Monday, December 30, 2013

How to Find Your Voice

At the approach of every new year, we look at our lives with special scrutiny to identify the things we think we must change in order to improve our lot in some way. We resolve to lose weight, learn a foreign language, or take up exercise as a way to prove our merit and grit. This year I resolve to honor my standards and stay true to my voice.

Image purchased from you'll see it again...
I was asked to speak on the subject of, "Finding Your Voice" and it has been the most difficult, but pleasurable, presentation to prepare for as I realized about halfway through preparations for it that I wasn't honoring my own voice during its creation. I stopped everything - threw on the brakes - and approached my talk differently, more authentically, as I reminded myself to practice what I preach...which is more difficult sometimes than I care to admit.

How does one find his or her voice? Once found, does it change? How does one stay committed to honoring one's voice?

When I thought about times in my journey when I'd truly been *in* my voice, I realized they were represented by the most powerful, life-propelling moments...from the time when I bombed on stage in kindergarten (they cued the wrong music!) to the time when I really made my voice heard and changed the direction of a meeting (when student members were changing an association from the ground up), my life is made up of times when I've either honored my values or not. 

For me, poetry and music are a gateway into truth. My gut responds to poetry in a way that insists I come clean with my intentions and progress. I lose my voice when I venture too far away from the raw language of poetry. Result? When I need to get stronger, a good book of poetry is better for me than the latest issue of Harvard Business Review.

What keeps you honest with yourself? How do you find your voice when you've taken a wrong turn? When did you recognize you'd found your voice?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Power of Networking

This week’s Association Chat was focused on the topic: networking. It's an important topic for associations because people associate them with the ability to make connections to other specific types of people. What happens when you add social media to the mix? Does technology help or hinder an association's role in connecting people? 

We talked about those types of things and more during the chat. 

Association Chat takes place every Tuesday at 2 pm ET

Here is the list of questions I asked and some of my own answers. How would you answer these questions?
1.       Why do you think networking is consistently named as one of the top reasons for joining an association?
a.       It is people’s connections that lead to job opportunities, answers to problems, or developing relationships that may help in the future.
2.       How does your organization foster networking?
a.       Aptify uses Yammer and Lync to keep everyone in all the offices connected.
b.      Aptify also has an online users group for the users of the software so they can communicate with one another.
c.       They also hold in-person meetings with “networking events” to help get people together.
3.       How can associations bring more value to networking as a benefit in the age of social media?
a.       Associations can provide more ways to connect. I like it when I have easy ways to connect to people at meetings…like through apps or LinkedIn connections.
4.       What was the most valuable networking event you ever attended?
a.       I once crashed an invitation-only party that led to me running into an acquaintance who introduced me to a person who later offered me a job!
b.      For sheer bragging rights, the White House Correspondents Garden Brunch was another favorite networking event. Lots of celebs!
5.       Where do you do most of your networking?
a.       Online
6.       What are your best tips for networking?
a.       Smile
b.      Ask questions
7.       Where should people network in the association industry?
a.       Online with #assnchat or using private online communities, with ASAE events, and at their state SAE events.
8.       Describe a networking event in which you would like to participate!
9.       What is the most interesting thing you’ve ever received as a result of networking?
a.       A pair of shoes from a couple I met. It’s a long story.

10.   Quick! Name three people you would like to have coffee with to discuss your professional life.

Monday, October 28, 2013

My Interview with Creative Maya Kalman, CEO of SWANK Productions

BizBash’s IdeaFest has become an annual hotbed of creativity for events professionals and this year is no different. With a bevy of smart, interesting speakers and leaders in the industry, IdeaFest will no doubt lead the pack again with hot tips and insights for the future of the profession.

One exemplary standout from the lineup of speakers is Maya Kalman, SWANK Productions CEO. Maya will be mentoring event planners on in the Plan-A-Thon workshop, a part of the Event Leadership Institute Workshop Series, during the IdeaFest N.Y. trade show and conference on Wednesday, October 30.

The focus of the interactive Plan-A-Thon this year is for attendees to reinvent three key event formats: the award show, the gala fund-raiser, and the product launch. I asked Maya three questions about her involvement with the Plan-A-Thon:
  •      How does your role with SWANK productions make you a good mentor for event planners?
  •      What do you expect from the workshop’s participants? How can they best set themselves up for success?
  •      What are you most looking forward to at Ideafest? 

Maya Kalman: Oh gosh…I hate to say this but I feel like almost all of these questions I can't answer because I've never been to this event before!

I'm both the CEO and creative director of SWANK Productions. We do luxury event planning and couture design, creating one-of-a-kind event 'experiences' for our luxe clients.

Maya believes that designing and planning every event is actually “creating an experience for the guests to be immersed in.”

Maya: I love helping other people sit down and really conjure up the most out-of-the-box ideas they can contemplate, but also love to figure out the pros and the cons -- and the pitfalls -- that might need to be thought of ahead of time and solved prior to production. My method of conceptualizing and brainstorming is very much a process of explicit visualizing and walking through every detail of the event in my mind. People always tell me that my enthusiasm and passion for this business shines through. I really do love what we do and it shows!

