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My Event is Underperforming Part 2

Posted By Dana Saal, CMP, CAE, Friday, July 1, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Simple and Impactful Changes to Abate Shrinking Attendance 

Last month, in my article, Shrinking Attendance? Ask Questions; Don’t Appoint a Task Force, I challenged planners to honestly examine key event areas. Following are a few ways to make changes that will make a difference. 

Create an Experience

  • Announce the event with an “experience-saver “ instead of a datesaver. Convey what attendees will feel. (Emboldened to improve xx using newly acquired skills. Enlightened by the hallway conversations with peers.)
  • Build the experience from registration to arrival. Frequently remind registrants about their upcoming experience and roll out the red carpet upon arrival.
  • Close the event with a personal touch—station leaders at exists to thank attendees and distribute next year’s experience-saver.

Design all aspects of pre, during and post-event to create anticipation and elicit emotion.

Modify your model

  • Abbreviate your trade show and enhance opportunities to connect. Exhibitors don’t want more hours. They want more quality interactions.
  • Modify the pattern—different season, days, order of events, length of breaks, start times, etc.
  • Accommodate young families or elderly participants—or both. Make it easy for your entire target audience to attend.

Design the event so most attendees’ expectations will be fulfilled, not just those of a few decision-makers. 

Switch up your programming

  • Add experiential learning—hands-on, interactive, case studies, etc.
  • Let attendees design their own learning at unconference sessions or customizable tracks.
  • Include programming not related to work, but is personally rewarding. (Like we do at SPINCon.)

Next time…Resources—Where to Get Inspired


Dana L. Saal, CMP, CAE, has been a meeting professional since 1986. She is an expert in the design and execution of association meetings, with a record of increased participant satisfaction and registrations. She designs training programs, meetings and conventions for associations, specializing in helping associations rejuvenate underperforming events that target audiences want to attend and are profitable for the stakeholders. 


Tags:  meeting planners  meetings 

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Happy Retiring!

Posted By Destiny Nance-Evans, Friday, June 24, 2016
Updated: Thursday, June 16, 2016

Gaye Kick, IOM, Director of Administration at American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois, is retiring on June 30 after 18 years in the association industry and member of ISAE.  

Gaye has served on the ISAE Communications Committee and in 2010 received the ISAE Association Excellence Award.  She is a graduate of the Institute of Organization Management, attending her first year with a scholarship from ISAE.   You can view a video she recorded for IOM on the ISAE Facebook page (left banner under VIDEOS) or below. 

In a past life Gaye was a published writer of non-fiction and humorous personal experience stories.  She has already begun to revive her writing life in preparation for retirement. You can find her work at


Congrats, Gaye on your retirement! We wish you the very best on your next adventure and look forward to reading your stories! 


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Ask the Experts - Membership

Posted By Destiny Nance-Evans, Friday, June 17, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, June 7, 2016

This edition of Ask the Experts is about membership and we asked our very own ISAE members 4 questions regarding meetings and events. At ISAE, we learn so much from our peers that we hope you will find some new tips and tricks from our Ask the Experts blog segment.

Jodie Brooks is the Director of Member Services at the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois. She has worked there for 9 fabulous years! 

Kevin Ordonez is a proven leader in serving member-based organizations across the country. Prior to being an entrepreneur, Kevin worked at a large trade association in the marketing and management information systems division in Washington, D.C. There, he was the lead technologist, providing solutions for membership, marketing, financial and government relations. 

See what they had to say:

What are your top membership benefits? 

JB: Saving them money through networking, education and some popular programs that address energy purchasing, safety and more.

KO: Our vast network, making connections, putting solutions in front of our members.  They have questions, we have solutions, its all about them (you), and we are fun!

How do your retain your members? 

JB: Build loyalty and show them there is an I like to think that our members just like working with us, so that helps!

KO: Remind them of the connections they made, education they attended and what it would cost (in time and money) and all the fun they have had.

