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You Need to Know Your Association’s Value Trigger Point

Posted By Amanda Kaiser, Smooth the Path, Monday, March 20, 2017

This will be one of the concepts discussed at the March, Monday, 27th by speaker Amanda Kaiser. Be sure to check out the link to the ebook - Fueling exceptional new member experiences [e-book].

Ask engaged members when they realized the value of the association and many could tell you the exact moment. They can quickly recall a single event or moment when it was clear to them they made the right decision in joining.

The moment new members understand the value of the association is the Association’s Value Trigger Point (AVTP). For some members, it was their first conference or chapter event. There they met people like them struggling with the same challenges. They solved some of their problems listening to excellent speakers or by connecting with individuals who have been where they are now. They got support. They felt included. They learned a lot. They met other like-minded professionals. They realized they were not alone.

Now that they experienced the AVTP and understand the value of the association they are more likely to be engaged in other ways. They look to the association first for information. Members like these remain members longer, they contribute, and they evangelize.

Associations usually just have one AVTP. It is the one product, service, event or interaction that most members identified as the event when they realized the value of their membership. Not every association’s AVTP is the same. For some it is the conference, for another, it might be a webinar series, for others a new member tour, for others a call from staff, for another association, it might be new-to-the-profession training. Whatever your association’s AVTP is, members who experience the trigger point event feel more engaged during the life of their membership.

Knowing our Association’s Value Trigger Point provides us with more opportunities to increase value for everyone. By knowing our AVTP we can:

  • Discover ways to get more new members to experience the trigger point event soon upon joining to engage more new members faster.

  • Learn if there are more ways to improve the value trigger point event to provide even more value.

  • Use the AVTP as a gateway to introducing new members to a couple of other benefits of their membership.

Not every association currently has an AVTP. Your members might indicate that they learned the value of the association over time. If most engaged members say this, you may not currently have an AVTP, but you can create one.

Does your association have an AVTP? If it does are you fully leveraging it?


Inspired by a favorite article first published on this blog March 17, 2015.

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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 17, 2017
Updated: Friday, March 10, 2017


Three Tips and One Awesome Idea for Innovative Planners


Many of today’s association meetings host attendees from up to three generations—from 60+-year-olds to 20-somethings. This is both exciting and challenging.

As a planner, it’s your job to ensure that each participant leaves your meeting knowing she/he is better off for attending.

Besides planning two different events to make everyone happy, consider these ideas.

Tip #1

Recognize that attendees from different generations generally have different learning and behavioral styles.

·         Seasoned professionals prefer expert lecturers and cringe when asked to turn to a neighbor. They are less likely to use devices as learning or networking tools.

·         Young professionals just want to do it—whatever it is! At the same time, they will be on their devices sharing every aspect of the awesome experience.

Tip #2

No rule is universal.

 ·         There are Boomers who like experiential learning (me!) and Millennials who like lectures.

·         Do not label sessions as “Boomer” or “Millennial.” Simply describe the teaching format and your attendees will find the ones they like.

Tip #3

If you don’t plan for multi-generational attendance, you risk losing everyone.

·         Plan for all generations to ensure sustained attendance. You need Millennials who love attending your event; Boomers won’t be around forever.

·         Create mentor-like opportunities for seasoned pros to coach or formally interact with emerging professionals.

·         On surveys ask for their age category—Boomer, Gen X or Y, Millennial—and use responses for future planning.

One Awesome Idea

Schedule one topic to be presented in two different learning formats.      

We’re planning a session on how to make soup. Using the same learning objectives (very important), schedule one lecture and one hands-on.


Boomers, and auditory learners, will like the lecture where an experienced chef shares his/her wisdom, a great recipe and a photo of the soup.

Younger participants, and kinesthetic (physical) learners, will head toward the kitchen where a chef is directing them in making the soup that they get to eat. Yum!

Scheduling the sessions simultaneously would be very interesting. Be sure to monitor attendance. You would find this Boomer in the kitchen!  