Maya is excited about the promise of IdeaFest and uncertain of what it will mean for her or for the participants...but she knows she'll love seeing the industry faces.

Maya: I am not totally sure what to expect so I'm not really sure what they [participants] should expect but from what I'm hearing from David [Adler, BizBash CEO and Founder] it's all about just letting your creativity flow. Designing without barriers or constraints, which honestly you never get to do with budget constraints and client wants and needs. 

I've been to many BizBash Events but this is my first IdeaFest so I'm just excited to see everything new in our industry. And to be honest it's an opportunity to see tons and tons of faces we know from all over the country in once place. Kind of an industry reunion! 

You can follow Maya on Twitter for more great events industry information at @mayakalman or @swankproduction.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Things to Ask When Producing A Video

Whether you know it or not, video is likely in your future. Here's why:

From this blog post by Wolf 21 Internet Marketing, you can see some provocative statistics about video (attrib. to Craig Backman from McLellan Group):
  • Video is the preferred medium by most site visitors. According to Cisco Systems, 90% of web traffic will be from video by the time we reach 2013.
  • Video is relevant to all demographics. It is not just youth that are broadcasting their talents through online video, but people 55 and older are also finding a space to share their stories.
  • Video is more persuasive. According to Nielson data, product users are 85% more likely to buy from video content than from text.
  • Video is more memorable. Videos are sensational and require more than just one sense to understand a message. They thus attract better site traffic and higher quality content than text does.
  • Video enhances SEO results. Forrester found that video is 53 times more than text content to rank within the top search engine results. Google looks at the description, title and tags for indexing a video.
Here's the situation: I wanted to create a video series out of a project I'm working on at work. While I've worked with video in the past, I am still learning how to describe the different styles and formats of video that are out there. Fortunately, I work with a great guy that knows more about what to look for in cameras and lighting and so I'm picking up more knowledge that way.

If you find yourself starting out in the creation of a video, here are some good questions to consider...

Questions to ask yourself:
1. What kind of "look" am I going for? It helps to have examples to share with your videographer and others working on the project.
2. How long will this video be? Keep in mind what your goal for viewership general, the shorter, the better.
3. Do I have video editing skills on staff? If so, that could keep your cost down. If possible, you should always get the raw video and audio so you can use it in other ways in the future.
4. Do I need a studio or do I have a background that will work for this project? Depending on what kind of video you're shooting, you might need to search for the right background.
5. Do I need a teleprompter? These days you can use a tablet (Galaxy or iPad) as your teleprompter, but if you have the ability to speak without it, that's always preferable.
6. What is my budget? Don't you hate this question? The budget will dictate who you work with. I had someone virtually hang up the phone on me when they heard the budget I was using. Of course, that ensured I would never choose to work with them in the future, no matter what kind of budget I had available. It helps to get an idea of the ballpark your videographer is working in  for your type of project early on to save you both time.

Questions your videographer should ask you:
1. What kind of lighting do you have/do you want? Your answers will dictate the kind of lighting or lenses they bring with them to the shoot.
2. What's your timeline? Your videographer should be able to share their typical turnaround time for the type of shoot you are doing and work with you to meet your schedule.
3. What kind of nameplates/graphics/logos/intro do you want to use? Your videographer should want to get a feel for the kind of editing they will need to do with your footage.
4. Where will you use the video once produced? Your answer to this question will dictate the format the video will be in and the way your videographer delivers the video to you.

Here's the example of the type of video style I want to shoot in that I shared with our videographer:

From this example we were able to talk about the "shallow depth of field" or the blurred background look that my team wanted. We were also able to talk about the DSLR cameras the videographer would use that would achieve that result. This is why it helps to have an example or two of video styles your hoping to achieve when you talk with your videographer (and others working on your video project).
Was this helpful? Do you have other questions you think should be included in this list? If you have your own helpful tips, please include them in the comments so others can learn from your experience!
Hopefully, with the right questions and communication, your video experience will go smoothly and without a hitch!

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Mission-Driven Volunteer Chat

How'd you like to learn about the best ways to motivate people to volunteer for your organization?

Two of my favorite people have teamed up to write a whitepaper worth talking about - "The Mission Driven Volunteer." Elizabeth Weaver Engel and Peggy Hoffman packed their paper full of a wealth of information, including data about generational engagement and myths and truths about volunteering (among much much more that you would be wise to read as soon as possible).

The duo is going to guest host the Association Chat on Tuesday, August 27th, at 2 pm ET and talk about the topics discussed in their whitepaper. Be sure not to miss this great opportunity to talk to the authors online!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My Top 10 Learnings From ASAE Annual 2013

My fabulous co-presenters and me. Amy Lestition, me,
Laurie Kulilosky, and Ozair Esmail.
The music has died down, the exhibitors have gone home, and lonely discarded lanyards are lying in wait for hotel maids to toss out with the wastepaper for a new day.

