Sunday, June 30, 2013

Short, Sweet & Easy to Repeat: Gettysburg’s Lessons for Association Speeches

There is no plaque for Edward Everett (right), the main speaker at Gettysburg  in 1863

Bob Greene recently wrote a masterful column in the Wall Street Journal about the “forgotten Gettysburg Addresser.” 

This tale of two speakers (Edward Everett and Abraham Lincoln) offer insight for association executives, marketers and communicators.

As you probably know, we are approaching the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and (on November 19) of the Gettysburg Address.

Here are excerpts of Greene's column:
  • The poor guy who wrote and delivered the Gettysburg Address, and who then saw himself and his speech fade anonymously into the mists of history.
  • No, not that Gettysburg Address. The other one. The one that was supposed to be the main event that day.
  • The man's name was Edward Everett, and his story serves as a melancholy lesson for any of us who become cocksure that we're about to cross the finish line as the winner in something: our work, our play, any of the things at which we hope to succeed and prevail.
  • He nailed it. He had prepared meticulously. He had researched and recreated in lovely yet searing language the facts and meanings of the Battle of Gettysburg. He spoke for two hours, and used all of his considerable skills to mesmerize the audience. He would have been justly confident in believing that the first words of his address would go down in history.
  • As Everett returned to his seat, he might well have assumed that he had just delivered a speech for the ages. By my count of his text, he had spoken 13,508 words.
  • Then, after some music, Lincoln stood up. A two-to-three-minute speech. Fewer than 280 words.
Most of us were required to memorize Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Be Quick But Don’t Hurry: A Game Plan for Association Executives

It’s been nearly 10 years since I first read Andrew Hill’s Be Quick - But Don't Hurry: Finding Success in the Teachings of a Lifetime ... a story from the life of John Wooden.

I was talking with a golfing buddy the other day and suggested he read it. To my amazement, he approached me the following Tuesday to thank me. He said he couldn’t put it down and read the entire book over the weekend.

That made me realize Wooden’s 21 secrets were fodder for a blog aimed at association executives and association volunteers.

Here is a summary about Andrew Hill from Amazon:

  • Perhaps the least controversial sports honor in living memory was the selection of John Wooden as "Coach of the Century" by ESPN, honoring his ten NCAA basketball championships in a twelve-year stretch. His UCLA teams won with great centers and with small lineups, with superstars and with team effort, always with quickness, always with class. Wooden was a teacher first and foremost, and his lessons -- taught on the basketball court, but applicable throughout one's life -- are summarized in his famed Pyramid of Success.
  • Andrew Hill was one of the lucky young men who got to learn from Wooden in his favored classroom -- though that is hardly how Hill would have described it at the time. An all-city high school player in Los Angeles, Hill played -- a little -- on three national champions, from 1970 to 1972. Hill was left embittered by his experience at UCLA; he was upset at how unequally Wooden treated his starting players and his substitutes.
  • Hill went on to a successful career in television, rising to the presidency of CBS Productions, where he was responsible for the success of such popular series as Touched by an Angel and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Hill's job required him to manage many creative people, with the egos and insecurities that usually go along with such talents. And one day, some twenty-five years after he graduated, he was hit with the realization that everything he knew about getting the best out of people he had learned directly from Coach John Wooden.
  • With no small trepidation, Hill picked up the phone to call and thank his old coach and unexpected mentor. To his surprise, Wooden greeted him warmly and enthusiastically. A strong friendship, sealed in frequent visits and conversations, ensued, and endures.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fight Back or Move On - What's an Association Executive to Do?

The city fired the general manager of its convention center a week or so ago. It puzzled lots of folks, especially the local paper. There has been all kinds of media speculation about the cause.

Now, the media reports that the general manager has filed a grievance with the city. The letter says the general manager was not given an opportunity to address the claims made against her. And, according to the paper, the letter states the firing has damaged her reputation, her career and her employment prospects.

Based on personal experience, my advice to the general manager would be “let it go.”

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

If you are an association executive, are you prepared for retirement?

Is your staff? Are your members?

Nearly two years ago I sold my AMC. It was a couple of years earlier than I had planned but ... Selling my company begged the question: what next?