Want More?

Learn what Millennials want from Smart Meetings. Click here. An interesting quote dissuading planners from using social media onsite: “Why would anyone want to invest time and resources to attend an event with amazing people, and then get on their phone [tweeting] for three days? Instead, offer the opportunity for participants to connect authentically, face to face. Focus on attendees, not hashtags.

This article, from Successful Meetings in 2007 still rings true, even though Millennials weren’t in the work force yet! Click here. An interesting quote: “For instance, ‘Boomers love awards nights,’ says Fishman. “Xers couldn’t care less about them. Boomers like to stand up after a 45-miutes keynote speech and ask questions. Xers find all of that a waste of time. Boomers love motivational speakers. Xers can't stand them; they want informational speakers. Boomers love golf and spa. Xers like adventure—this is the generation that invented extreme sports."



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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Content Performance: 6 Essential Truths

Posted By Heather Swink, CAE, MA, Friday, March 10, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Customers today are too busy and have too many choices to invest in content that isn’t relevant or targeted for them—no matter how great the content may be. To be the valued and preferred source of information for your customers, you must develop a content strategy—and make this a priority for your organization.

Oftentimes, what stands in the way of creating and deploying an organization-wide content strategy is not knowing how to create a content strategy or really understand how it differs from what you currently have in place.

So let’s break through these barriers and uncover the 6 essential truths you need to know about content strategy and content performance:

  1. Don’t confuse “creating great content” with “achieving greatness with content”. It’s not enough to create well-written, well-sourced content. If your content is not being seen by the right people, then it doesn’t matter how terrific the content is that you’ve created. Of course, it’s a two-way street. Without great content, even the smartest positioning and the most comprehensive communication plan will fall flat. You need both.
  2. Content strategy is not just the content team’s responsibility. Your content strategy is a comprehensive tool combining strengths from multiple departments—editorial/publishing, marketing/communications, membership, education, IT, etc. Key individuals from each department should be involved in shaping your content strategy and providing input on planning, creating, delivering, measuring and monetizing content.
  3. Content strategy is not about generating volume. It’s about respecting individuals’ time with quality, well-targeted information. Less is more here.
  4. Begin with a robust content assessment to determine gaps. You need a strong sense of where you have been so you can determine where you need to go. This means evaluating common user patterns and surveying key customers to learn about their perceptions of current content (scope, relevance and accessibility) as well as future expectations. Then conduct a content audit—comparing your current content to what you need to better meet your customers’ content expectations.
  5. Determine content development priorities and workflow. Armed with qualitative and quantitative data, you can establish priorities for content development. Measure priorities based upon organizational capacity and capability vs. importance to customers. Then create a well-designed workflow process to guide the creation, production and distribution of content.
  6. Make a commitment to never stop learning from your customers—and from data. Want to ensure you are delivering the right products, services, messages and experiences that delight your customers? Set up key performance indicators and tracking processes to measure performance. Commit to a regular evaluation of your content goals against key performance measures, and a willingness to change as results are assessed. You also need to monitor the content management process itself, and make adjustments as both customer needs and supporting technologies evolve.

Ready to ensure your organization’s messages are received, remembered and acted upon? Want help in developing or executing a content strategy? Contact Sherry to learn how .orgSource can assist!

- See more 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, March 3, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, February 21, 2017

                        Three Tips and One Awesome Idea for Innovative Planners



Is your meeting audience as diverse as it could be? Have you really thought about who your meeting is designed for and whether you are reaching all potential registrants?

Thinking about this could increase your attendance (and income!) and enhance the level of expertise by broadening your list of participants.

Tip #1

List types of people/positions affiliated with your industry. For example, if you’re planning the Annual Convention of Dark Green Architects, your target audience is Dark Green Architects, but could also include:

·         their co-workers in other departments, e.g. light green architects, designers

·         professionals from affiliate industries, e.g. engineers, mortar specialists

·         academics and students from universities

Tip #2

Your association leadership is one of your target audiences.