After every ASAE Annual Conference comes a sense that camp is over and all of us go back to our regularly scheduled programs. For me, I try to go over the things I've learned, the people I need to remember to follow up with when I get back to my office, and to make the most of my experience by processing as much as possible of it before forgetting.

Here are my top 10 learnings from this ASAE Annual:

  1. Participate in a service project. I didn't take part in a service project this year and I felt like I was missing out on some good networking AND doing something good for the city hosting us. I plan to correct that at the next ASAE Annual.
  2. Volunteer with ASAE more. I miss being on an ASAE Council and I plan to volunteer to be on one again when the next call for volunteers goes out.
  3. Make better decisions. To make better decisions, stop and ask, "What would I tell my best friend to do?" Thanks to author and speaker Dan Heath for this one.
  4. Prepare for powerful condensed versions of my presentations. I had to give what I'd planned as a 12 minute portion of my presentation with a panel of speakers in something more like five minutes. I wish that had been the most powerful five minutes of the presentation, but instead it felt rushed. 
  5. Get to rooms early. Many of the presentations were standing room only. 'Nuff said.
  6. Use MOOC for more personal development. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are changing the way we approach education. I've already taken Coursera courses, but I should check out some others for more FREE online education. Thanks to speakers David DeLorenzo and Kylee Coffman for the MOOC discussion in their session.
  7. Improve my "elevator speech" when explaining what I do. I loathe the term "elevator speech" because it sounds so manufactured and salesy. However, it is helpful to be able to quickly articulate what you do in a way that makes it easy for people to grasp how they can do business with you. With something like "social media consulting for Aptify" people need to know if my services are for them or not. How can I best communicate that without being tacky? I need to work on that.
  8. Bring #assnchat badge ribbons. The weekly Association Chat that I host and that has been going on for over four years now has a powerful community behind it. I want to bring attention to that by having ribbons made for it. Simple, fun, easy.
  9. Look up Kat Cole on YouTube. I wasn't in her session, but it got heavy press in the Twittersphere. People were still talking about her session later in the day. I want to see what she's all about.
  10. Thank Cecilia Sepp for mentioning Association Chat in her session. Every time I meet someone from the Association Chat community who thanks me for moderating the chats each week, I know that they really are thanking all the people who participate and share in the online conversation every day using the hashtag #assnchat. I love it when people spread the word about the chat...and Cecilia has been particularly helpful in that way. 
  11. Jump in the fountains. :)
What were your takeaways from ASAE Annual? Which sessions really taught you a lot? What will you do better next time?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

One thing to do for ASAE Annual that nobody talks about

Guest Post by Sandra Giarde, CAE

By now you’ve read about what to bring to ASAE.  Your travel arrangements are all confirmed and reconfirmed. And your schedule is likely taking shape with sessions and parties identified as “must attend” and “might attend.” 

However, there’s one more thing to prepare for at ASAE and nobody talks about it. And it has to do with feelings.

Now before you scoff or brush off the suggestion while humming that classic 70’s cheese song (Feeeelings….whoa whoa whoa), just give it a thought.

The ASAE Annual Meeting can be overwhelming and that’s good because it likely means content is fresh and compelling, activities abound and ideas are running rampant like toddlers on a Red Bull high. In sessions, hallways, bars and parties you’ll hear that “your organization NEEDS to do ________” or “this (activity/program/tool/marketing plan) is very important and those who do it another way should change.”  

Of course, you’ll get advice that pertains to your actual job role where “effective ________’s do this” or “working with your team in ________  way is best” and those feelings that creep up get really personal, really fast.

I’ll admit it...this has happened to me.  I’ve been at meetings or conferences where I start to feel like a failure.  Have you been at a conference and had these type of thoughts?
  • My organization is broken.
  • I can’t do anything right.
  • Our organization can’t do anything right.
  • If we could only do what ________  organization does, things would be better.
  • We don’t allocate enough resources to ________  but allocate too many resources to ________.
  • Our culture needs to shift/change.
  • How our organization presents or does ________ is wrong.
I’ve had those feelings and they suck. They are dark and icky; like the monster that hid under your bed as a kid.  And at ASAE, those feelings might spring up within you.

But, there is hope!

It’s taken me a long time to figure out how to deal with those feelings and if you start having these thoughts, hopefully this will help you.
  • Breathe!
  • Remind yourself that you know your organization better than the speaker/colleague/vendor.
  • Remember, you do plenty of things right and you do lots of things well. If necessary, make a short list to remind you.
  • Reframe the thought: Your organization is not broken. It may need improvement in some areas but, guess what? THEY ALL DO!
  • Repeat to yourself that no person or organization gets everything right.
  • Recollect, that your organization likely does some great stuff…better than others. Remind yourself of those.
  • Mileage will vary…what worked great for one group may not fit your group’s needs, mission, culture or resources.
  • Take what you can use and leave the rest behind.
And, if all else fails, grab an association friend or mentor and talk about this. It’s amazing how just sharing will help make things better.

So, as you make your way to Atlanta remember to go forth, be your awesome self and have a great ASAE Annual Meeting Experience!