Do you offer a member concierge program? If so, tell us a little bit about it. 

KO: Not exactly, but we do have Sherry…our mantra is one borrowed from Nordstorms service – go out of the way for members..fanatical service. 

What are some of your best membership recruitment strategies, practices, tips, etc.?

KO: Never give up and be everywhere (socially) all the time.  Our members and prospects are on various social media channels and they check their channels at all times of the day. Recruitment and marketing is not a 9a-5p timeframe and members/prospects are on multiple social channels everything from Instagram and Snapchat to Pinterest to Facebook and LinkedIn.  Have engaging graphics appropriate for each channel as well as short videos with calls to action.

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

JB: It changes as frequently as the Illinois weather!

KO: Mint chocolate chip

What is on your agenda for Summer? 

JB: A lot of summer work events, fairs, gardening, concerts and outdoor time with the family!

KO: Fanatical service to members and customers. As well as enjoying the summer weather through outside concerts, golf, long bike rides, and BBQs.

Thank you to our association professionals for participating in this week's Ask the Experts!

Do you have an expertise? We want to hear from you!
Contact Destiny at 217-753-1190 x124 or to be a featured in our Ask the Experts blog segment!

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My Event is Underperforming Part 1

Posted By Dana Saal, CMP, CAE, Friday, June 3, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Shrinking Attendance? Ask Questions; Don’t Appoint a Task Force

It’s like a slow leak. You’ve ignored it, but it’s time to identify its cause. You must determine why attendance shrinks each year.

Instead of appointing a task force, convening focus groups, or analyzing years of data, honestly answer the following questions that are designed to look beyond the obvious (e.g. lack of funds). When you uncover the reason for the decline, you can design the solution.

Note: It will be the most challenging, and the most rewarding, to do this for annual events on the lather-rinse-repeat plan.

Event Objectives

  • Do you have event objectives and regularly critique them?
  • Are they achievable with your current resources?
  • Do they inspire your target audience to participate?

You can plan an event without objectives, but it’s more likely to be underwhelming.

Target Audience

  • Can you identify your target audience? Write a comprehensive list.
  • Are your messages well written? Never, ever again use “a must-attend event.”
  • Do you customize message delivery to ensure they’re read? Snail mail and phone calls still have great R.O.I.

If you don’t target your target audience, they won’t know to attend.

Industry Changes

  • Has your target audience shrunk? Aging, consolidation, etc.
  • Are there more opportunities for them to get what your event offers? Is your competition’s event better?
  • Have any of them changed how they spend money? More research, less education; more online learning, less travel; etc.

Look below the surface and at the people who are not there.


  • Is your programming customized for your target audience? Really? Do they agree?
  • Do you design program delivery to satisfy all types of learners?
  • Do attendees have lots of opportunities to connect? 

If your event is not designed for the needs of your target audience, they have no reason to invest in it.

Next time…Simple and Impactful Changes


Dana L. Saal, CMP, CAE, has been a meeting professional since 1986. She is an expert in the design and execution of association meetings, with a record of increased participant satisfaction and registrations. She designs training programs, meetings and conventions for associations, specializing in helping associations rejuvenate underperforming events that target audiences want to attend and are profitable for the stakeholders.  

Tags:  events  meeting planners  meetings 

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It’s Time for the Annual Membership Survey—Then What?

Posted By Doug Klegon, Ph.D., FACHE, Managing Director – Customer Experience and Marketing , Friday, May 27, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, May 25, 2016

For many associations the membership survey is an annual ritual. The survey goes out, a basic summary is prepared and there is a discussion at a management meeting. But then the results lie dormant awaiting the next measurement season.

To prevent this wasteful cycle from happening in your organization, be clear from the outset about two things: 1) why you are undertaking a membership survey and 2) what you expect to do with the results.