You are primarily planning for Dark Green Architects, but your board and committee members may want/need a say in your meeting design, making them a target audience.

Tip #3

Plan only for your target audience.

Don’t toss in a session for non-target audiences in the hopes more people will show up. Be clear who you’re planning for and then plan well for them. That will increase attendance.

One Awesome Idea

Ask members what types of people help make them successful and then pursue them as future participants.

Ask them one or all of these questions:

1.      What types of people do you partner with in your job?

2.      What types of people would you like to connect with at the meeting?

3.      What is one type of person not with your same expertise who has influenced how you do your job?

Want More?

Check out this blog by Jeff Hurt of Velvet Chainsaw. He uses exhibitor satisfaction as the basis for target audience identification, but the concept supports all aspects of meeting planning.


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! (

Tags:  events  meeting planners  meeting tips 

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Positioning the Association of the Future

Posted By Doug Klegon, Friday, February 24, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, February 21, 2017

.orgCommunity has been engaging association leaders in a series of discussions regarding the evolution of associations and the need for innovation. Emerging—and as yet unseen—disrupters will require significant changes in the nature of associations, how they envision fulfilling their missions and serve their constituencies.

In some industries we already have seen complete transitions due to technological innovations. Blockbuster’s brick and mortar business for renting DVDs has completely disappeared as Netflix led the revolution to DVDs by mail and then streaming content.

Other industries—such as transportation—are still very much in flux. It is safe to predict that self-driving vehicles eventually will be the predominant mode of transportation. But the full impact of on-demand transportation services, self-driving vehicles and drone-based package delivery systems is yet to be determined.

The pace of implementing transportation innovations also remains undetermined given the complexity of the cultural, legal and infrastructure changes that accompany the new technological capabilities. So for now, successful automobile manufacturers must face imperatives for innovation using a dual strategy: stay in the present and build vehicles drivers want now, while also investing in a future without those drivers at the wheel.

Functions Most Likely to be Disrupted, Requiring Innovation

Similarly, associations must be innovative while also maintaining their ability to meet the needs of current members attuned to past models. With that in mind, .orgCommunity asked association leaders to rank seven areas according to which would be most impacted in the next 3-5 years by outside disruptive forces and therefore require innovative responses in their strategies and operations. The seven areas ranged from a broad-based concept such as “business models” to specific products like “conferences” and “publishing.” 

As indicated below, respondents clearly felt that overall business models were most likely to be impacted and require significant innovation.

% ranking an area first or second most likely to be impacted by external forces

Education and membership, which can be considered subsets of an association’s overall business model, also ranked high. However, conferences were seen as less likely to be impacted over the next several years. This suggests that associations may be looking back with one eye to extend the traditional strength of conferences, while also keeping the other eye on the future in terms of redesigning education and membership models.

Framework for Addressing Disrupters

While there obviously is no single solution for associations, the comments of the leaders queried by .orgCommunity suggest an overall framework for positioning an organization for a future characterized by multiple external disrupters:

1. Develop new and collaborative business models in core areas:

  • Education
  • Community building and membership
  • Career development

2. Adopt new ways of doing things:

  • Strategic thinking throughout the organization
  • Efficient, timely decision making
  • Entrepreneurship and acceptable risk taking

3. Invest in cultivating new resources for the future:

  • People
  • Financial resources
  • Technology

What do you see as the most significant disrupters facing associations over the next several years? How are they impacting you current planning and future strategies? We invite you to share with your colleagues by commenting on this blog.

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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 17, 2017
Updated: Monday, January 30, 2017


Three Tips and One Awesome Idea for Innovative Planners


Meeting success requires writing, not just thinking about, why you’re planning your meeting. These, of course, are your objectives and they serve two purposes to:

1. Tell you what to plan.

2. Tell you what not to plan.

Number 2 might be surprising, but objectives provide you with a great way to keep you (and those over-zealous volunteers!) from straying into the Meeting Planning Vortex. (see my definition; click here)

Tip #1

Write objectives that address stakeholders, the association and the industry.