Sandra Giarde, CAE is the Executive Director for the California Association for the Education of Young Children. While she's pretty sassy, even she has Stuart Smalley days where she needs to remember "I'm good enough, smart enough and doggone it...people like me!" If you see her at the ASAE Annual Meeting, come up and say "hi!"

Friday, July 26, 2013

8 Ways to Conquer Attending Your Next Conference

Attending a big conference can make you feel like a freak. If you aren't already plugged in to the who's who of your industry, a huge meeting can make you want to hide out and make origami swans out of your business cards rather than pass them out to people at networking events.

There are several ways I prepare myself to make the most of any conference that might help attendees (especially my fellow introverts). Here they are:

1. Get logistical - Scope out the sessions you want to attend, backup sessions, and the receptions and parties you've been invited to and lay them out in an agenda for yourself. You can organize this with paper or using the meeting app and your tablet so you can access at any time. If you can look at the attendee list online, do it! Try to make it a point to meet people of interest while at the meeting.

2. Get chargers - An extension cord, phone chargers, emergency chargers...these all help you to have juiced up electronics and to make friends with others who didn't plan as well as you. Label them with your label maker ahead of time to avoid any confusion later.

3. Get out of your head - Focus more on the other people you meet and less on worrying how you might appear to them. This will make you more comfortable and put your conversation partners at ease.

4. Get vitamins - Make sure to bring B12 with you to help provide an energy boost and to replenish after drinking wine, beer, or cocktails at receptions the night before. Some people (yes, I'm talking about myself here) even have a stash of 8-Hr Energy or Red Bull that they keep in their rooms to help replenish vitamins quickly. It helps.

5. Get protein - Another energy helper, protein, will help you last longer at these marathon events. Protein bars and shakes are good for you to have with you in case you miss a chance to get a meal.

6. Get curious - Ask questions. In your sessions, at your tables, from people you meet, ... questions help you build common ground and foster new relationships. Also, don't be afraid to get on social networks ahead of time and use them to network with other people attending the same meeting. You can ask to meet up with a few of these people while at the meeting and that will help you to expand your circle when you first get to your conference location.

7. Get relaxed - Everyone needs a little down time. Don't forget that you can get some quality discussion time with new friends or just a needed refresher on your own at the hotel pool (or gym or restaurant or spa) during breaks. Some friends of mine have labeled our time at the pool at ASAE Annual, "#poolcon" and we look forward to this as much as the receptions!

8. Get out of your room - I have a tendency to hide sometimes. Don't. These conferences are expensive and rife with possibilities for new connections and learning that can change the course of your career or professional development. USE THEM TO YOUR ADVANTAGE.

Some other helpers:
1. The stash - I bring a stash of my favorite teas and coffee sticks (like Stabucks Via) in a baggie to keep in my room so I never run out and always have something soothing around. I like to drink tea before going to sleep at night so this is big for me.
2. The clothes - Dress in layers. Conference rooms can be frigid even in the middle of summer, so carry a cardigan or pashmina scarf with you that will help you stay warm if the meeting rooms aren't.
3. The shoes - Have a pair of emergency flats - if you wear heels, or even if you don't, a pair of extra flats will sometimes save you from shoe issues.

What are some of your favorite tips for making the best of your conferences?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Association Chat Meeting Next Tuesday

Association Chat will bring the awesomesauce to Sauciety at the National Harbor next Tuesday, July 23 at noon because sometimes we just need a good networking opportunity to relax. The meeting will be held in place of the weekly online Twitter chat.

The in-person meeting is open to anyone and is not a sponsored event, so each person will be responsible for his or her own lunch.

All association professionals are welcome to attend! Please RSVP to KiKi at by this Friday at noon or comment below if you plan to attend!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Party List for ASAE Annual 2013

Every time ASAE Annual rolls around, people start making their lists of parties and receptions to attend. I am no different. But this year I decided to make my list public - will I see you at these parties? I'll be updating this list as I hear about other parties and receptions, so leave your info in the comments! Some of these require sign-ups or RSVPs ahead of time, so I'll try to include links or contact information as we get closer to the date.

KiKi's List of Must-Attend ASAE Parties...

  • The Association Chat Tweetup (Go #assnchat!) - 5:30 pm at Park Bar (pre-Opening Ceremony...we can walk over from there)
  • ASAE's Opening Ceremony - 7:30 pm at Georgia Aquarium/World of Coca-Cola (you will need your activated badge to gain entry to the event)
  • Community Managers Roundtable - 12-1 pm at the ASAE Engagement Lounge
  • Tweetup - 2:45 pm at the ASAE Engagement Lounge
  • Aptify Cocktail Reception (invitation only) - 5:00-7:00 pm
  • AM&P's Reception - 5:30 pm at Dantanna's Downtown
  • Higher Logic's Play It Forward Reception - 6:00-9:00 pm at Stats
  • MemberClicks Small Staff Shindig - 6:30 pm at Stats
  • ASI and Partners i-list Event (invitation only) - 6:30-8:30 pm at Meehan's Public House
  • TMA and Peach New Media Party - 7:00 pm at Der Biergarten
  • Multiview Party - 8:30 pm-1:30 am at The Tabernacle ( is
  • Community Managers Roundtable - 12-1 pm at the ASAE Engagement Lounge
  • Association Consultants Gathering - 4:45(ish) at Meehan's Public House
  • Jeff De Cagna Annual Dinner - 6:30 pm (Must RSVP - contact @pinnovation on Twitter for link)
  • ASAE Foundation's The Classic Reception - 7-10:00 pm at Fox Theater
  • YAP Party - 9:00 pm-1:00 am at the CosmoLava Lounge
  • 10th Annual LGBT Party - 10:01 pm-1:01 am at TEN Atlanta
  • ASAE Closing Ceremony - 7-10 pm at Centennial Olympic Park
What other parties and receptions would you like to promote? What will you be attending?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How to Know If You're An Association Nerd