Here are five ways membership surveys can add value:

1) Tracking Overall Loyalty: Net Promoter Score
In searching for a simple management tool that could easily be tracked and correlated with revenue, Bain and Company developed the “Net Promoter Score.” NPS is based on a single question: likelihood to recommend the company, product or service. Using an 11-point scale (0 through 10) results are grouped to counteract the positive skew that typically occurs when measuring satisfaction. Scores of 0 - 6 are labeled “detractors;” 7 and 8 are “passive;” and 9 and 10 are “promoters.” The resulting NPS equals promoters minus detractors.

NPS is designed to provide a bottom-line sense of whether an organization is going in the right direction. To be most valuable, measurement should occur frequently enough to establish a stable trend and detect any changes. Therefore, an organization might consider altering the survey frequency from an annual to quarterly basis with the total membership being divided into four randomly chosen segments, each receiving the survey once a year on a rotating basis. 

2) Measuring Satisfaction: Current Programs

The most common use of a membership survey is to measure satisfaction. Respondents are provided an array of current programs, services and functions and asked to rate their satisfaction with each one. When designing the survey, it will likely make sense to include:

  • Items from previous years mostly related to core strategic objectives
  • Additional probes for items which have undergone change or improvement efforts; and
  • New products or services that have been developed since the last time the survey was administered.

Analyzing satisfaction scores and determining resulting action steps is often facilitated by focusing on relative satisfaction rather than just absolute scores. For example, what items are in the top quartile of satisfaction versus subsequent quartiles? How has satisfaction with each item changed from previous measurements?

3) Measuring Importance: Adding value

Of course, satisfaction is only one side of the coin. You also want to know what is important to the respondents. Focusing on importance—the extent to which a product or service adds to the member’s perceptions of value—also allows for assessing potential future initiatives. While asking about something that exists can be relatively straight forward, assessing potential initiatives is trickier.

Surveys generally are designed to measure perceptions. However, when respondents are asked behavioral intent questions (e.g., would you buy …) responses are notoriously unreliable. For that reason, it is often better to ask about perceptions of attributes of a potential new product rather than the product itself. And, as with satisfaction, analyzing the relative importance of a group of items can often be more helpful than focusing on absolute scores.

4) Establishing Priorities
One of the advantages of measuring both satisfaction with current products and services as well as perceptions about the future importance of those same items, is that the pieces can be put together to help identify initiatives that will add member value. A simple 2x2 chart creates four sectors: low satisfaction-low importance; low satisfaction-high importance; high satisfaction-low importance; and high satisfaction-high importance.

Each of the four quadrants implies a different set of actions. Clearly items with low satisfaction and high importance are critical for further investigation and improvement. On the other hand, items with high satisfaction but low importance may be taking up more organizational resources and effort than needed relative to other priorities. Items with low satisfaction but also with low importance might not need significant attention—and perhaps some might be discontinued from the organization’s portfolio. Those items with high satisfaction and high importance should be monitored to avoid any deterioration. Such items may also point to potential new product or service initiatives with related attributes that will add significant customer value.

5) Understanding/Developing Personas

A membership survey also can help develop target market segments by identifying factors that are important to subgroups of the membership. For some associations, the annual meeting is the major revenue producer. A core of the membership attends every year and looks forward to networking and catching up with colleagues. For that segment, which focuses on social interactions at the annual meeting, nothing else the association does matters. By itself, it is sufficient to assure continued membership. However, associations run significant risk if they do not recognize that the annual meeting loyalists are only one segment, and that other members are looking for value in a variety of other ways.

By profiling members in terms of the types of products, services and interactions they find beneficial, a membership survey can contribute to defining prototypical membership profiles, or personas, around which program development can occur. In the process, the organization may find that traditional approaches to segmentation based on demographic factors are insufficient and need to be supplemented with segments that are defined by variations in member expectations and motivations for joining.

With a clear sense of the strategic reasons for undertaking a membership survey, the survey development process will be more focused and the analysis more useful. Remember: a membership survey is only one aspect of a customer feedback system. It is also important to design mechanisms to obtain feedback from non-member customers. The same principles for members apply to non-member customers, although the range of topics may differ.

