Category Archives: Event Planning

Cat Herding 101: 9 tips for effective meeting facilitation

Cat Meeting

Do you sometimes feel you’re losing control of a meeting and don’t know how to get it back on track? It only takes one side conversation that takes a life of its own or one tenacious attendee to derail the focus of the entire group. Once you lose control, herding the cats back into the corral can seem like an impossible task.

Here are 9 tips to help you become a cat herding champion.

But first, why does it matter? Shouldn’t a facilitator ensure that everyone has their say? Yes and no. The facilitator needs to be respectful of everyone in the room and be aware of his or her responsibilities.

Participants expect that the meeting will run on time, and complete the agenda. When this happens, they feel a sense of accomplishment and that their time has been well spent. If you deliver this consistently, volunteers will be easier to attract and retain for your organization. Effective meeting facilitation is a hallmark of the High Performance Organization TM.

The 9 tips below can be used effectively for any type of meeting; small or large.

Preparation: 3 Tips before your meeting starts

  1. Start with a pre-approved agenda.
  2. Ensure that each agenda item has a time limit consistent with the priority and complexity of the agenda item.
  3. Ensure that briefing materials as required for each agenda item are included with the agenda. Make it clear that participants are expected to have read them.

Onsite: 6 Tips while you are facilitating the meeting

  1. Remind participants of your role as the facilitator. Your job is to keep the meeting on track and on time.
  2. Start by reiterating the agenda, timing and deliverables for the meeting. Note what needs to be accomplished.
  3. Allow equal time for the pros and cons for each agenda item; not equal time for each participant. Call a close when both sides have been well stated.
  4. Beware of rabbit holes. If the conversation gets off track, bring it back to the agenda item. Respect and record items that are not on the agenda and put them in a “parking lot” agenda for later.
  5. Build in regular time checks to the agenda and call out respectfully if the meeting is going overtime.
  6. When the meeting is completed, summarize the decisions and the parking lot items and compliment the participants on a job well done.

If you’d like some help training your leaders to be good facilitators and directors, contact the Zzeem team.

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Filed under Event Planning, High Performance Organization, Leadership Support Program, Volunteer Engagement

6 Powerful Tips for Sponsorship Success

adults-agreement-beverage-567633Sponsorship can be a significant source of revenue for your association, but you have a lot of competition.  To be successful, you need a great plan, a smart process and a powerful SVP (sponsor value proposition).

Sponsors are interested in partnering with your membership organization for one of two reasons:

  1. Because aligning their brand with yours increases their visibility or perceived value
  2. Because your members make or influence the buying decisions for their products or services

So you must provide a compelling case for one or both.

When done well, sponsorship is a business AND personal relationship and both partners benefit. Follow these 6 tips to build an maintain strong win-win relationships with you sponsors.

  1. DISTINGUISH YOURSELF: Know your organization, understand your brand, and be prepared to identify how that aligns with the sponsor’s needs.
  2. CREATE A STRONG OFFERING: Your sponsorship prospectus must be attractive, professional and informative. It must create a business case for an investment in your organization. Clearly define the return on the sponsor’s investment (ROI).
  • Share relevant data including member demographic and purchasing information to demonstrate the “fit”.
  • Define whether the sponsorship opportunity is event specific, year-round with multiple touch points or multi-year. Explain how they can maximize the opportunity.
  • For many sponsors the golden ticket is a speaking engagement where they can showcase their expertise in a way that’s useful to your members.
  • Provide a variety of entry-level to premium offerings that provide a good balance of visibility and direct contact with members. Consider the time required to secure the sponsors. Too many lower priced options take time away from securing higher value opportunities and may undervalue the whole program.
  1. KNOW YOUR SPONSORS: Understand their business goals and objectives. Tailor the sponsor package to meet their objectives.
  2. FOLLOW THEIR BUDGET CYCLE: Reach out to them when they’re planning their budget for the following year.
  3. IDENTIFY DECISION MAKERS: Understand the sponsors’ decision-making process and hierarchy, e.g., who are the buyers versus the influencers? What information do they require – particularly if your contact does not make the final decision? What are their business deliverables and how can your association make them look good and help them be successful?
  4. DEDICATE RESOURCES: Successful sponsorship management requires dedicated individuals who are skilled at sourcing, building and nurturing on-going relationships. This is not trivial. It takes time and effort to research qualified prospects; to develop an effective “pitch” with professional and comprehensive support materials; execute the value proposition; and provide necessary ongoing, personalized appreciation efforts and engagement that is mutually beneficial and facilitates long-term support.