When I started my first association job way back when, I had no idea I'd still be working in the association industry more than 10 years later. Part of what kept me in this association realm is my intense nerd-love for all things associations. After gathering with a group of fellow association nerds last weekend, I thought it might be cool to try to pull together a list of common traits for those who love association-land.

Here is my checklist for how to know if you're an association nerd
1. You know how the end of this phrase goes, "We've always done it ____ ___."
2. You fantasize about your picture being on the cover of Associations Now
3. You've participated in at least one Association Chat (online chat that takes place on Twitter every Tuesday at 2pm ET using the hashtag: #assnchat)
4. You can guess within 60 seconds of meeting someone whether they work for an association that is a 501(c)3 or a 501(c)6
5. You have your CAE and can tell the tale of studying for it
6. You can rattle off the name, "John Graham" like you do George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.
7. You could make a drinking game using any of the following words: Engagement, value, relevance, or membership model.
8. You have multiple products with acronyms on them in your home, including t-shirts, coffee mugs, pens, and post-it notes.
9. You have volunteered with the meta-realization of understanding that your experience is similar to how your own volunteers must feel
10. You still haven't managed to explain to your family what you do for a living

What else would you add to this list?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

10 Questions Answered About Association Jam

When I first heard Shelly Alcorn's idea about having an association gathering in multiple cities across the country at the same time and shared virtually(!), I thought she was smart, but crazy.

Though 100 percent behind the idea, when I considered the logistics of managing such a thing, I shuddered and thanked the stars it was her idea and not mine. That's why I thought it would be great to ask the creatrix herself 10 questions that would illuminate her genius (and fortitude) in thinking up this big event. Happily, she obliged. :)

Enter Association Jam

Shelly answered 10 questions for me about the upcoming event to share with the association world.

1. What gave you the idea for the Association Jam?

Like most ideas, I'm not completely sure I can take 100% credit for it because it started out of a conversation. A few years ago when I was  at CalSAE we decided to try an experiment with our educational roadshow concept.  We asked Jeff De Cagna to develop a series of four workshops that built on each other and had different content for each session. We started the series in one region and simulcasted the session on ustream, moved overnight to the next region and did the same thing. By the end of the week everyone in each CalSAE region had the chance to attend the entire series either "live" or "virtually". At some point during that week I got into a side conversation on the ustream chat channel with Vickie Lester, CAE and Gina Sutherland, CMP and a few other folks. We were talking about how cool it was to be able to see what was going on in these different regions and what if we did something like this with barbecues just for fun. That is where the idea stopped until Google+ arrived on the scene with the perfect platform.

2. What are people going to do during the Jam?

My hope is that folks have an easy-breezy time, drinking and snacking and just getting to know their fellow association professionals in a laid back non-hotel atmosphere.  It isn't that I don't like or value our association partners, but sometimes I think we all show an "association" face when we are in those more formal settings.  My hope is that as we break bread and socialize in a more intimate atmosphere we can make some deeper, truly authentic connections with each other. Choosing a topic to talk about was actually a secondary activity to let us connect on multiple levels both personally and professionally.....people are being asked to go visit our Google+ community to find blogs and articles about membership to use as a conversation starter.

3. Why did you choose to focus on that particular topic?

The party hosts and I kicked around some ideas and eventually settled on membership because this first Association Jam is kind of a membership-type activity. I do actually try to practice what I preach and a few months ago I did a webinar for Association Universe called, "Beer and BBQ IS a Membership Strategy."  That was the catalyst to meld the previous conversation during the CalSAE days with my newfound love of Google+ Hangouts and just do it. Besides, we usually get our education on and then we go drink, we're just flipping the order and seeing what happens! LOL 

4. How did you get people involved in helping with the Jam?

It was a combination of personal outreach to folks I thought would be game for trying something experimental and using social media to find the rest. It's terrifying to throw a public party and then have nobody want to come so I will be eternally grateful for the peeps who threw their hands in the air and said, yeah, we'll try it!  Our fabulous hosts include Vickie Lester and Maria Nazario in Los Angeles, Elizabeth Weaver Engel in Washington DC, Holly Duckworth in Denver and Wendy Kavanagh in Atlanta. I am also grateful for others who wanted to do it but couldn't due to scheduling conflicts like Maggie McGary, Robert Barnes, Nina Buthee, Gina Ayllon and Tom Morrison. And then of course, you were a huge supporter from the start and I'm so happy that you will be able to co-host Elizabeth's party! Turns out the first lesson we learned is June turned out to be a non-optimal month to try something like this...if I try it again, I may try July because there are less date conflicts with graduations/weddings, etc.

