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9 Years; 9 Lessons Learned

It came to my attention last week on LinkedIn that I celebrated my ninth year with Greenfield Services. Time has literally flown by!  I have had the opportunity to experience many aspects of our business, through the various roles that I have taken on over that timeframe.

I have learned much over the years, but I thought I would share my nine biggest lessons, from the big to the small stuff:

  1. Embrace collaboration with external resources:  No matter what organization you are working for, as a company, you cannot do everything.  Buyers (members or companies) are looking for one-stop solutions.  Align yourself with other experts in the industry to offer the full scope of services they are looking for.
  2. Take chances:  While we all believe our work is important, and we do not want to make an error that can affect our personal or company’s brand, we are not going to move forward without taking chances on new offerings, new services, or new formats of delivering quality to our clients, members or community.  If it doesn’t work, at least you tried.
  3. Learn from your peers: Your internal team can really help you move forward.  Involve them in the strategic planning process; don’t just leave it up to the management team.  They are your front line staff, and speak to your members more regularly than senior management does.  They know what is being said, and how they are currently dealing with it.  
  4. Understand your management style: Everyone manages differently.  Working with a team can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be.  Take some time to fully understand the qualities, characteristics and attributes that each person brings to the table, and how to communicate with them.  This process will also help you determine what (if anything) may be missing, so you can start to look at filling the gaps.
  5. Relationships matter!  Whether you are building relationships with your members, clients or community, personal relationships go a long way in gaining additional (or, new) business.  Check in with them on a regular basis, and talk shop and get to know them as a person.
  6. Educate yourself: Change is a constant, and no one can ever claim to know everything.  So keep learning.  Becoming a member of an association, attending educational events, and learning from these sessions has been really key for me to understand what is troubling associations today, and how we can help set them up for future success.  Take the time to attend local, regional or national events that will inspire and educate.
  7. Change is good: Your offers (member benefits or individual services) need to change with the times.  People don’t necessarily care about what you put together years ago.  Assess what is working, and what is not, and adjust as needed.  Reviews should be done annually.
  8. Take personal time:  We all need a break.  When I started with Greenfield, I really didn’t want to take holidays.  I learned why I needed to.  Take time off, rest, relax and re-coup – finding the time can be difficult (to be honest, I planned my 2014 holidays in December 2013, because I knew this year was going to be crazy-busy), but learning to decompress will help ensure that you are at the top of your game.
  9. Take care of your feet!  I learned this the hard way… In this industry, a lot of time is spent on your feet – at a conference, on a tradeshow floor, running from meeting to meeting.  You cannot be your best at all times if you are uncomfortable most of the time.  Be stylish, but wearing comfortable shoes helps ensure my smile is genuine, and not fake.

Thank you to my mentors, Doreen and Heinz for allowing me to grow with the company.  I have learned a lot from both of you, and the rest of the team.  Here is to another nine years!

In-person events are not a thing of the past. They just need better attendee marketing!

Scott Oser provided this guest post.  He is the President of Scott Oser Associates Inc, a US-based consultancy working with associations and non-profits to solve marketing, sales & membership and circulation challenges. 

I am sure you have heard many times how attendance at face-to-face meetings are down and that webinars, virtual conferences and social media are allowing a percentage of your potential attendees to no longer attend your face-to-face meetings, conferences and seminars.  While this may be true in some cases it is definitely not true at every organization.  I firmly believe that with the right programming and smart marketing face-to-face events can be as effective as ever.  This article is going to give you some tips to greatly increase your chances of having an incredibly successful meeting in the near future.

Plan! Plan! Plan!
No successful marketing effort starts without a plan.  Even if you have marketed the meeting or conference before you still need to devise a marketing plan.  The first step in developing your plan is to review what you have done in the past and determining what worked and what didn’t work.  It is amazing how much information you can gather just by reviewing what you have done in the past as it can inform you as to what you want to do more of, less of and the same amount of for the next meeting.  It will also help you identify any gaps that might exist that you want to fill with new activities.

Your Website Is Your Home Base
Almost everything marketing activity that you undertake should direct your audience back to your website.  Your website needs to be the hub that contains all of the different details that an attendee, an exhibitor, a speaker or any other audience that you reach for your meeting needs to know.  It is therefore critical that your website is well designed and very user friendly.  It is also important that your website is regularly updated and always up-to-date.

