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Dana's Meeting Minutes: Three Tips and One Awesome Idea for Innovative Planners

Posted By Dana Saal, CMP, CAE, Saal Meeting Consulting, Friday, February 9, 2018
Updated: Thursday, February 8, 2018

An upgrade that’s better than the Club King

Last year I introduced Dana’s Meeting Minutes, sharing Three Tips and One Awesome Idea for Innovative Planners to make your job easier, impress your stakeholders, and/or make your participants say, “I love that!”

Prompted by CareerCast’s ranking event planning #5 in its Most Stressful Jobs of 2017 list, this year’s Meeting Minutes will focus on the one who manages the meetings—you.

A recent experience reminded me how stressful meeting planning is. Out of love for a friend, I helped plan an awards gala. I got into the logistics which I haven’t done for a couple of years. In the throes of it I whined, “this is why I quit planning!” At the end, I realized that for the 30 years prior I must have been in a state of suspended stress, endlessly on high alert while juggling balls, planning how to juggle the balls, or assessing how the balls were juggled.

I still love meeting planning and am grateful for falling into a profession (at age 24!) that fits me like a glove. I have had a charmed career and I want to share what I can to ensure planners love their jobs, without burning out. (Been there, done that.)

Each month I will explore ways that you, and therefore your meetings, are continuously improving; that you’re upgrading, aiming for the Presidential Suite! My One Awesome Idea will be a challenge for you to work on until the next blog.

By the way, based on my original Meeting Planning Triangle, I devised the Meeting Planner’s Triangle, you may find helpful and which I will base my content on. I invite your input about this topic, especially if you have suggestions for improvement.

THREE TIPS (to start you thinking)

Tip #1

How are you…

·         Are you well?

·         Are you enthusiastic?

·         Do you have support?

Tip #2

Are you upgrading…

·         How are you evolving?

·         How are you sharing?

·         How are you collaborating?

Tip #3

Are your meetings…

·         Valuable?

·         Engaging?

·         Compelling?



Rest may seem a waste of time, but it’s proven to play a critical role in brain health, including allowing you to absorb what you’ve just learned, as well as sustain creative thinking.

Rest can be anything from pushing back from your desk for a few moments or taking a long walk. The point is to simply stop.

Challenge: Plan ways to incorporate rest into each day.


Most Stressful Jobs of 2017 by CareerCast.

Deliberate Rest: A blog about getting more done by working less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of the book, Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less

A review of Rest—Arianna Huffington on a Book About Working Less, Resting More from The New York Times Book Review.



Dana L. Saal, CMP, CAE, planned meetings for associations for more than 30 years. She now partners with associations to think creatively, differently, and boldly about their meetings and boards of directors. If you think a bit of coaching could improve your meeting, send a message via her website.


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Strategy + Innovation - Watchwords for 2018

Posted By Sherry Budziak, CEO and Founder of .orgSource, Friday, January 12, 2018
Updated: Monday, January 8, 2018

As we start the new year, we all are inundated by predictions for the future. At .orgSource, we all have been thinking a lot about the future. Later this year we will be publishing a book on "Association 4.0." Many of you may have heard Kevin and I speak about disruptors looming on the horizon and how associations will need to undertake some fundamental changes. For 2018, we think there are two words that should define the focus of associations: strategy and innovation. 


We are not suggesting dusting off your strategic plan or engaging in the same old periodic planning retreat processes so common among associations. Instead, we are suggesting ongoing, mindful strategic thinking throughout the organization. Organizations need to be asking questions such as: why do we exist; who do we serve; what’s important; how can we best deliver what’s important; what should we be investing in; with whom do we partner; what are the risks we face; how do we ameliorate those risks—and are we really adding value? 

For each of those questions, there is a response for today—the current situation—and for tomorrow—an unknowable future. And since the future is unknowable, the best we can do is anticipate a variety of scenarios and invest in the building blocks—the people, structures, processes, and systems—to increase our flexibility and odds of success across a range of future possibilities. 