5. Do you think there will be future Association Jams?

I guess we will have to see if it's fun and people think it was something they would want to do again. Really, this is an idea that can be replicated at anytime by anyone. Even better, if this first group has a great experience, they will have one more idea to suggest to their own memberships as a way to create and sustain community.  (And Association Winter Jam 2013 has a nice ring to it :D....)

6. Why does the association world need another meeting?

I don't know that the association world does need another meeting necessarily, but I think we could all use more of these kinds of informal mechanisms to make membership a part of the board room and the living room as well.  Ideas cross-pollinate in informal, unstructured conversations, and the quality of our relationships are a key part of how we learn and grow. Eventually I can see Jams bringing not only association folks together but maybe other cool friends we have like tech folks, business owners, or other creative types as well. We could all use a little shot in the arm of outside ideas. I talk about "modern day salons" on my Association Forecast Google+ community because I think we need to look at outside ideas just as often as we study our own discipline. In addition, by attempting to incorporate the use of social media tools like Google+ communities we are getting the chance to not only share information but to learn how these tools can be used to help create learning collectives.  I tend to believe we can take more risks with our personal time than our "home" associations can with theirs.

7. Where can people find out more about Association Jam?

The best place is on our Google+ Association Jam community. You can also find out about it by visiting my blog - and also by emailing me at Also, if you are interested, follow us on Twitter at #assocjam.

8. What would be the absolute best result of having this event?

The absolute best result is having a really great time with some fun people and then getting a charge out of seeing the other groups around the country. Blending the "glo-cal" community in this way is something I couldn't have imagined doing in any other format than a conference twenty years ago.  I think it's neat to see our peers and colleagues cooperating in order to pull it off. There is no way anything like this can be done by one person. It is a joint activity.

9. What else should people know about Association Jam?

I think it's important that people know this is not meant to compete with ASAE or CalSAE or any other association - and it certainly isn't an attempt to start my own "entity" or other such nonsense. I really see our "home" associations as the platform where we may initially connect, but I also think we have a responsibility to not insist that "they" have to build our community by themselves. We are perfectly capable of interacting on our own and this effort is meant to be an enhancement to the member experience, not a replacement. Honestly, we talk a lot about how members organize with or without our associations and I hope this is seen as an experiment on what that actually might look like so we can learn about these new dynamics in real time, (not just in books and articles), and to see how the "home" platforms can stay engaged with members who are organizing on their own.

People should also know this is completely experimental. I have no idea what will actually happen. But no matter what happens, there will be pizza at the Sacramento party so it can't be all bad.

10. Can I record some of the Jam for posterity (and post-party promotion)?

Of course you can...:D

Monday, June 24, 2013

Association "Forty Under 40"

"Wh-wh- whaaaat?"

That was pretty much my reaction this morning when I read about a fabulous idea to recognize some visionaries in the association/nonprofit realm.

How have I missed hearing of this until now?!?

This is my first day in the Aptify-Tysons Corner office and as I glanced through an older issue of USAE - The Weekly Community Newspaper of Associations, CVBs, and Hotels that was in the break room, I read of the creation of the "Forty Under 40" Award open to all association, nonprofit folks 39 or younger.

The nominations will be accepted through July 31.

Individuals may apply at The Association Forum’s Awards & Recognition Committee will announce the names of honorees in mid-September.

Who would you like to see nominated? Please spread the word!

Friday, June 7, 2013

LinkedIn Told You So!

It is a big deal when you change your employer information on Facebook and LinkedIn. Updates are issued. Posts are released. People are notified. A virtual press release seems to be automatically spun out by social media sites and suddenly changing employers means hearing from family and friends about your latest news.

It's fun.

I should know. I just did that and man, what a flurry of activity in my inbox. I recently went from running my own social media consulting firm to working as senior consultant in social media for Aptify, a well-know software firm in the association space. People want to know how it feels, why I changed jobs, and what exactly I'll be doing.

First, I want to let you all in on a little secret. I'm in the midst of the most rigorous and intensive on boarding/training I've ever been a part of in my life. I'm actually writing this post from the lobby of the Whitney Hotel in New Orleans where I've been based for the past week as we've gone over "the basics" in preparation for more advanced training in the following weeks. It's better than obligatory training. It's impressive, is what it is. I wish all employers could do this! We (me and the close to 18 other people starting at the same time I am) are hearing and learning from some of the top people in the organization and they are setting us up for success. It feels really good to be invested in this early. To say I appreciate it would be weak. It's amazing.

