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Solutions Day Speakers Chart Paths to Success in Uncertain Times

Posted By Administration, Thursday, January 31, 2019


Presenters who illuminated the future. Industry partners who are inventing tomorrow.

And, the best and brightest colleagues in the association community—that was Solutions Day.

.orgCommunity’s year is book-ended by two signature events. The wrap party for Solutions Day is over. But before we roll up our sleeves for the Innovation Summit (February 28, 2019), we’re taking a moment to recap the exhilaration of a great learning experience.

When I needed help with the Solutions Day launch video, I turned to the techie I can always count on to get me up-to-speed in a hurry—my twelve-year-old. Watching my kids dive fearlessly into the deep end of technology is always an inspiration. Their enthusiasm is one of my big motivators. It challenges me to think differently about association management and keeps me eager to investigate new ideas that can revolutionize our industry. .orgSource has been helping associations through our consulting work for over a decade. About four years ago we realized that we could have a greater impact. That idea was the seed that grew .orgCommunity, Solutions Day and now .orgCompanies.

Being a nonprofit executive was one of my early ambitions. What I didn’t know was that along the way I would also become an entrepreneur. This didn’t happen because I founded a company. The company was the result of seeing myself in a new perspective. I started searching for opportunities, believing in my ability to create change and discovering that making a difference is an addictive experience. Anyone can develop this entrepreneurial mindset. We all have the capacity to dream big, be curious and solve problems. This is what drives .orgCommunity, and it is the spirit of Solutions Day.

Innovation Awards

A highlight of the event was recognizing the special people and teams for whom entrepreneurship means doing business as usual. If anyone thinks that associations aren’t amazing, the Innovation Awards are proof that creativity is thriving in our community. This was a tough contest. Winners had to introduce a product or service that advances a cause, grows revenue, boosts engagement, increases efficiency and decreases costs. The following companies met that high bar:

  • The American Association of Diabetes Educators for the DANA website—the online destination for all things related to diabetes technology

  • The American Society of Anesthesiologists for Anesthesia SimStat—high-fidelity simulation education in a 3D virtual online environment.

  • Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research for Swimming with the Sharks: How Anesthesiologist Inventors Can Move Their Ideas Forward—a session, modeled on the TV show Shark Tank, designed to help entrepreneurs gain support from venture capitalists

  • Ohio Credit Union League for an online review site

Outstanding Nonprofit Leaders Awards

Our goal for Solutions Day is to inspire association executives to work with creativity and passion. We don’t just want to offer what’s best practice today, we want to showcase the strategies and tools that you’ll need for tomorrow. If you asked me to name the thing that’s added the most value to my professional life, I would point to my many colleagues and friends. I have a network that includes mentors I can call on for guidance, experts to inform me on a myriad of topics and advisors to talk me through challenging problems. You can’t put a price on that amazing resource. The three outstanding executives who were recognized for the leadership awards exemplify our brand of collegiality and expertise. It was a pleasure to honor:


  • Rupa Brosseau, Director, Foundation for Anesthesia Research

  • Stephanie Mercado, CAE, CEO and Executive Director, National Association for Healthcare Quality

  • Robert Vitas, PhD, CFRE, CAE, Executive Director, American Academy of Periodontology Foundation

Celebrating Associations Award

We also presented the Celebrating Associations Award to the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research for its philanthropic impact.

This year’s speakers addressed many of the issues that Kevin and I highlight in our new book, Association 4.0--Positioning for Success in an Era of Disruption. Tom Morrison, CEO at the Metal Treating Institute kicked the day off with his presentation Unending Uncertainty--Seizing Opportunity in a World of the Unexpected. Tom reminded us that members support an association’s mission, but they buy its value. He provided great advice for building the concrete benefits that drive member engagement. He cautioned that it’s difficult to plan for an unpredictable future. Success requires a proactive strategy. Leaders must Identify where they want to go, and set the course to get there.  

Tracy King, Founder and Chief Learning Strategist at InspirED, is reinventing how associations think about and deliver continuing education. She described disruptions that are already changing the industry. Instead of letting these roadblocks turn your programs upside down, Tracy advised on how to navigate change and thrive.