This leads to our second watchword for 2018: innovation. We have all heard of organizations that pride themselves on never being first, instead focusing on efficiently copying the leader. But how far behind can you avoid lagging? Given the speed of change and the rapid disseminating of new ideas and technologies, those who wait too long will never catch up. As a result, there needs to be a greater focus on innovations—and an associated willingness to take risks. 

A core focus of many associations is the delivery of educational content. Many are still relying on tried and true models such as the annual meeting or the PowerPoint-driven webinar (usually with zero or very limited interactivity). In the face of an exploding number of options and delivery modalities, how long can we expect to succeed without embracing radical innovation?  

For example, I was recently reading about Michigan State University’s use of robots in online instruction. To engage the robot from home, learners download free software onto their computer. The robots are stationed around a class setting. Each robot has a mounted video screen controlled by the remote user that lets the student pan around the room to see and talk with the instructor and fellow students participating in-person. According to Christine Greenhow, associate professor at Michigan State University, “Students participating with the robots felt much more engaged and interactive with the instructor and their classmates." This is just one example of how technology will be changing learning environments.  

We may not be investing in robot systems soon, but the MSU example serves as one reminder that we can never lose sight of the need to innovate. 

So, as we enter 2018, we wish all our association friends a successful year based on strategy and innovation. We are committed to our own efforts at strategy and innovation, as well as to helping our clients position themselves for a challenging and exciting future. 

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New Member Engagement Study

Posted By Destiny Nance-Evans, Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Would you like to raise your new member renewal rate by 9.7% and improve member engagement? Learn how with the New Member Engagement Study, a collaborative research project done by Dynamic Benchmarking and Kaiser Insights LLC. And we are proud to be research partners supporting this important industry study.

Find the report at

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Dana's Meeting Minutes: Three Tips and One Awesome Idea for Innovative Planners

Posted By Dana Saal, CMP, CAE, Saal Meeting Consulting, Friday, December 29, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, December 19, 2017

You cannot pour from an empty cup

Dana’s Meeting Minutes is based on the Meeting Planning Triangle©. Click here for a link.

Who takes care of you? How do you keep your cup full? This was a focus at SPINCon 2017* earlier this month. Dubbed “a senior-level meeting of the minds,” the goal was to practice self-care for two days. (We did; it was fabulous!) Contemplate these tips as we start a new year.


Tip #1

Stay connected with a community of planners

·         Make the time to regularly connect with planners who support each other—without having to explain what BEO means.

·         Connect mindfully. CareerCast lists meeting planning as the fifth Most Stressful Jobs of 2017. (see list below)

·         Lean on others and let them lean on you. Do you have a community to turn to when you can’t make an event happen because of an unexpected circumstance?

Tip #2

Have fun

·         This can be so difficult, especially if don’t have a lot of interaction with non-stressed people. (see below for a few laughs)

·         We have fun at conventions. How can you/we find that fun in between official gatherings?

Tip #3

Keep learning

·         Staying current will give you energy, ideas, and motivation.

·         Make learning easy. My go-to are industry journals and seminars. I also learn a lot at conventions. If webinars are your thing, you’ll find plenty.

·         Become a Certified Meeting Professional. You will learn a lot by studying to take the exam.

*SPINCon is sponsored by the Senior Professionals Industry Network (SPIN) which supports planners with ten or more years of experience. Full disclosure: I volunteered for the Program Committee, primarily because I love this group and love this event.


Plan a self-care routine for 2018

You’re a planner; it should be easy. Ha! Well, maybe not, but it’s essential. Your family will be grateful. Your colleagues will be grateful. You will be grateful…and happier.

Consider some of my go-to self-care practices.

·         Meditation. It really works. Really. Check out Fragrant Heart, a website that offers instruction and guided meditation (very helpful).

·         Yoga. The Yoga Alliance lists many benefits of practicing yoga; the #1 is stress relief.

·         The right diet. Whole30 is a short-term nutrition reset. It’s not a weight-loss diet. It is designed to identify food groups that have a negative impact on your life. They call it life-changing, and it is. I would have never known that rice was upsetting me internally and sugar was upsetting me emotionally. What a change I’ve experienced since then!


Indulge in some YouTube time:

Sh*t Meeting Planners Say by

What Event Planners Say vs. What Event Planners Mean by MorEventsDenver

Carry ‘Round a Binder, Son by The Water Coolers at MPI (SO funny!)

