
• The experience of thinking, reacting, and working in an imaginative and idiosyncratic way which is characterized by a high degree of innovation …
• The ability to produce something new, to generate unique approaches and solutions to issues or problems or opportunities.

All are definitions of creativity, but I personally think that definitions that use the word to describe itself are lazy, stupid, and generally not very useful. It appears that there isn’t one set definition of creativity – yet it’s something that all people are looking for, want, need, and have the hardest time being. Simply put from these definitions, creativity is the process of generating new and unique ideas, concepts, thoughts, and perceptions to solve an problem/opportunity. This is the keyword, you have to realize each situation as an opportunity to be creative, not a problem that requires creative thinking. That sounds great you way, but you’re still left banging your head against the keyboard wondering how to be creative.

The first thing you have to realize is that you don’t have to be creative – you already are!

It’s not about whether you are creative or not, since we already know everyone is creative the value is what you do, what can you put on the table.

When you’re looking for creative ways to generate creativity you’re really just looking for inspiration. This inspiration needs to be based on knowledge already possessed, inspiration based on someone else’s perspective – it does you no good.
Association. Start with a big white board, or large pieces of butcher paper and just write words. Put your main word/product/idea in the center and just write everything that you think of. It should look like a big web of words that may or may not help immediately but the goal is to just get it out there.

Ask searching questions
Ask opening ended questions. Why questions help discover the problems, meanings, understanding. How questions discover alternatives, differences, improvements.

Brainstorm in teams
You don’t know all the answers, and no one else does either. When you bring in different people with all sorts of backgrounds, job roles, area of expertise, or even better lack of expertise you start seeing opportunities from all kinds of perspectives. Keep in mind that bringing in the head of every department may result in the type of diversity required for a truly creative brainstorming sessions. They play by the rules too much – ask the interns, ask the receptionist, ask the new workers, and compliment them with the veterns. Check out this link for a guide to running brainstorming sessions.

Go on a scavenger hunt
Get away from your desk and bring in new objects, toys, tools, things to play with. It’s even better if you’re working in teams and send everyone out to grab 10 things in 90 seconds and report back. Remember Apollo 13 when they had to build a new air filtration system out of what seemed to be a random pile of objects?

It’s time for old school
Technology is great, we all love it, it usually makes our job easier. Get away from it when you’re trying to get creative. Looking at a blank screen doesn’t help. Go sit in the break room with some pens and a notepad. Sit in the receptionist waiting area and listen in on some conversations while you doodle. Put yourself in a different situation or environment where you don’t do routine tasks.

Opportunity into the discussion
Realize that you don’t have a problem to solve, but an opportunity to bring something new to the table. Having an outlet or an opportunity to show some creativity is a rarity in today’s world of lawsuits, political correctness. Go out there, way out there, let someone else bring it in while you keep trying. Do the things you want to do but never could, say the things you are always afraid that will get you in trouble. Break the mold, stick it to the man!

Pitch it
Come up with quick 30 second elevator speeches. Even better, get in your elevator and just start talking about your idea/product. If you are in a lower building with just a few floors then you probably don’t have the resources to do something that will take a long time to explain. If you’re in a high-rise building creativity is probably stifled and you’ll need that extra time to come up with something that makes every department happy – sucks for you.

Say cheese
Get the camera out, step away from your desk and just start shooting photos – you only have 30 seconds so you can’t be worried about composition, or light, or frame. Just take as many pictures as you can and see what you come up with.

Run away to get closer
This is a goodie. The best ideas come when you aren’t consciously thinking about it. Remove yourself from whatever it is you’re trying to do and go do something else. Find something that is calming – take a walk, take a shower, go to the gym, remove yourself from the situation where you feel that you have to figure it out right now. Creativity isn’t a switch you can flip on and off – it’s a long process that is going to take time.

Time to go shopping
Visit a hardware store, or Walmart(or K-mart for those deeply opposed to it). Look through the aisles, pick up the stuff on the shelf, see how it works, what did they do it. What makes this thing more special than the others. Why do they want you to buy this one and not others.