Thad Lurie, Vice President Business Intelligence and Performance at Experient, capped off the event with a fascinating discussion on the practical and psychological impact of big data. He talked about building context behind the numbers and using the facts to sell new products or initiatives to naysayers.

This is a snapshot of a very full program. I’m going to use future posts to get to the meat of the important messages we heard. The leaders who will be successful in uncertain times are those who can integrate strategies for dealing with risk and change into their culture. Whether you head the organization or play on one of its teams, I hope that you found the inspiration at Solutions Day to discover a new vision for your work and your association. .orgCommunity’s goal is to motivate you to reinvent your reality, blaze a different trail, create something that didn’t exist before, and to make the leap to Association 4.0.

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“The Beach Was too Sandy”—Happy Members Are a Nonnegotiable

Posted By Sherry Budziak, CEO and Founder of .orgSource, Tuesday, January 29, 2019
Updated: Thursday, February 8, 2018

I’ve been thinking, writing and talking a lot about Association 4.0. That’s how I describe best practices in a game-changing time for the association community and across the business world. Technology is driving the most visible disruption. So, it’s easy to forget that the new online community or e-learning platform you just launched is not going to make or break your success. But the members who use those systems will.

Dr. Karen Bartuch’s recent presentation at .orgCommunity’s Solutions Day event, Making the Unreasonable Happen: The Art of Customer Service in a 24-Hour World, was a great reminder of the need to put our members first. No matter how we expand membership models or revamp publications, our customers need to be top of mind. Bartuch is director of strategy and research at Sandstorm Design. She is an evidence-based creator, innovator and marketer with 17 years of experience in the public and private sector. As a former academic, Dr. Bartuch’s Ph.D. dissertation analyzed scientific concepts underlying successful strategies for marketing, growth, sales and innovation. Statistics are this researcher’s chocolate, and she shared some interesting numbers with the group.

Give Great Experience

“The beach was too sandy”— comments like that gem, posted on Travelocity, should roll off a customer service professional’s back. The need to keep members smiling is eternal. But, not much else in the realm of satisfying our constituents remains the same as it was even several years ago.

Electronics have brought companies closer to consumers than at any other time in history. The good news is that this new coziness means we can be amazing and dazzle with on-demand service at a highly customized level. The challenge is meeting those lofty expectations. Once the unhappy sunbather, surrounded by too much sand posted her review, it was already too late. Bartuch reports that you can expect that picky vacationer to tell nine other people about the unpleasantly gritty conditions.

Customer service is typically perceived as a one-time, reactive event—especially in the association world. Organizations need to expand their focus to encompass customer experience. Being mindful of how a member is treated when they have a question or a problem, isn’t enough. Members are judging you based on their overall assessment of the organization and its orientation to their well-being. Research, Bartuch notes, demonstrates that two-thirds of a company’s success in the market is based on the experience that it provides to customers. Members seek fulfillment across these five dimensions:

  • Tangibles—everything that can be touched and felt, from the office space to marketing materials and the website

  • Reliability—dependability and accuracy at providing service

  • Responsiveness—willingness to deliver promptly on requests   

  • Assurance—the knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to inspire trust

  • Empathy—caring individualized attention

Strive to Delight

Bartuch cautions that a satisfactory rating on this spectrum is not good enough. To improve member retention and hone competitive advantage associations must strive to delight. Eighty-six percent of consumers say that they would be willing to pay for better service, but only 1 percent feel that vendors meet their expectations. Here is a comforting statistic, if you can convince Ms. Sunshine that you’re willing to do what it takes to keep the sand at bay, she is likely to tell five other people about the great service and will probably become a loyal return customer to your beach.

Bartuch highlights the following trending strategies as paths to feeling the member love:


Online chat is an easy, quick and unobtrusive way to share information and resolve problems. It has the advantage of being low-key and conversational yet efficient. Customer satisfaction ratings rank chat as the preferred method of support. Millennials are especially comfortable with this type of interaction. Better still, chat offers an opportunity to drive sales. Statistics indicate that 6.5 percent of customers who interact on chat go on to make a purchase. That’s higher than the typical conversion rate of 3 percent. While artificial intelligence is getting plenty of hype, Bartuch cautions that the human touch is important here. She notes that Gartner, one of the world’s leading research and advisory companies, predicts that by 2020, 85 percent of customer-brand relationships will be managed without human interaction. That is probably an optimistic outlook for associations. The AI options that are available to smaller organizations aren’t smart enough yet to respond appropriately to complex questions. For associations that would like to experiment with chat, she suggests operating with live agents for limited hours.