“Meeting Pro” by the Water Coolers at MPI

CareerCast Most Stressful Jobs of 2017:

1.      Enlisted Military Personnel

2.      Firefighter

3.      Airline Pilot

4.      Police Officer

5.      Event Coordinator

6.      Newspaper Reporter

7.      Senior Corporate Executive

8.      Public Relations Executive

9.      Taxi Driver

10.  Broadcaster

Google search for meeting planning webinars



Dana L. Saal, CMP, CAE, has been planning meetings for associations for more than 30 years. She recently decided that coaching meeting planners is now more fun than proofing BEOs, counting coffee cups and writing scripts. If you think a bit of coaching could improve your meeting, send a message via her website!

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Dana's Meeting Minutes: Three Tips and One Awesome Idea for Innovative Planners

Posted By Dana Saal, CMP, CAE, Saal Meeting Consulting, Friday, December 15, 2017
Updated: Monday, December 4, 2017

Useful event evaluation questions

Dana’s Meeting Minutes is based on the Meeting Planning Triangle©. Click here for a link.

Why do you collect event evaluations? Hopefully it’s because you have a solid plan for the use of the information.


Tip #1

Questions should advance the mission of the event or association

·         Before writing questions, clearly identify what you want to learn.

·         Ask how new-gained knowledge will be used for personal, company, association, and/or industry improvement.

·         Include the question, “Would you recommend this to a friend or colleague?” This identifies your net promoter score*, a figure for measuring success.

Tip #2

Design questions so answers are easy to analyze

·         Know how you will use the data. Let that determine the format of your questions.

·         If you ask for a written response, consider the value of customized responses and whether you will be able to record and analyze them.

·         If not, determine how you can obtain equally valuable information in another format, such as multiple choice, with an option to write in a one-line answer.

·         For ease of sorting from an electronic form, create a separate field for each piece of information, e.g. city, state, ZIP. You may not plan to sort by ZIP, but when you need to, you’ll be glad you don’t have to separate it from the city and state.

Tip #3

Don’t ask the question if you won’t use the answers

·         Don’t ask about the venue, the food, the schedule, or even then speakers if you won’t use the information for future planning.

·         Instead, rely on first-person appraisals from leadership, your staff, and your own observations.

·         If you’re required to distribute evaluations to fulfill CE requirements, use the opportunity to gather more than the basics.


Use Big (or Small) Data

You’ll hear the term Big Data buzzing around. It describes very large sets of data that are analyzed to reveal patterns, trends, connections, etc. in human behavior.

Small Data (my term) can be also be used to determine human behavior. Maintaining an event history is one of the easiest ways to do this. Track numbers for every aspect of your event, from abstract submissions to session attendance; from orange juice consumption to meal no-shows.

Refer to your history when your boss worries about low registrations (we’re 3% higher than last year); you want to prove that scheduling sessions at 4:00p on the last day is a bad idea (only 14% of all registrants were in sessions at that time last year); or whether Early Bird rates incentive registrations (40% of total registrations were received in the hours before rates increased last year).


*Net Promoter Score: The Net Promoter Score: How to Use It For eLearning Evaluation and Improvement by Adam Gavarkovs for eLearning Industry.

Evaluation Form Writing: The Trouble With Evals by Michelle Russell for PCMA Convene

Big Data: How Big Data Makes Meetings Smarter by Michelle Davis for PCMA Convene

How Can Data Analytics Transform Meetings? by Ken Budd for PCMA Convene

How the Exhibitions Industry Is Using Big Data by Regina McGee for PCMA Convene



Dana L. Saal, CMP, CAE, has been planning meetings for associations for more than 30 years. She recently decided that coaching meeting planners is now more fun than proofing BEOs, counting coffee cups and writing scripts. If you think a bit of coaching could improve your meeting, send a message via her website!


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Association 4.0: 2018’s Transformation Imperative

Posted By Sherry Budziak, CEO and Founder of .orgSource, Friday, December 8, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Anticipating and adapting to change has always been a characteristic of successful association leaders. However, existing business models no longer seem sufficient. We are in a period of major disruption that requires more robust responses to change.