Consider all the reasons you’re planning your meeting from making $xx (be specific) to creating a place where industry professionals can laugh together. Yes, that can be an objective if that is really your goal. Consider how your meeting benefits the industry and various stakeholders to help focus your thoughts. Also consider how your budget might influence your objectives.

Tip #2

Write objectives for every meeting, even the oldies, but goodies.

Writing objectives for a repeat meeting, the 132nd Annual, for example, might seem unnecessary. You’re having the meeting because the association has had one for the past 131 years for heaven’s sake! That meeting needs written objectives just as much as a new meeting does.

Tip #3

Just say NO to projects, tasks and other distractions that do not fulfill the objectives.

When someone wants you to “just do one more ______ (fill in the blank),” blame those objectives, just say NO and remind them why you must stick with fulfilling objectives.

One Awesome Idea

Do it yourself to get it done quickly.

Instead of asking your planning committee to write the objectives, you write at least three and ask them to fine-tune them. You probably know them better than they do anyway and it will save you lots of time.

Want More?

To learn exactly how to write objectives, check out a blog by Courtney Muehlmeier of TEAMINGS Successful Meetings. (



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! (

Tags:  meeting planners  meeting tips  meetings 

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Using Monthly Themes to Connect with Elected Officials

Posted By Jeff Tippett Professional Speaker • Entrepreneur • Activator , Friday, February 10, 2017
Updated: Monday, January 30, 2017

With any relationship, frequency of engagement is important to continue growing the relationship. The same holds true for groups that need to stay in front of elected officials. But a group needs a reason, something new, or something different to say when booking meetings. And with every month having a unique theme, why not explore using these themes to get back in front of elected officials. We recently did just that during Hispanic Heritage month as we honored the contributions Hispanic restaurateurs have made within the City of Raleigh, NC.

A Targeted Persuasion client that wanted to ensure elected officials were aware of the ways in which restaurants have helped Hispanic people to succeed both culturally and economically. Whether it’s someone’s first job, how they pay their way through school, or a dream come true of owning their own business, restaurants are an industry of opportunity.

To demonstrate the role restaurants play in our culture and economy, we asked the City of Raleigh to issue an official proclamation recognizing September 15 through October 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month. We also identified a local restaurateur whose family moved to Raleigh decades ago and founded several successful Mexican restaurants.That restaurateur attended the city council meeting where the mayor read the proclamation and accepted a souvenir copy of it from her. In his remarks, the restaurateur thanked the council for making Raleigh such a welcoming place for his family and such a fertile place for his business. To cap it all off, he even gave one of the councilors a birthday gift that symbolizes the blending of his Hispanic heritage with Southern culture; a t-shirt that reads “hola, y’all.”

By taking the opportunity of Hispanic Heritage Month to get the city to issue a proclamation, we were able to highlight how important the Hispanic community is to our city, how good the city is for business and how well the restaurant industry provides economic opportunity to people. It was a great experience for everyone involved and the councilor even tweeted at the restaurateur after the meeting to thank him for the shirt. Sometimes simple gestures go a long way.


About Jeff Tippett

I’m happiest when making things happen, exploring uncharted territory, and connecting people. And I live these out through speaking professionally, leading a communications firm, and engaging with my local community. 

As a professional speaker, I seek to connect with attendees. As important as providing stellar content is, making a connection and inspiring are also top priorities for me. As a result, when attendees leave my seminars, they often reflect that my contagious energy and passion motivates them while my industry knowledge provides the solid information they are seeking. 

In October 2014, after over a decade of award-winning work in advertising, marketing, and public relations, I launched the North Carolina communications firm Targeted Persuasion. The firm found early success through signing clients from the local to international level. Since then, the Targeted Persuasion team has built a solid track record of leading organizations, businesses, and political campaigns to success. 