Social media

Social media is an opportunity for members to engage with you on different service levels. Sixty-three percent of customers expect support on social media, and 35 percent prefer social options over other platforms. If you’re not providing this support, Facebook is a good way to jump in. It’s a perfect platform for responding with a personal touch to comments and suggestions. You can address technical or account related questions, complaints from dissatisfied users, urgent service or product requests and potentially challenging public relations issues.


Most people want to DIY before resorting to a phone call. Google, the self-help genie, can provide your members with the answers they are looking for. In order to work that magic, your site should be stocked with plenty of “How To” articles, robust content and video, and all resources should be optimized for quick searchability.


You can’t serve your customers without understanding them. If you don’t already have a data strategy in place, commit to developing a plan today. Use any and all the tools of the trade—qualitative methods such as interviews and focus groups and quantitative paths such as surveys, observation and data that you mine from your AMS. The point is that you should be collecting and analyzing with a goal of improved service and decisions. Gathering the right data also helps with continuous quality improvement.

Gartner also predicts that by 2020, 40 percent of all data analytics projects will relate to some aspect of customer experience. Bartuch believes this prediction is on the money. So, keep your eye on that sunbather and make sure that the sand is exactly as white and smooth as she wants it to be.

See the video of Dr. Bartuch's presentation here.

To hear more great speakers like Dr. Karen Bartuch, attend .orgCommunity’s Innovation Summit, Thursday, February 28, 2019 at The Rose Hotel, a contemporary new addition to the Rosemont, IL hospitality scene. Learn more about the Innovation Summit here.

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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, March 9, 2018

Finding harmony in the throes of meeting planning

Dana’s Meeting Minutes is based on the Meeting Planner’s Triangle.

Meeting/event planning is ranked fifth in a list of ten Most Stressful Jobs of 2017. Dana’s Meeting Minutes is focusing on the one who manages the meetings—you.

Harmony as meeting planners is difficult to achieve, especially when we are in a state of sustained stress or live in a cycle of high stress/lull/high stress/lull.

To find harmony, look at yourself as a panorama to see where you’re out of balance. The Wheel of Life, which has existed in numerous forms for thousands of years, is a tool that can help you identify where you could make modifications when life is out of balance. Check out the links below for details.



Tip #1

A harmonious you = a better planner
• If nothing else, look at a Wheel of Life chart and consider where you may be out of balance.
• Take more time to compete a Wheel of Life exercise. (See resources, below.)

Tip #2
Upgrade by inviting another planner(s) to do it with you
• This fulfills our goals to evolve, share, and collaborate
• No need to reveal personal information; simply share the journey
• Challenge each other to restore balance one area at a time

Tip #3
Increase the value of your meeting for each person
• Incorporate the Wheel of Life concept in your meeting so participants can enjoy personal growth
• This could be a short breakout session or a pre/post-meeting add-on that leads participants on a deep dive
• If neither is possible, add things that reflect the Wheel of Life—contribution = CSR event; recreation = easy group play or exercise; health = eliminate processed foods from all menus; etc.

Apply the Wheel of Life concept to your event
Consider evaluating your meetings based on a Wheel of Life for meetings. We plan meetings so people, associations, and industries can become more valuable. After evaluating each area take a panoramic view of the meeting to determine its value as a whole.

This is my adaptation of the Wheel of Life based on my Meeting Planning Triangle. Consider it the Meeting Wheel of Life; a way to evaluate meeting harmony.



How Are You Faring In Your Life Now? The Life Wheel, by Celestine Chua, Conscious Living
Wheel of Life by ToolsHero

How the Wheel of Life Can Help Find Balance by William Anderson


Information disclaimer: WANT MORE? references do not imply an endorsement for any company, product, or service.

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.

 Attached Thumbnails:

 Attached Files:
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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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