Over the past year, there have been several significant signals indicating that association leaders need to think about disruptors in a new era of interconnectivity. These signals in 2017 have included:

A rise in digital workforces, with more fragmentation and specialization in job functions. This is occurring with more regularity to attract and retain workers and reduce costs. Transitioning to digital operating models is leading to more platform-oriented solutions that increase collaboration and efficiencies. Those with digital offices embrace processes that connect data and people who transform that data into useful information to enable decisions. Upfront, this means more investment in technology and time to determine the right operational adjustments.

Acceleration and expansion of the Internet of Everything (IoE). According to HIS Technology’s “Enabling the Internet of Things” study, 30.7 billion devices are expected to be connected by 2020 (e.g., wearable technology, thermostats, smart speakers, collaborative cloud-based solutions, alternative banking through Bitcoin, 3D printing, virtual reality). The World Economic Forum’s report, “Deep Shift,” puts a timeline on when key technologies will be mainstream: robots and automation (tipping point 2021); Internet of Things, wearable Internet, 3D printing and manufacturing (tipping point 2022); supercomputers in our pockets (tipping point 2023); driverless cars (tipping point 2026).

Machine capabilities are accelerating because of enhanced processing power, artificial intelligence, robotics and automation. This requires determining which aspects of IoE are relevant to associations’ customers and then prioritizing investments to make in people, technology, operations and processes to address these changes.

Different generations of customers that have increasingly different concepts of interactivity, value and relevance. There's a rising tide of younger association members who embrace rapidly evolving media technologies. They question the reason for the classic association model because they believe they can create their own peer groups through social media. They don't see value in committing time and money to things like traditional annual meetings. Yet many members of older generations still see the value in more traditional offerings, such as tradeshows, banquets and conventions for networking, sourcing solutions and receiving peer recognition. This means robustly serving varying expectations across all customer generations. 

These trends are challenging traditional and strongly held beliefs about core value propositions and operations in associations. Instead of being fearful of the “next big things,” associations should get excited about the trends that should improve our ability to add value. Associations that evolve with the times will become what we call “Association 4.0” organizations.

“Association 4.0” organizations share common characteristics. Chief among them are:

  • Continually facilitate a deep knowledge of the industry or profession it serves, constantly probing, “What’s impacting members today,” and, as such, adjust scope of service (audiences, models, products, approaches).

  • Engage new and different audiences by broadening value proposition or further targeting market segments.

  • Cultivate staff talent with for-profit marketing and product development business acumen.

  • Adopt governance systems in which volunteer leaders can rapidly make decisions that focus resources on the biggest opportunities and threats to members, keep customer interests—not individual interests—in mind, and have a clear understanding the delineation in board and management roles about strategy and operations.

  • Create and curate compelling professional development to enhance skills and expertise, and deliver it in a way members want in order to remain a primary educator of the industry’s workforce.

  • Enhance trust in the association by investing in the latest solutions for privacy and security of data.

  • Implement a digital culture that embraces transparency, open communication and accountability with a greater reliance on cloud-based management tools for enhanced collaboration.

  • Produce relevant, useful information in the frequency and vehicles members want.

  • Facilitate connections, identity and a sense of belonging on a daily basis.

These are times of change and uncertainty. But the enduring value and significance of associations will remain constant if associations evolve with the times. Associations should use these advancements as opportunities to magnify their importance to customers in helping them respond to disruption, manage change, and secure their futures.

Let us help you address the cultural and strategic transformation needed to enter into the world of Association 4.0. Call on us for an initial free consultation.

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Dana's Meeting Minutes: Three Tips and One Awesome Idea for Innovative Planners

Posted By Dana Saal, CMP, CAE, Saal Meeting Consulting, Friday, December 1, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Why? Why? Why? Digging to get the right answer

Dana’s Meeting Minutes is based on the Meeting Planning Triangle©. Click here for a link.

We ask a question:      Why didn’t you attend the event?

They answer:       We can’t attend events on week nights.

We respond:        Schedule the next event for a weekend.