Bottom line: Take this seriously. The more effort and professionalism you put into your sponsor program the more successful it will be.

Find out more about building successful sponsorship programs and the High Performance OrganizationTM on our website. Check out our VIMEO channel for webinars on this topic.

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Filed under Association, Association Management Issues, Event Planning, High Performance Organization, Sponsor Value Proposition, Sponsorship, Successful Conferences, Tradeshows

Outsourcing – Legal and contractual issues; What should you consider?

agreement-business-businessmen-886465

Outsourcing is a great way to engage highly specialized expertise at a lower price than engaging a full-time staffer. Membership associations have a number of outsourcing opportunities. These fit into 3 broad categories:

  1. Full service or hybrid services from an association management company (AMC): The full-service model outsources everything. The board of directors engages the AMC to deliver all back-stage and front-stage tasks, and the AMC provides an Executive Director who reports to the board. The hybrid model has one or more full-time employees (e.g. Executive Director) and the balance of the association management tasks are delegated to an AMC. The AMC reports to the Executive Director.
  2. Events: The association delegates the management of one or more events to an external service provider. This may or may not be an AMC.
  3. Contract Services: The association delegates stand-alone tasks such as:
  • Bookkeeping, audit/review
  • IT (managing hardware, software and technical support for in-house staff)
  • Webmaster (taking care of website updates)
  • Government Relations/Advocacy

This post focuses on what you should consider in terms of legal and contractual considerations. These are relevant regardless of the type of outsourcing.

The Contract

You should always have a contract with your service provider(s); regardless of whether it is a company or an individual. Your contract should include these provisions:

  • Clearly defined and measurable deliverables
  • Price (fixed annual price or hourly rate)
  • Process for engaging in non-contractual “extras” and out-of-pocket expenses (e.g. travel)
  • Service level agreement (SLA). This describes considerations such as response time and turnaround time for the deliverables.
  • Intellectual Property (IP). This clarifies who owns what. You own the IP that your association brings to the partnership and your service provider needs to make clear what of their IP you may use but not own, and terms under which you may or may not continue to use the supplier’s IP after the contract concludes.
  • Exit terms. What are the terms under which either party may terminate the contract? This should include a notice period even if the contract has a fixed end date.
  • The contract should include a provision that each party has the appropriate level of insurance (e.g. general liability, errors and omissions)
  • If your service provider is delivering services that require compliance on member privacy, anti-spam, labour and/or other legislation, spell this out in the contract.

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)

If you’re engaging an individual, it may be appropriate to treat them as an “employee” for CRA purposes and make the standard payroll deductions from their compensation. This is to ensure that your association does not become liable for taxes they are responsible for remitting to the CRA. As a rule of thumb, if their major source of revenue is from your association, then treat them as an employee. Keep in mind, this partnership may mean that your association has the same obligation of notice for termination as if they were an employee.

Consider your options, choose what’s right for your association and protect yourself by taking a professional approach to your partnerships. For a more comprehensive view of your outsourcing opportunities watch our webinar on outsourcing here.

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Filed under Association Management, Association Management Issues, Event Planning, High Performance Organization, Leadership, Outsourcing, Sponsorship

Boost Attendance at Your Signature Event – 6 Proven Tips

Increase-AttendanceIt can be a challenge to get attendees out to your signature event. They’re busy and they have many competing demands for their time and money. Here are 6 proven tips to boost attendance and excitement for your event. In our work with our clients we have used all of these and we can vouch for their effectiveness.

Offer an Early Bird Rate: This is a tried and true method to incentivize registrants to sign up early for your conference. A discount for early sign up is particularly effective when registrants will be paying for the event themselves. For those whose employers will pick up the tab, it gives the employer an incentive to grant budget approval well in advance of the event.

Open Registration Early: Open your online registration 3-6 months before the event. If it is a conference, start closer to six months out to make the early bird rate meaningful and to sell it out early.

Boost Your Conversion Rate: When you’re hosting a trade show, the most important consideration is to get qualified buyers to the show, to support your exhibitors. A typical tactic is to ensure that there is a meaningful walk-in price that can be covered with a discount code. The discount code incentivizes registrants to sign-up, but the challenge is getting registrants who have no financial skin in the game to actually attend the show.

In order to manage this, ensure that you have marketing plan that focuses specifically on pre-registrants to get them to the show.  Remind them that they have registered, and focus on new products that will be featured by your exhibitors, on-floor activities and social events.