After the 90 day transition, I was out of the office and into a home office. I went from working 60 hours a week to consulting, blogging and volunteering.

When people ask “what do you do,” I still can’t come to terms with answering “I’m retired.”

What does this mean to you and your association? 

  • Are your members pushing 50 years or older?
  • Is your staff mostly Baby Boomers?
I thought of all this when I read Rodney Brooks column in USA Today.  

Here are the column’s key points:

Monday, June 24, 2013

5 Reads for Association Executives & Marketers

Why You Shouldn’t Create a Newsletter (and What to Do Instead)
By Jon Morrow via Boost Blog Traffic

If you’re publishing a newsletter, you’re potentially missing out on thousands of new subscribers, strangling growth by word-of-mouth, and depriving yourself of feedback from your readers, provided on a regular basis at no cost whatsoever to you, telling you exactly what you’re doing right and wrong. Newsletters are stuck in 2005. For the most part, they’re still a one-way street.

Yes, some newsletter publishers give you digital archives and buttons to share past issues, but are your readers using those features? Nopers. They just forward the newsletter to somebody they think might like it.

How To Moderate a Panel Like a Pro 
By Scott Kirsner via HBR Blog Network

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Purposefully designing association culture

Do you want members to linger or churn?  You decide.

We were out and about the other day.

The retail store where we were shopping had the temperature set at 75 degrees. Clearly, they wanted us to browse and linger.

The restaurant where we had lunch had the temperature set at about 70-71 degrees. Clearly, they wanted us to eat quickly since turnover or “churn” is important to them.

Clearly, both entities set the temperature by design to achieve their objectives: linger or churn.

As I think about different associations I’ve been around over the last 30+ years, I realize that each has a culture that defines whether they want members and prospects to linger or to churn.

The big question: is that culture intentional or accidental.

Your association can create and maintain products and services designed to engage members and get them to linger. Or, it can provide services and products designed for churn.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Many Association Board Members Are Like Goldilocks

If Goldilocks observed your board meetings, what would she find?

  • Some associations have directors who talk/contribute too much.
  • Some have directors who don’t talk/contribute at all.
  • Some have directors who are just right.

Over the last 30 years, I’ve experienced all kinds. And, I’ve learned from board chairs who know how to “manage” a board meeting and others who have no clue. In those cases, I watch as directors get frustrated with the board meeting process.

As a CEO, our challenge is to help our volunteer leaders facilitate board meetings that get the most from the meeting.


Because board time is a non-renewable resource. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Thinking INSIDE the Box: 5 Tactics for Associations

By Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg via The Wall Street Journal

As a consultant who has facilitated hundreds of brainstorming sessions for associations and other not-for-profit organizations, I found the information from this book review fascinating.

Here are my excerpts of the review in the Wall Street Journal:

"Brainstorming" has become a byword for tedium and frustration.
Not surprisingly, they rate the importance of innovation very high: usually a nine or 10. None disputes that innovation is the No. 1 source of growth. Without fail, however, most senior executives give a low rating—below five—to their level of satisfaction with innovation.

Because what they really want to know is how: How do you actually generate novel ideas and do so consistently, on demand?

We advocate a radically different approach: thinking inside the proverbial box, not outside of it. People are at their most creative when they focus on the internal aspects of a situation or problem—and when they constrain their options rather than broaden them.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Leap vs Creep Philosophies for Membership Dues

Leap or Creep: It's Your Choice for Member Dues Increases

The other day Irene Spero, Chief Operating Officer of the Consortium for School Networking posed an interesting question on ASAE’s Small Staff e-group:

“We are thinking about raising the dues for one category of membership in our association. How far in advance of the increase do you notify members?  Do you have policies in place to grandfather existing members at the old rate if renewal occurs before a certain date? Interested in learning how others have dealt with this situation.”

The answer is “depends.”

  • Some associations delay dues increases for years ... and, eventually have to impose a major increase (this is the LEAP dues philosophy).
  • Other associations implemented small incremental dues increases annually or at least every two years (this is the CREEP dues philosophy).