The real reason:  The programming doesn’t fit their needs.

In questioning, the goal is to find root causes to act on. That is rarely revealed with one response. It takes two, or three, or more questions to dig deep enough to uncover the true reason for a person’s choice and/or behavior.


Tip #1

Define your objective

·         Clearly identify exactly what you want to know.

·         For example, you don’t want to know why registration is dropping, you want to know why your target audience does not value your event enough to invest resources (time and money) to participate.

Tip #2

Know when to change your question-asking strategy

·         When answers are not diverse and you know they should be.

·         When the same people respond to surveys.

·         When answers support the status quo, but the status quo is being criticized, isn’t being supported, or no longer results in valuable R.O.I.

Tip #3

Ask questions that reveal the real answers

·         Ask like a child. Why? But, why? But, why?

·         Ask questions about the answers you get. For example:

o   Why didn’t you attend the meeting? It’s on a week night.

o   Would you attend if we scheduled it for a weekend? No.

o   Why not? Because I don’t want to spend my precious weekend time attending an event that gives me nothing. I get more from these great webinars I found online.

·         Listen for the real reason so you can respond to the real problem. In this real example, the association is not fulfilling the person’s needs. The problem is content, not timing.


Aim for quality, not quantity

When asking probing questions, you’ll be most productive by asking individuals and small groups of people, rather than rely on a widely-distributed survey.

Question people who are not doing what you want them to be doing. For example, don’t ask event attendees how to improve attendance, seek out those who don’t show up.

As you question the right people, think of yourself an investigative reporter seeking the truth. That means you need to be curious and persistent; not settling for first responses or rote answers.


The questions listed in The 6 Post-Event Survey Questions That Will Reveal Your Meeting’s Effectiveness by Ira Kerns for MeetingsNet are great to use for deep digging.

Check out How to Be Amazingly Good at Asking Questions by Mike Martel for Lifehack.



Dana L. Saal, CMP, CAE, has been planning meetings for associations for more than 30 years. She recently decided that coaching meeting planners is now more fun than proofing BEOs, counting coffee cups and writing scripts. If you think a bit of coaching could improve your meeting, send a message via her website.


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Dana's Meeting Minutes: Three Tips and One Awesome Idea for Innovative Planners

Posted By Dana Saal, CMP, CAE, Saal Meeting Consulting, Friday, November 17, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, November 15, 2017

I can’t eat that. Should I have told you in advance?

Dana’s Meeting Minutes is based on the Meeting Planning Triangle©. Click here for a link.

Meeting professionals face the challenge of balancing their sanity with accommodating special food requests. However, it is our responsibility to meet participant needs and our goal is to create a memorable experience, which includes the food you serve.


Tip #1

Put yourself in control of special requests

·         Require each participant to identify any dietary restrictions. Include “No special requirements.”

·         Ask your caterer if they can create one meal that fulfills several requests. Could a vegan meal also fulfill the requirements for vegetarians, dairy intolerance, no red meat, and seafood allergies?

·         Some hotels are establishing gluten-free menus across the board. Ask about it and get references about the quality and creativity of the menus.

Tip #2

Labels are your friend

·         To facilitate serving, at registration distribute colored index cards labeled with special menu requests, e.g. GLUTEN-FREE, or VEGAN. Direct participants to place the cards on the table in front of them.

·         Require the catering department to label buffet items with identifiable allergens. For example, a label would say, Vegetarian—includes gluten, dairy, and tree nuts.

Tip #3

Beware of additional fees for special menus

·         Some hotels are charging add-on fees to accommodate special menu requests. Review each contract. Negotiate and/or plan accordingly.

·         If your participants have multiple lifestyle requests (e.g. Paleo), consider charging an add-on fee to cover costs if needed, but also to get a solid commitment from the participant.

·         This does not include restrictions for allergies, which you must accommodate.


Buffets to the rescue

Until recently, I was a staunch opponent of buffets. I don’t care for the time it can take to serve and reseat people, the feeling that I’m scavenging for food, and the extra cost (yes, the per person price is frequently more than plated price). However, I can see the benefit for accommodating a variety of special food requests.