Use Discount Codes Effectively: At a trade show, your exhibitors want attendees and their contact lists may be more comprehensive than yours; particularly given the CASL restrictions. Give each exhibitor a unique code that they can offer to their contacts. This allows you to leverage their marketing resources to support your registration. Consider offering a prize for the exhibitor that brings in the most attendees.

For a conference, also consider using a time-stamped discount code offered at renewal time. The code is available to members who renew before a given date and purchase conference registration at the same time. This tactic has the additional advantage of encouraging members to renew in a timely manner.

Vary Your Subject Lines: You already know that a compelling subject line is key to getting the attention of your prospective attendees. You will send multiple emails to promote your event. Don’t make the mistake of using the same subject line on each outreach. Use each message to focus on an interesting and exciting aspect of the event. This could be high profile speakers, leading edge topics, event activities and social/networking opportunities.

Cap Supplier Attendance: Your supplier members attend your event to interact with the core members who buy their products and services. Your core members want to interact with other core members. Be careful not to have suppliers dominate attendance. This diminishes the value of your event for both the suppliers and core members. Set a goal for supplier attendance and let them know there is a cap. This lets registrants know you’re looking out for their interests, and encourages suppliers to sign up early.

Using these tactics effectively requires careful advance planning and ongoing monitoring and tweaking to measure the effectiveness of each tactic. Get your marketing plan and collateral in place a year in advance of your event and use your experience from the previous year to boost your results.

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Filed under Association Management, Association Management Issues, Event Planning, Sponsor Value Proposition, Sponsorship, Successful Conferences, Tradeshows

What’s the Recipe for Your Member Value Proposition (MVP)? 3 Tips for your Success.

meal-salad-steakYou know that you’re offering great value to your members but are your directors and staff clear on what it is? Are they all on the same page, singing the same tune? Or do they get flustered when they are asked to explain your association’s value to a non-member?

Your MVP is the bedrock of your association and it deserves special attention.

  1. Is your MVP clearly articulated and compelling? Your MVP is not a list of member services. It is a statement of highly relevant value expressed from the perspective of the member. It answers the WIIFM question.
  2. Can your directors and staff all state the MVP in their own words and give real-life examples?

Your MVP is a meal. It’s a combination of comfort (carbohydrates), critical resources (protein) and freshness (vegetables). Here’s the recipe.

Carbohydrates (Comfort): This element of member value is about belonging. Your members feel part of the bigger picture. They share common issues and needs and they connect with other members who “get it.” They recognize we’re all in this together. That sense of belonging = COMFORT.

Protein (Critical resources): This element of member value is about the resources that members receive. It may be stakeholder relations, up-to-the-minute information, or connections that increase business. This is the “meat” of your MVP. Engaged members use your resources for the benefit of their career and/or their business.

Vegetables (Freshness): This element of member value is about mixing it up and keeping your events and programs new, changing and exciting. Be brave and change at least one thing each year. If you keep serving the same meal your members will get bored. Take a chance on something new!

There are three key elements to defining, using and delivering on your MVP.

  1. Take the time and effort to develop a compelling MVP.
  2. Train, train and retrain your directors and staff so they can confidently state the MVP in their own words and give real-life examples of how the association has helped individual members. Encourage your directors to add a personal note that describes how the association helps them specifically.
  3. Keep your MVP delivery fresh and interesting. Don’t get stuck in a rut

Want some help with your MVP? Find out more.

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Filed under Association Management, Event Planning, Governance, High Performance Organization, Member Education, Member Engagement, Member Value Proposition

Sponsors – It’s a Partnership. How Much is it Worth?

handshake sponsorThe answer is, “somewhere between zero and a lot”. If your industry or profession is an important market for a prospective partner and the potential upside of future sales is substantial, then a partnership with your association could be very valuable.

There are only two reasons why a sponsor wants to partner with your association.

  1. Because aligning their brand with yours increases their visibility or perceived value
  2. Because your members make or influence the buying decisions for their products or services

I was talking to a large software company last week about a partnership with one of our client associations. They were brutally upfront about our value in the second category. They have a 70% penetration rate in our industry so the likelihood of selling meaningful new volume to our members is very low. However, their marketing director noted, “We see value in an association with your association”.

How Do You Assess Value?

So let’s talk about the first reason why a sponsor would partner with you. Do you have a winning value proposition for your prospective partners to align their brand with yours?

  • It depends on 2 elements: does your association’s brand offer something that they need, and is your brand well-known in the sector they want to influence?

If your brand offers credibility, professionalism and community engagement, that could be very appealing to a prospective sponsor. However, your brand must be widely recognized in your sector for this to be of value. If you have a strong brand and high visibility you have the potential for a very strong SVP.