At the Aptify Happy Hour for the New Hires (photo by Jason Nicosia)
Next week we'll all be in the DC area for more training and to attend Company Day, which brings together Aptify employees from all over the world for team building and updates. I'm stoked to be meeting more people at Aptify and to check out the Tyson's Corner offices where I'll be settling in soon. 

So, how does all of this feel? I'm in the beginning of a great learning experience and I have several weeks more of training with this group of great people whom I admire and respect. (I'm surrounded by MBAs from Tulane University who have been hired by Aptify to help as Business Analysts for clients).

Why did I make the jump? Because I had to admit something very seriously to myself... I do not like to work by myself all the time. I am much better with a team.

On top of that, the struggle to be all things (accountant, marketer, consultant, CEO) AND mother and wife was not fun without a group to share it with (and to share the work)! I feel like something has switched on since I started working with this team of people. I like it, friends. I like it a lot. 

So what exactly will I be doing for Aptify? :) Keep your eyes on and as we finalize the details you will see more posted. For now, just know we have some good things planned and we've only just begun.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Weekly Inspiration - My 10 Picks

We've made it to Friday and if you're anything like me, you like to recap what you've learned or been inspired by over the week.

What has captured your imagination? What is fascinating to you?

Here's what's inspiring me this week:

1. The Art of Selfishness by David Seabury - This is an older book that I found on after listening to an interview between John Morgan and Chris Brogan. Their interview was compelling enough that I wanted to read this little gem of a book.

2. Awesomely Simple by John Spence - Amazing book I was sent as a gift when I started Amplified Growth. I'm rereading it after being reminded of it recently in a PowerPoint presentation I reviewed. Good stuff on business management in there.

3. The Tim Ferriss article in the April 2013 edition of Inc. magazine (page 72) - I cut out the "Stop Doing That" portion to keep as a reminder. One thing he says to stop doing is instant messaging. I went "invisible"on G-chat this week and haven't looked back. I might be brave enough to try some of his other only checking my email twice a day...eventually.

4. Tumblr. - I'm only subscribed to inspirational stuff on there and it is probably the most fun online site for me to visit each day. I'm following tumblr blogs about fitness inspiration, cute animals (I hear that looking at them is good for memory - no joke), and futurist ideas. Just fun.

5. My neighbors' flowers - The beautiful blooms are so alluring...check out MemberClicks blog for their great response to my ethical dilemma.

6. Pukka Refresh organic peppermint, fennel, and rose tea

7. Liz King's Power Branding Online Class Series. This thing is free, but she could be making thousands off of it, easily. I recommend it highly!

8. Writer's Almanac and poetry - April is National Poetry Month and it always makes me appreciate poetry's place in my life and usually leads to me writing my fair share of poems, too. I won the Langston Hughes Award for Creative Writing in college and used to compete in poetry slams, so I'm a little bit of a nut when it comes to poetry. Every day Garrison Keillor shares information on the date in literature's history and a poem to share on his show, The Writer's Almanac. It's a positive show that always makes me think and puts a smile on my face.

9. Blog post by Corey Eridon at HubSpot on How To Deliver Presentations That Are Awe-Inspiring, Not Yawn Inducing. I love blog posts about presenting, but this one was especially well put-together and linked to another great blog post with a slidedeck I checked out. A good one for presenters. (We also had a dynamic chat about speaking on the week's Association Chat (#assnchat), held every week at 2 pm ET.)

10. Spring - Springtime always makes me feel like it's another chance to improve, do better, clean up, and start fresh. I'm doing some spring cleaning around the house and I've started spending more time outside as the natural world around me begins to bloom and unfold itself in the sun. 

What inspired you this week? Any suggestions I should check out for next week? I'm always on the lookout for new teas, so there's that...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ethical Springtime Dilemma: Stolen Blooms

Ethical dilemma: Your neighbor has a blooming bush that is encroaching on your yard. The blooms would look perfect in vases throughout your house. 

Do you snip off the blooms that fall on *your* side of the fence so that you are delighted as you walk throughout your house? Or do you adhere to a "hands off" policy and wait for your own bushes to bloom?

I may have a snipped a few...what would *you* do?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Orange Bowl and Creativity: An Interview With Laila Brock

Laila Brock is currently the Director of Events and Team Operations with the Orange Bowl Committee, where she implements nearly 100 annual events in support of the Orange Bowl and the larger objective of enhancing the image, economy, and culture of South Florida. Laila will be facilitating a session on "Taking Creative Brainstorming to the Next Level" in the Workshop Series at BizBash IdeaFest South Florida on April 10 at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center. (For more information, and to register for this conference, please visit

My interview with Laila Brock:

Q.    Describe for me how you got involved in planning for the Orange Bowl.

A.     I kind of fell into events, kind of like most event professionals in my generation you talk to who feel like they just fell into it. I was a student athlete in college so there was always that connection to sports and I always wanted to work in sports because I had that positive experience. When I left grad school I worked for a nonprofit in Boston and moved on to Florida Atlantic University to work there.

I was fortunate to attend an Orange Bowl when my alma mater played in 2005. Very shortly thereafter I started dabbling in events and meeting planning, but didn't really know that what I was doing was events and meeting planning because it was just part of my job and something I enjoyed doing.