Are you looking to validate current strategies? Refine priorities? Monitor the impact of new initiatives? Call upon .orgSource’s Doug Klegon for help with survey construction, implementation, and analysis as well as other market research.

- See more at:

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Ask the Experts

Posted By Destiny Nance-Evans, Friday, May 13, 2016
Updated: Thursday, May 5, 2016

This edition of Ask the Experts is about meeting planning and we asked our very own ISAE members 5 questions regarding meetings and events. At ISAE, we learn so much from our peers that we hope you will find some new tips and tricks from our Ask the Experts blog segment.

Kristen Ball, CMP has 20 years in the non-profit management and conference planning industry.  She is the President of Event Management Professionals, Inc. and the Executive Director for the Illinois School Nutrition Association.

Vicki Wiltsie is the Director of Meetings and Events for FIRM Inc. and has been working in the industry for 26 years.

See what they had to say:

How do you make your events unique?  

KB: Using mobile conference apps to send attendees push notifications throughout the conference about things that are going on; holding night time events at unique venues.

VW: I try to organize events to correlate with t

he city or culture of the area to make the conference and/or special events unique to the area.

Best tip for a new meeting planner? 

KB: No matter what happens onsite, keep your calm and act like you planned it that way.  If you freak out, everyone else will freak out!

VW: Be very detail oriented.

What is your go to concession when negotiating a contract? 

KB: Staff rooms either comped or at a greatly reduced rate; 15-20% discount on AV if we use in-house company

VW: There are several, but if I had to pick one it would be complimentary Wi-Fi for all attendees and exhibitors.

Favorite Destination – personal and professional: 

KB: Charleston, SC is my favorite personal destination – love the history, the food, the culture, the people! Boston is my favorite professional destination– great place to visit during conference downtown, very friendly hotel staff, TONS of unique places for receptions

VW: personal, Palm Springs, CA; professional, Scottsdale, AZ

Favorite Food to Have at Meeting: 

KB: Dessert shots during a reception – clever way to serve dessert after a banquet.

VW: passed hors d'oeuvres

New Meeting Trend in 2016: 

VW: Food and beverage options are healthier which also means more pricey.

Thank you to our meeting planners for participating in this week's Ask the Experts!

Do you have an expertise? We want to hear from you!
Contact Destiny at 217-753-1190 x124 or to be a featured in our Ask the Experts blog segment!

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ISAE partners with .orgCommunity

Posted By Destiny Nance-Evans, Friday, April 22, 2016
Updated: Thursday, April 21, 2016

In January, ISAE partnered with the .orgCommunity to allow online collaboration and membership benefits. 

Members of ISAE have access to the online community through .orgCommunity. ISAE members can also attend .orgCommunity events at the member rate. They have several events in the Chicagoland area including educational and other networking events. Sherry and Kevin, .orgCommunity's co-founders can be found visiting Springfield and attending ISAE events throughout the year. 

To create an account, please visit and create your account using the form on the right. (Your account will need approval which we will do immediately)
By joining this community of peers and partners with whom you share common interests and needs, you NOW have access to:
·      Online discussion groups with association industry influencers
·      Engaging programming (check out our upcoming events)
·      In-person and online networking events
·      Volunteer opportunities
·      An expanded network
·      Leadership workshops
·      Sessions and resources on trending topics

We hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to build a larger network of individuals in the association industry!


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Top Ten Reasons Why to Attend Summer Session!

Posted By Destiny Nance-Evans, Friday, April 15, 2016

10. FIRST ISAE SUMMER SESSION IN C-U!Come see what C-U has to offer!





5. TOUR OF U of I's CAMPUS - including MEMORIAL STADIUM - who knows maybe we will see LOVIE!

4. EDUCATION focusing on low, cost marketing ideas and planning amazing events! 2 CAE hours available!

3. Events at the following ISAE Members venues, HYATT PLACE, WYNDHAM GARDEN, EASTLAND SUITES and HILTON GARDEN INN! A great and fun way to see their properties!