I have worked on political campaigns ranging from municipal to congressional races, led successful ballot initiatives, and created and implemented grassroots campaigns designed to shape public policy. My industry work includes biotech/pharma, higher education, hospitality, healthcare, and luxury real estate. 

I remain committed to my local community having served on boards and committees like the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, Shop Local Raleigh/Greater Raleigh Merchants Association, and StepUp Ministry. 

As much as I value all these aspects of my life, my greatest love is my three teenage kids. When I’m not with them or helping clients win, you can find me working out in the gym, training for and running half marathons, or playing the piano on stage. 

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Three Tips and One Awesome Idea for Innovative Planners

Posted By Dana Saal, CMP, CAE, Saal Meeting Consulting, Friday, February 3, 2017
Updated: Monday, January 30, 2017

Three Tips and One Awesome Idea for Innovative Planners

Welcome to Dana’s Meeting Minutes! Every other week I will share Three Tips and One Awesome Idea for Innovative Association Planners. Wow!

Each blog will stand alone, but will also build on the previous blogs. I will give you actionable ideas that will make your job easier, impress your stakeholders, and/or make your participants say, “I love that!”

Most installments will be short and concise. I will provide links to additional resources, including other planners’ great ideas, just in case you want to learn more about a topic.

I’ll start by introducing you to THE MEETING PLANNING TRIANGLE©, a simple way to plan new and critique existing association meetings.

Its strength is centered on your meeting’s well-written objectives that will guide decision-making in three key areas: 1. Target Audience 2. Meeting Design and 3. Participant Experience.

Click here to download The Meeting Planning Triangle.


Objectives are the foundation for your meeting and provide guidance and instruction for planning it. Planning without objectives is like building without blueprints. You have no directions to follow! I’ll share tips about objectives next time.


This is the basic structure of your meeting: where you’re having it, when you’re having it, and what you’re doing once you’re there. For example, your meeting is in Chicago (location); starting on a Thursday, ending on a Sunday in the spring (timing); and includes breakout sessions, special events, and exhibits (SOE). Of course the schedule of events (SOE) will be very detailed; just go with this for the example.


Planning a participant experience is based on the understanding that how a participant feels about being at your meeting influences how s/he rates his/her return on investment (ROI) and desire to return in the future.

All meeting aspects will fall under one of the three areas. The areas where they merge is where you fine-tune your planning. If you stick with me, you will gather tips about all aspects.

You may notice one major missing aspect—the budget. It is not a focus area because it influences each area in its own way. I will remind you to remember your budget as you consider my tips and awesome ideas in each blog.



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! (


Saal Meeting Consulting

Designing and Transforming Meetings


 Attached Files:

Tags:  event design  meeting planners  meetings 

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Falling Into A Rut

Posted By Chuck Suritz, MBA, Founder and CEO of Association Innovate, Friday, December 2, 2016

Posted by: Chuck Suritz, M.B.A. --- more than 35 years of experience working for associations and medical societies. Presently, Founder and CEO of Association Innovate---a company that helps associations get better and stay relevant.

It is so easy for an association to fall into a rut and stay there.  You’ve heard it before:

“We’ve always done it this way.”  “Don’t fix it, if it is not broken.”

It is too easy to be comfortable with the status quo. Everyone feels safer about performing in areas that they have already displayed competency.

But in today’s world, dozens, if not hundreds, of companies and individuals are vying for the attention of your members, 365 days a week, 24 hours a day.  Your relevancy is constantly being challenged. 

And that is why to survive and thrive in today’s Internet world, an association must be in the mode of “Kaizen”-----continuous improvement. Kaizen is a concept introduced by the Japanese.

It has been said that the only people who like change are babies in diapers. Change should be embraced and not feared.

Here are some tips for implementing this mindset:

1.     Question current practices. No activity should be excluded from consideration.

2.     Seek the wisdom of 10 people and not the knowledge of one. The collective wisdom of a large group of people always trumps one.