And what about the second reason? Do you have a winning value proposition for your prospective partners to sell their products or services to your members?

  • It depends on 3 elements: number of members, current penetration rate, and the value of a single sale.

If your prospective partner has a keen interest in increasing penetration in your industry or profession, a low penetration rate and a high price point per unit, you have the potential for a very strong sponsor value proposition (SVP). That is assuming that their product or service is a good fit for your members. Even if your membership is not huge, a partnership with your association could be very productive.

How Do You Pitch Your Association’s Value to a Sponsor?

Even if you have an awesome SVP, you still must make a successful pitch to your prospective partner. You have a lot of competition. There’s a line-up of associations in front of you; asking for the same thing.

First, make sure you’re talking to the right people. Second, make sure your sponsor value proposition (SVP) aligns with their objectives.

So who do you need to talk to?

For sponsor dollars, the marketing director usually controls the budget. He/she must be convinced that your offering is better value than the alternatives. The marketing director’s decision will be influenced by the opinion of the business development/sales director that has accountability for sales in your sector.

The sales director is your gateway to the marketing budget. If they’re not convinced that your offering will drive sales, you’re going nowhere fast. Your success with them depends on you helping them to hit their objectives.

What are their objectives and how can you help?

First, you need to ask. To pitch your offering successfully, you need to understand what they’re trying to achieve and position your sponsor offering to help them accomplish their goals. But don’t try to force a square peg into a round hole. If there isn’t a fit, then be honest and move on. If you see a fit, then show them a customized package and explain how it fits with their objectives.

How do you know if you got it right?

Ask. After each activation, get their views on how well it worked and find out how you can help them fine tune it.

In summary, remember 2 things.

  1. Ask, and Listen. Talk to them to find out what their marketing objectives are and figure out how you can work with them to accomplish their objectives.
  2. Then, Deliver. Customize a partner package that will meet their needs, then deliver on what you promised. When the SVP delivery is complete, ask for their feedback.

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Filed under Association, Association Management, Association Management Issues, Event Planning, Sponsor Value Proposition, Sponsorship, Successful Conferences, Tradeshows

The Secrets to Tradeshow Success

Choosing the key to success from hanging keys concept for aspiraA tradeshow is a series of beginnings. Every moment—from the second the doors open until the very end —is a moment where your exhibitors could be making a positive impact on potential customers. If all goes well, these crucial contacts will launch mutually profitable relationships that will last for years. On the other hand, if the impression your exhibitors create is not so positive, they’ve missed the opportunity and may not come back. Here are some ideas to help your exhibitors to ensure that they have a profitable experience.

Increase leads and sales – Business cards are still a great source of information about people. Many companies also incorporate a lead retrieval scanner.  To tap into that source, exhibitors do their best to get contact information from the people that visit their booths. But how about a more engaged approach? I once saw an exhibitor with a high-end bottle of Scotch at their booth as a prize for the business card draw. I couldn’t believe the number of inquisitive folks that came to their booth inquiring about the draw. The physical prize was much more compelling than words. This not only allowed the exhibitor to explain the process but also enabled them to share information about their products. That’s one of the best ways to make connections on the show floor. This approach helps attendees to get excited and engaged. They’re more than willing to drop their business cards or submit to a scan of their badge.

Booth staff – Numerous times we have seen people manning booths on their cell phones or chatting amongst themselves. What does that say to the tradeshow attendees; “I am not interested in your business!” That’s the perception. It’s imperative to explain to exhibitors that they must train their booth staff. They need to engage the attendees to get optimum results. Also, an over-staffed booth might be a deterrent. No one wants to go to a booth if they see five people standing inside a 10’ x 10’ booth, ready to pounce. It’s intimidating and uncomfortable.

Booth décor – Help exhibitors to understand that their booth space is their home for the duration of the tradeshow and they should try to be the best host in the neighborhood. Encourage them to create a clean, warm and friendly environment for the attendees to step into. A cool, branded attire will also make their team stand out, both in the booth and as they walk the floor.

These are only a few of many ways to garner success for your tradeshow. If you want to learn more, check out our VIMEO channel for webinars on this topic. The bottom line is, work with your exhibitors to help them succeed. It requires creativity, clear communication, and tech savviness.

If you’d like to talk to one of Zzeem’s tradeshow professionals and/or find out how we can help, click here.

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Filed under Association Management, Association Management Issues, Event Planning, Successful Conferences, Tradeshows