To make it work, choose a menu each guest can customize like a fajita bar with lots of add-ons or DIY cobb salad. Examine options from the perspective of each common special diet to ensure that every participant will get a full meal, which should include starter (if served), entrée, and dessert choices for each.

Most participants will not have special requests, so don’t inadvertently limit their choices.


Most of what I have learned comes from Tracy Suckrath of Thrive! Meetings & Events, a meeting professional with food allergies, has become an expert trainer and consultant on addressing the needs of people with dietary restrictions. Check out her website, read Four Ways to be SMART When Managing Food Allergies, and see her Buffet Labels, Table Tents and Meal/Chef cards.

How to Plan for Attendees with Special Diets by Kelli White for asks and answers basic questions.

Learn about dietary choices vs needs

The Real Difference Between Dietary Choices and Dietary Needs by Tracy Suckrath.

Dietary Restrictions, Food Allergies, and Religious Restrictions from the Office of Special Events at Webster University.



Dana L. Saal, CMP, CAE, has been planning meetings for associations for more than 30 years. She recently decided that coaching meeting planners is now more fun than proofing BEOs, counting coffee cups and writing scripts. If you think a bit of coaching could improve your meeting, send a message via her website!


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5 Ways CEOs Need to Support, Think Like CIOs

Posted By Sherry Budziak, CEO and Founder of .orgSource, Friday, November 3, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2017

As mobile and on-demand trends transform work environments and customer experiences, CEOs must borrow the CIOs' mindset to keep up and stay ahead. 

They must identify, invest and implement smart ways to use technology to their advantage. And they must think about infusing technology and digital strategy throughout the organizational structure. CEOs who think of technology as a tool—but not as a strategic imperative—will be left behind.

But how can CEOs accomplish this?

.orgSource interviewed current CEO and former CTO Bill Bruce, MBA, CAE, for his perspectives. Bruce is the executive director at the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and previously was the inaugural CTO at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. During his five years at AAOS, Bruce established a multi-year, organization-wide technology strategy to keep the organization on the forefront of beneficial technology. That effort ultimately allowed AAOS to take control of its myriad integration needs directly rather than depending on multi-vendor collaboration.

Here are Bruce’s comments about five truths for enabling a CIO mindset:

1. The CEO and CIO should strive for a codependent relationship.

The CEO needs to be thinking about business strategy vis-à-vis broader organizational goals and the ability of the organization to execute strategy. In that effort, the CIO needs to be a powerful ally to the CEO. The CIO should have access to strategic discussions at the board level and partner with the CEO to represent the current and future capabilities that drive the digital aspects of strategy.

CEOs need to recruit digital executives with whom they can develop robust rapport and trust, and they need to be willing to listen to the counsel they get from the CIO. Most associations struggle with the perspective of digital business as an investment, rather than a cost center. The CEO – CIO relationship should help with that shift.

2. While the CEO needs to think more like a CIO, the reverse also is true.

The CIO should work to think like a CEO. CIOs tend to be too optimistic about the potential for digital transformation and are often hindered by culture and change management. CEOs are at the root of where organizational attitudes about culture form, and CEOs tend to be less optimistic about technology.

3. CEOs must embrace technology as a strategic asset.

CEOs should think like a CIO with respect to the investment in digital and should seek to maximize the impact that investment will have on executing strategy. CEOs need to be open to and enthusiastic for the potential—and limits—of technology as a strategic asset. CEOs should take a long view of technology as they would organizational structure, financial strategy, and program development. Understanding that technology is a critical component of nearly all organizational initiatives will give it an appropriate but not overly emphasized position in the CEO’s tool chest.

4. CEOs should address “legacy debt,” or systems that are inadequate to meet customers’ current and future needs.

ACOEM’s situation at present dictates a need for a fairly large investment to address legacy debt. Many of our current systems are not adequate to meet today’s needs, let alone those of tomorrow. We are aggressively developing a digital transformation strategy that will encompass the majority of the organization’s programs. At the core, we will be putting in a new CRM system that can be a true enabler of success. 