Monday, June 17, 2013

7 great reads for association executives and marketers

Top Five Tips for Making Content Work for Your Brand 
by Neil Mody via

Content is king... That's what all the buzz has been about, right? Yet the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmark Report found that only 36% of businesses believe their content marketing is effective. So how do you make content work for your brand?
1. Get serious about creating trusted editorial
2. Be stringent on eliminating the sell
3. Look at your content strategy holistically, and avoid silos
4. Don't jump on the video bandwagon just because you think you should
5. Keep your eyes on the prize at all times

Marketers Shouldn't Dominate Charities: Brands Needn't Convey Their Social Values in Every Ad 
 By: Rance Crain via Advertising Age

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Toxic Boards & Association Executives

I was reading a News-Press story the other day about changes in the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Lee County ... it was deja vu all over again!

From the outside, NAMI-Lee has the makings of a “toxic board.”
  • Lost two executives in a year; one staying only four months.
  • An “operational board” (code for micro-managers).
Why the changes at the helm? “The strength and weakness of an operational board is that they struggle to stick with any long range plans,” Gregg Gardner (the previous CEO) said in response to an email from The News-Press. “(It) makes them tough to work for or with.”

Deja vu?

I once started a presentation to a potential organization client by saying “We’re trying to determine if you are a toxic organization and whether we want to manage you.”

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Perspective makes all the difference in your decision-making

Have you ever been in a lengthy organizational discussion (staff, board, committee, etc) only to realize you are not talking about the same “issue” or problem?

For whatever reason, we’re not looking at the same problem from the same perspective.

When facilitating meetings (or running a meeting), that’s when I call a stop and use this analogy:

Imagine you are looking at clear salt & pepper shakers from the opposite sides:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Personal Note to Association Executives

They own the organization; but, you own your career

If you are feeling stressful in your CEO slot, remember the words of Charles Rumbarger, CAE:

“It’s their organization not yours, but it is your career, not theirs.”

Rumbarger gave me that advice about 20 years ago.

I thought of it today when I saw this quote from Max Dupree: 

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”

If you are interested in more on this topic, check out these two posts:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Let me play devil’s advocate!

Don’t you love it when you are in a brainstorming session or a board strategic planning session and some board member or team member says any of the following:

  • I’m just playing devil’s advocate ...
  • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it ...
  • But, we’ve always done it this way ...
In my 35+ years of facilitating boards and planning sessions, nothing seems to kill a great discussion more than these and similar comments from “well-meaning” participants.

Well meaning? Bull roar!

At the beginning of a session, most facilitators remind participants that “we’re just surfacing ideas now; we’ll evaluate later.”

One tactic to help reduce these type of comments is to start your sessions with a brief “Yes but” exercise.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Moose to MOOCs and 3 other articles for association executives

Universities bolster MOOCs for online learning By Mary Beth Marklein via USA TODAY

Public universities and systems in nine states say they'll join a push to greatly expand and improve online learning. Coursera, a Silicon Valley-based company, is announcing today that it will partner with university systems in Colorado, Georgia, New York, Tennessee and Texas to develop and evaluate the potential of technology that is fueling dramatic changes in how higher education is designed and delivered. Partnerships with several state flagship universities also are being announced, bringing to more than 70 the number of schools or systems working with the company. What does this mean to associations? The spillover impact to expectations of our conferences and educational program.

Five Tips to Rock Membership from Moose 
By Lynda Baldwin at Communication Strategies Group, Inc. via blog

  1. Get your Board…on board. 
  2. Assume nothing.
  3. Get friendly with your audience.
  4. Take the plunge. 
  5. Measure once, in many ways.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Can Pricing Influence Association Membership Decisions?

While driving the other day, I heard two local radio talk show guys and the station’s movie critic get into a discussion about eating and watching movies.

Apparently, the movie theater folks are experimenting with “dine-in movies.” These are specially-designed theaters which – for a “slightly” higher ticket price – offer luxury seating, table dining service (with wait staff) and other services catered to a select group of movie goers.