3.     Don’t seek perfection, but get better.  Perfection causes the death of many potentially useful ideas. 

4.     Focus on the outcome and not why it cannot be done. Naysayers are everywhere, looking to find why something can’t be done. 

5.     Ask “why?”  five times when solving a problem to get deeper into the cause.

This process minimizes what are apparently easy solutions to tough problems.

6.     Make it clear through all of your communications to your staff that your association values new ideas. Everyone on your staff is capable of creative thought, and should not be denied contribution opportunities because of job title.

7.     Don’t fear failure.  Instead, fail quickly, making changes based on your experience, and try again. Then repeat; then repeat.

8.     Don’t create a suggestion box. Instead, require each employee to critically review their job responsibilities at least every quarter, and share their insights and recommendations.  If you wait for people to volunteer ideas, it won’t happen because everyone is caught up in completing their day-to-day responsibilities.

9.     Every job description should contain a requirement for generating new ideas.

The onboarding process is an opportunity to quickly establish the mindset of continuous improvement.

Keep your association and your staff from falling into a rut.  Create a culture of innovation, and make sure all of your communicated goals are measurable. If you can’t measure them, then you cannot manage them.

Chuck Suritz has invested more than 35 years of his life working for associations and medical societies, in the areas of marketing, public relations, membership, strategic planning and education. You can visit his company’s website at  or email him at  .


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One Big Lesson After Two Years on the Job: Do Less

Posted By Ed Wojcicki, Executive Director, Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Friday, November 18, 2016
Updated: Monday, November 14, 2016

By Ed Wojcicki

When I was interviewing for my current position two years ago, I made an observation to the search committee about our association’s programming. The website listed 23 programs and activities, and I said I’m sure you don’t have 23 programs. That couldn’t be true, with your staff of four and modest budget.  So I asked which of the 23 really matter.

I no longer remember the answer, but I do believe, after two years on the job, the one discipline it takes to be a successful membership association manager: Do less. Not “Do more with less” or “Do less with less” or “Spend less time working.” Just this: Do less.

For your own sake and for the sake of your association.

The biggest question becomes how to decide what not to do and what to stop doing. Some experts would say “Set goals” and “Prioritize.” Not bad advice, but those words seem too tired to be helpful in the office.

Instead, I think about this: What questions are my members asking about their profession and their own careers, and how can my association uniquely address those questions? To find out what they’re asking, I ask them in person and in member surveys.

At a recent formal planning meeting, some of my board members said they want more members to be more involved in the association. My response was this: I don’t think about getting more members involved. I think about adding value to their lives, careers, and profession, and if we can do a few things that make us worthy of their time, they will be more attracted to the association and what we have to offer.

It turns out my members want two things, programmatically, more than anything else. First is professional development and training, and second is up-to-date information about legislation affecting policing. Believe me, in this climate, there is a lot of legislation trying to dictate to police what they ought to be doing, from learning cultural competency to using less lethal force to not prying on citizens with drones.

With a full-time staff of three instead of four now, as well as the addition of two part-time staff, I’m having the time of my life. I’m focused on providing value to my members with professional development, training, and useful legislative updates. That’s not all I do, because some days there are light bulbs to change (we own our building) and policies to review, and every day there are emails to answer. Not to mention being responsive to inquiries from staff, members, and the media.

I admit that I feel stress from not saying yes to every good idea that comes along, and I feel uncomfortable disappointing people, even members, by not saying yes more often. And I have learned, contrary to experts’ advice, that I don’t have to respond immediately to every email and phone call that comes in. Members are forgiving in that regard because they’re busy people, too. But at the same time, I honestly remind members what our priorities are and I do stay in touch with them.

The reward from the focus on doing less is monumental: my board of directors and many members feel excited because they believe in the association’s top priorities and so they think we’re moving in the right direction. And that’s the point, even though we still might list 23 programs on our website. Or 27. I’d have to check. I haven’t had a chance to update that.

Ed Wojcicki of Springfield is executive director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and formerly worked in administration and at Illinois Issues at the University of Illinois Springfield.

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