Along with that, we are rethinking our entire digital brand and constituent experience so we can replace what we have today with a consistent, modern experience that prioritizes long term value delivery over short-term costs. Specifically, we are aiming at reducing the friction that our constituents experience in their interactions with us. We hope that this will allow the value of our content and services to stand out more prominently.

5. Digital office environments enable collaboration, mobility and simplicity—something every CEO should consider.

Internally at ACOEM, we are completely redefining our views of the workplace. Rather than focusing on the current year’s budget alone, we are looking at a digital office environment that enables collaboration, mobility, and simplicity. This will reduce our needs for day-to-day support and infrastructure. 

In fact, we are completely eliminating all of our premise-based systems. This will enable a ‘work anywhere’ culture that combines with our new systems to lower our dependence on IT support, empowering program staff to be more productive. By reducing the amount of staff time allocated to legacy technology support and the related silos that exist, ACOEM will spend a higher percentage of every dues dollar on the direct creation of constituent value. We will, by that measure, be more efficient as an organization.

.orgSource advises executives on developing strategies that optimize technology for organizational growth, efficiencies and delivering ideal user experiences. Call on us to transform your digital operations.

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Dana's Meeting Minutes: Three Tips and One Awesome Idea for Innovative Planners

Posted By Dana Saal, CMP, CAE, Saal Meeting Consulting, Friday, October 27, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Tell them where to go: signage at its best

Dana’s Meeting Minutes is based on the Meeting Planning Triangle©. Click here for a link.

Signage can affect participants’ experiences. Done well, it guides them throughout the event. Done poorly, it frustrates them. Do it well by planning and designing for three key functions:

1.      Direct participants from where they are to where they want to be. (directional signage)

2.      Recognize key supporters. (sponsor signage)

3.      Identify meeting room schedules. (meeting room signage)


Tip #1

Be recognizable and clear

·         Include your logo for attendee recognition, but don’t use it as your primary focus. The message is your primary focus and should be the most prominent.

·         Be as big as possible. It’s difficult to design a sign with lettering that is too big. It’s very easy to design a sign with lettering that is too small. Create mock signs and put them to the test before you leave the office—especially if the designer still has good eyes; a lot of us don’t.

Tip #2

Pretend you’re a participant

·         Walk the venue from the main entrance to every point a participant will go. On a venue map, sketch what signage is needed where.

·         Leverage venue-supplied signage if it is clearly visible, accurate, and fulfills your objectives.

·         You know the venue, but participants do not, so they need more directions than you might realize. Ideally, your walk-through will include someone who does not know the facility.

Tip #3

Keep it simple

·         Overloading a sign with messages or graphics is wasteful—none of it will be read.

·         Identify your key message for each sign and convey it in the fewest words possible.

·         Session signage should list events for a full day, not just for that hour. Abbreviate session titles if needed. List speaker names only if your audience bases attendance decisions on speakers, as well as titles.


Think outside of the wall

Signage installed in unique locations will get people’s attention. It is especially helpful if you are moving a lot of people or through space with many twists and turns. Plus, it’s fun!

1.      On the floor.

2.      From the ceiling.

3.      In the bathrooms. (agenda-at-a-glance; announcements)

4.      On columns, elevators, glass doors, stair risers, etc.

5.      Over escalators (prime space; frequently overlooked).

6.      Freestanding.

7.      On people—in the form of wayfinding ambassadors who are identifiable by their attire and/or hand-held signs saying, “Can I help you?”


Exhibitor Magazine offers a detailed description of the 5 Steps to Successful Signage that includes messaging hierarchy, color theory, fonts, and density.

Read 11 Creative Ideas for Event Wayfinding by Shawna McKinley for Eventbrite. She describes how to use technology, music, furniture, and art as directional tools. Read the section near the end, Tips for Good Directions.

Check out How to Create Useful Event Signage for Your Next Conference or Trade Show by Ginger Peak for Aloha Print Group. Look at the section, Forget What You Know.

Excel Decorators photo gallery features a variety of signage.



Dana L. Saal, CMP, CAE, has been planning meetings for associations for more than 30 years. She recently decided that coaching meeting planners is now more fun than proofing BEOs, counting coffee cups and writing scripts. If you think a bit of coaching could improve your meeting, send a message via her website.


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