Walk in the park or at least outdoors
Nature has always been the most creative system. That seems odd, a system that is creative. Go out there and pay attention to what is up there. Try taking a walk around the block only looking up. You’d be amazed at the new things you see since we spend all of our time looking forward to the next step we never take that alternative perspective.

Being creative is easier when it’s something you do on a daily basis. It’s about bringing together a number of different ideas to create a fresh perspective. It’s a frustrating process but it’s also an extremely rewarding one when you finally come up with that “AH-HA” moment. But for those who still don’t believe you can be creative because you always get blocked out. Check out the 7 Stages of Design Grief (I personally have it hung above my desk), it’ll put a smile on your face and can even give you some inspiration to be creative.

How will generational issues impact retention strategies

I recently responded to a course posting asking “In what ways do you think generational issues will impact association retention strategies?” I have a big problem with companies, associations, organizations thinking they know how to appeal to our generation. How many times have we heard companies pushing their social media (i.e. facebook, twitter, myspace, etc). Only to be disappointed at the lack of substance once we get there. The following was my response to the course posting and I would love some feedback/comments. It personally drives me nuts when I hear a Gen X’er or a baby boomer talk like they know exactly what we want and disregard any opinions from the very audience they are trying to appeal to.

This whole generational issue is something that always gets me steamed up. I’m going to start with the disclaimer that I am a strong member of Generation Y and also this opinion of mine is likely just me being stubborn. With that said, here I go.

It seems as if everyone feels they MUST jump onto the Generation Y bandwagon in order to survive. How often have we heard “we have to get on facebook” or “we have to get on twitter” or ” we have to get onto social networking” because if we don’t we’re going to lose the younger crowd to someone else. I personally find so many flaws with this. The first being that whether a company or association is involved with some type of social media networking has no influence or impact on my decision to join or be involved with them. I’m involved in a number of organizations that have very little if any at all social media presence (and most of the ones that are involved either have no activity or do it very poorly) and I’m also connected to other organizations that do have a strong social media presence but typically find them of little value. The main problem with trying to appeal to generational differences via this medium is that no one really knows how to do it right or even what to do at all. So association XYZ now has 1000 followers on their facebook group – so what? Little purpose is served if those people are not engaged or intrinsically already interested. Does having 1000 passive connected do anything for the organization other than giving these 1000 people a “badge” on their profile?

My second “rant” with the generational issues is that all of the people pushing this generational divide/issue are not members of Generation Y. How many times do you seem someone from generation X or the baby boomer generation on TV talking about how important social media is? I personally think it happens more often than seeing a member of Generation Y on TV talking about the generation as an “expert.” But when a member from Generation Y tries to come of as an expert they are often brushed off with the mindset that “you’re too young, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I recently attended a day-long conference called Social Media for Social Good. It was primarily Gen Y’ers learning about social media, sure everyone there has a facebook account, some of us twitter, I’m sure all of us talk on some type of instant messaging program. Many of our bosses found it valuable enough to send us – but an underlying and repeating theme was “how do we convince our bosses to participate in social media.” Unfortunately no one had an answer – when Gen Y’ers go to their bosses to try and push the issues that are important to us we aren’t viewed as credible sources. We’re just young bucks out of college that don’t know any better because we lack real world experience.

My personal opinion is that if associations want to appeal to Gen Y, they need to appeal to our natural instinct for learning, information, and consistent feedback/praise. We love to professional learn, we want tools to do our jobs well, and we want to do it our way. Our best traits are not reading a 30-page long research paper or memo, we are information disseminators. We grew up on the internet, google, and having 8 different instant messaging chat boxes open. We like lots of information, receiving massive amounts of information and then summarizing it into useful chunks.

The unfortunate aspect involving retention strategies is that its very hard to retain Gen Y’ers – we typically do not remain loyal and if we are unhappy somewhere (work, association, groups) we leave to move onto something better/we like. If associations are to retain this generation they must continually adapt to the ever-changing needs of its younger members.