2. FUN!!!

1. FOMO! Don't be a victim to FOMO (fear of missing out)REGISTER TODAY!

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The Overconfident Leader

Posted By Jackie Rakers, IOM, PFMM, Executive Director, IL Assn of Mutual Insurance Companies, Friday, April 8, 2016
Updated: Friday, April 1, 2016

In our profession, we are asked to speak in front of members several times a year, sometimes in front of hundreds of people. A seasoned speaker knows the rules: write it down, read it, record and listen to it, perform it in the mirror, then… do it again. Practice makes perfect, right?

I have been speaking in front of large crowds for over eight years, am a member of Toastmasters, and have earned the Competent Communicator award. I can speak to any type of crowd with confidence. Or maybe I should say - I should be able to speak to any type of crowd with confidence. After all, I've had a lot of practice.

I used to brag that I put my speech together that morning and actually pulled it off. But I cheated myself and my audience. When I take the time to prepare, I bring valid information. When I practice and know my speech, I know I can deliver a message in a way others can understand. I am blessed with knowledge and ability to influence others by consistently sharing facts, not hearsay. I highlight positive attributes of my subject, versus dwelling on negatives.

Unfortunately, overconfidence led me to a day I will never forget. I stood before a room of over 250 members as I kicked off our annual convention. Part of my role was to introduce the chairman and speaker. I always review the bios, make sure I use proper pauses where needed, and pronounce credentials correctly. Not this year! In my overconfidence, I skipped that important step of preparing and practicing. I'm an experienced Toastmaster. I'm an experienced Executive Director. I've got this.

As I stood at the podium asking for everyone's attention to "Please stand for the presentation of our flags," the room went silent. Everyone rose to their feet. Two veterans began to slowly walk from the back of the convention hall, carrying the flags to the front to be delicately placed into their holders. All eyes were on me.

And I... forgot the words... to The Pledge of Allegiance.

Who can forget the Pledge of Allegiance? Me!

This happened, not because I didn't know the Pledge of Allegiance, but because as I stepped to the podium, I suddenly realized I hadn't prepared. I began to panic. What if there was something in the bio I couldn't pronounce? What if there were errors? What if it wasn't in my notebook at all? As my mind raced forward, I left the moment... and lost my place.

This type of situation can happen to anyone at any time. Hopefully, not at such an awkward time as when the entire membership's attention is on you. I was petrified.

The key is to prepare. Don't shortchange yourself or your audience because you've "done this a hundred times." Be prepared and approach each day with the experience your position has given you, but with the humility of being new.


Jackie Rakers, IOM, PFMM

Executive Director

IL Assn of Mutual Insurance Companies

P.O. Box 116

Ohlman, IL 62076

217-563-8300 Phone

888-403-0935 Fax

Tags:  leadership  public speaking 

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Zoom Video Conferencing

Posted By Tara Burghart, Director of Content and Marketing, .orgSource, Friday, April 1, 2016
Updated: Thursday, March 31, 2016

Be more productive in 2016!

This video conferencing and web conferencing service stresses its ease of use, reliability and value. With Zoom, you can host everything from a small, simple online meeting to a group collaboration to a large conference featuring HD audio and HD video.

It boasts a number of unique features including the ability to share computer audio during screen sharing and iPhone/iPad screen sharing. Groups can use virtual whiteboards, annotate documents or split up into smaller teams. Using “Zoom Rooms,” you can host up to 200 interactive video or 300 view-only attendees.

Zoom also works with existing conference room video systems.

The basic plan is free, the business plan is $19.99 per month. According to Zoom, more than 180,000 companies currently use its product. 

Do you have an app, platform or tool your organization uses to increase productivity, improve communication or solve a vexing problem? Tell us about it in the comments! 

- See more at:

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