Here’s the promotion from a theater chain in the St. Louis area:

  • See the latest movies at AMC Dine-In Theatres, an experience that combines the cuisine and cocktail options of a restaurant with the fun and excitement of a movie theatre.
  • AMC® features two different styles of Dine-In Theatres. If you're in the mood for casual dining, check out Fork & Screen® or try Cinema Suites® for a more upscale experience with personal recliners. Both options offer extensive menus and seat-side service at the push of a button.
  • Fork & Screen serves guests 18 and over or those accompanied by a parent or guardian. Cinema Suites accommodates guests 21 and over only. Availability of experiences varies by location.
It made me think of Russ Henneberry’s (The Daily Egg) very thoughtful piece he called “How to Sell With Six Words or Less.” 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Creating a Sustainable Organization

Early in my career, I was privileged to be on a staff team – led by an exceptional leader – that built and sustained what became the premier association in its industry for nearly 15 years.
I thought about this as I read a USA Today story by Kevin Allen, Sam Amick and Erik Brady headlined Red Wings, Spurs set standard for their generation
  • NOTE: as a 35-year resident of St. Louis, I would add the baseball Cardinals to this story. A future Hall of Fame manager retires, they keep on winning. A future Hall of Fame first baseman takes a huge contract with another team, they keep on winning.
As I read the story and thought of my early association experience, I saw parallels for associations and the ability of some nonprofit organizations to build sustainable and successful associations.

Here are the highlights of the USA Today story:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Rebranding can cause controversy for Associations Too

Sometimes association leaders decide its time to change anything from the name to the logo to the mission. I’ve been part of such decisions both as an executive director and as a consultant.
In one case, the association changed its name with the goal of “broadening their base” for membership. In reality, the new name caused confusion and lost the focus of the original name.
Marketing history shows such change – no matter how well researched – can be difficult if not dangerous to the organization’s future.

I’ve been around long enough to remember:
  • Ford’s big bomb – the Edsel. Probably one of the most researched products ever ... but an utter failure in the market place.
  • Coca Cola’s launch of the “New Coke” generating a revolt among Coke consumers. Enough backlash that Coke quickly introduced “Coke Classic” ... and slowly retreated to dropping “New Coke” and rebranding Coke Classic to Coke.
  • The Gap released a new logo and pulled it 24 hours later because of all the “dishing” from social media and branding experts.
The News-Press here recently published a branding story that had some interesting observations:

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Invisible Tasks Produce Visible Results for Golfers and for Associations

Since my temporary office window looks over a golf course green, I get to watch as the grounds crew keeps the course golfer friendly.

It reminds me of a quote (I believe from former NFL coach Don Shula) that “Success is everything done right while failure is one thing done wrong.”

Early every morning, the grounds crew comes to the green. They move the pin/flag; they repair the sand traps; they cut the grass; they add fertilizer; and then depart before the first golfers arrive.

Right now, these nine holes are closed for two weeks so the crew can do more extensive work to prepare for the summer. 
  • Greens, tees collars and approaches are aerified.
  • Fairways are aerified with the aerway machine.
  • Greens, tees, fairways, collars and approaches have been double verticut.
  • Tee markers are repainted. 
  • Bunkers (sand traps) are restored. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Would you take this Nonprofit CEO position?

I’m new to this community but have been reading the local paper off and on for the last two years.

Enough to notice they have faced turmoil in their school district. Their school superintendent just “retired” (or so it was called) after only two years on the job.

Their 5-member school board has struggled with how to replace the superintendent. They used a “national search” to find him in 2011. Three of the board wanted to forgo a national search and hire one of seven people on a “list” of potential superintendents. The other two preferred to conduct a national search and appoint an interim superintendent in the mean time.

Are associations stuck?

Guest Blog by Tom Shay

"Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

And Dorothy was right.

We’re not able to operate associations as we did 20 years ago.

Unfortunately, as I visit with association executives, I am finding some that think the old ways are going to regain their popularity, or usefulness, or that they can nurse the old ways along until they retire and someone else will have to deal with the association.

In recent visits with association executive directors, the conversations with two stick in my mind.

The first association executive director ...

... said they were unable to rally the membership on an issue that the executive director felt should have had the membership in an uproar. The issue dealt with eliminating a sales tax and how having this tax would have the membership at a disadvantage.