When I started with Orange Bowl, I really just started with a stint in logistics geared toward the teams visiting the Orange Bowl – their transportation, their arrivals, their meals, meeting space at the hotels,… just straight operations and logistics. As time evolved and the Orange Bowl evolved, I moved up into the position I’m in now – I oversee the operations and manage our large scale events portion of the Orange Bowl game.

Q.    What do most people get wrong when they hear you help plan the Orange Bowl?

A.     They think that it’s all fun and glamorous and sexy and it is not. There are a lot of late nights and long hours. Most of our events happen around Orange Bowl so they happen in a concentrated period of time and we’re planning 50-70 events large and small to happen throughout that small timeframe. So there are weeks when we’re at work from 7 o’clock in the morning until 9:30 that night. There are times when I’ve seen my office more than I’ve seen my house.

I think people kind of get lost in the beauty of the industry. But the industry is absolutely amazing and you definitely have the opportunity to use your creativity, use your people skills, and communicate with people to generate revenue for and organization. But it’s also about moving boxes around and coming to work in sweatpants some day because you know you’re going to have to get dirty or you know you’re going to be on your hands and knees all day putting together registration packets.

Q.    What kind of creative thinking goes into planning for the Orange Bowl? What’s your process? What role does brainstorming play?

A.     We’ll have an Orange Bowl gala, which we call our Orange Bowl Rhapsody, and we’ll do several of the same events year after year and they have the same audience, so it’s sometimes a little difficult to come up with creative ways to run the same event.

But what we’ll do is we’ll tap into our local network, our local community to figure out what it is they want to see – something that they haven’t seen before or something a little bit different. 

One of the things that with our Orange Bowl gala is we’ll take a culture and really explore that culture, like last year we had a Brazilian theme for our Orange Bowl Rhapsody. We brought in Brazilian dancers, we had Brazilian food, all the things that would make you feel like you were in a Brazilian Carnivale.

Q.    How do you recognize a successful idea from a really bad idea?

A.     Let me give you a really great example. We held a gala at the Miami Seaquarium – it is on a park and there’s a small island next to the park and we wanted to use the space on the park and on the island.

Our committee chair was very creative and wanted to take boats from the island to the park. We had 1,000 people and he wanted to take 3 or 4 boats, 15 minutes at a time, and do boat tours from the island to the park.

While in theory that would be great, logistically and operationally, it wasn’t going to work. We had an issue where we would have had people who may be drinking, getting on to boats, going to docks that were too small to handle that many people. It would have been a lot of fun, it would have been really cool if it could have worked out.

We try to look at good ideas and try to make them work and if they can’t work, we try to figure out an alternative that will.

So one of the things that we did is create an outdoor patio right outside the tent at that outdoor venue so the same idea was there – people could look at the island and have an outdoor space and really enjoy our weather here in South Florida in January.

Q.    How much has your experience as an athlete impacted the way you approach creative brainstorming and planning?

A.     I come from the background that no one does anything on their own. There is nothing that I’m going to achieve that I’m going to achieve by myself. I know that I need help and I know I need to help others  - my feedback, my expertise, my hands, or my lever. That’s the attitude we all take here [at the Orange Bowl] so I think that’s why we’ve been successful with the Orange Bowl and the community.

Apart from that I think my experience as a student athlete has helped me to improve the student athletes’ experience who are here for the Orange Bowl. You know, it’s not just about the sponsors and about our committee members, it’s about the whole community and about the student athletes who are here to participate.

Q.    What has been the hardest/most important lesson you’ve learned in your experiences planning for the Orange Bowl?

A.     I’ve learned patience and I’ve learned how to work very quickly. The reason I say that I have to be patient because we work by committee – we have a group of about 300 CEOs, doctors, lawyers, business leaders in the community that kind of drive the decisions of Orange Bowl and so you have to be patient because they know what they want and they know when they want it but then they sometimes change their minds.

But beyond that, because we work with such a condensed timeframe, everything has to be precise and everything has to be done very quickly in a very short amount of time.

So we may have everything planned out, but a team is announced and everything goes out the window so I’ve had to learn how to adapt very quickly.

Q.    What does every event planner need in his or her arsenal?

A.     A great network. I don’t think anyone can do anything on their own. What I’ve learned is it’s great to ask questions and learn from someone who has done it before. So I would say the best thing for a novice event planner to a master event planner is just a really great network.

Q. What’s the best perk for doing what you do?

A.   I’m a sports fan so working in college football and planning events is like a dream come true for me. Being able to stand on the field during the national championship games and watch the game from the field. I don’t get all the fancy trips around the world like some planners, but I’m able to be in an environment that I love and an environment that I helped create and there’s so much energy created around that.

Q. Where do you get your best ideas?

A.   I use the website and I use the magazine [BizBash] all the time – I’m always getting ideas from places around town. […] When I’m out running or when I’m in the shower or traffic, ideas come from everywhere and if we can, we’ll use them!