Don’t Be A One Trick Pony
Not every single individual you reach out to is going to respond to the same marketing medium.  We no longer live in a world where you will succeed by contacting your members only through direct mail or only through email or only through any one marketing tactic.  In today’s world where marketing is everywhere and people do have preferences it is important that you implement a multi-media approach to your marketing.   Of course you will want to use your data to determine what works best and use that most often but that medium still needs to be part of a marketing mix.

Use What You Already Have!
All associations are already communicating with their members in multiple ways.  We have e-newsletters, magazines, journals, speakers, exhibitors and sponsors, webinars, conferences, chapters, social media, etc.  Before you start paying for external opportunities to market your conference look at what you already have and determine how you can use those opportunities to drive attendance.  Your primary audience for your meeting as most likely your members who are already taking advantage of the items I mentioned below so this is a great, inexpensive way to get your message out.

Target! Target! Target!
Your attendee marketing is going to be much more effective if you define your target markets and message them accordingly.  There are going to be different pieces of your meeting that will appeal to different pieces of your audience so it is important to “speak” to these people about the areas they will find most interesting.  One idea I have seen work recently is literally promoting certain sessions and activities to a certain audience based on their role in their organization.  This is incredibly effective as it shows the prospective attendee that you understand who they while showing them something that will be of value to them.

Track! Track! Track!
I realize that this sounds really simple but there are still many associations that are not tracking the results of their attendee marketing efforts.  Tracking is essential because if we don’t track there is no way for us to know what is working so we don’t know what to do more of, less of or even to stop doing altogether.  Some ways you can pretty easily track the effectiveness of your marketing efforts is by putting source/promo codes on direct mail pieces, unique urls on ads and email blasts or even matching responses back to marketing efforts just due to the timing of the effort.  One of the goals of any marketer is to always improve the response rates and tracking will allow you to generate the data to do that.

There is the possibility that your face-to-face meeting will never have as many attendees as it did in the past.  That said, if you follow some, or all, of the tips suggested above you will definitely end up with a marketing plan that is more effective from a human, financial and response perspective.  You will also have a much better chance of ending up with attendance numbers that are exactly where you want to be.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

Greenfield Services to attend #CSAE Tête-à-Tête (#TeteaTete14)

Ottawa Tete-a-Tete
On Thursday, February 6, 2014 leaders of Associations, Not-For-Profits, Professional Meeting Planners as well as Government Producers will be heading to the Ottawa Convention Centre to attend 2014’s installment of CSAE’s Tête-à-Tête – and Greenfield Services Inc is thrilled to be joining them!

As a gold sponsor of the event, Doreen Ashton Wagner (Chief Strategist & Managing Director) & Meagan Rockett (Director, Client Solutions) are looking forward to re-connecting with old friends, and establishing new relationships.

Every year Tête-à-Tête continues to grow, and with David Chilton (author of "The Wealthy Barber" and Dragon on CBC's "Dragons' Den") being the breakfast keynote speaker, it just keeps getting better every year!  We have heard that there are over 500 executives and planners already registered this year - will you be in attendance?

For more information on the event, or to register, please click here.  Feel free to stop by our booth (#300), or contact us by email to pre-book an appointment.  We look forward to seeing you all at the show!

Making All Members Feel Welcome

Lori Halley provided this guest post.  She is the Blog Writer (Engaging Apricot) at Wild Apricot, cloud software for small associations, non-profits and clubs. With a background in associations and non-profits, Lori tries to offer tips and information to help the staff and volunteers of small organizations with day-to-day challenges.  We thought this was an interesting perspective on multi-chapter associations and their communications.

Do you remember the first conference you attended? What about your first association networking event? Did you feel welcomed or feel more like a wallflower waiting for a dance invitation?

A recent AssociationsNow post - Perfecting the First-Time Attendee Experience - brought back some distant memories of my very first association conference.  As a junior association staffer, I was so excited to fly half-way across the country to attend my first industry conference. But once I arrived, I felt so lost and alone since I didn’t know anyone there. Try as I might, I felt like a new kid at high school where the cliques were very tight and unwelcoming.

In her post, Samantha Whitehorne reminds us that “conference newbies can be just as anxious to attend your meeting as they are excited, especially if they don’t know anyone.” And she asks: “how can you turn a first-time attendee into a meeting veteran?”  In response, Whitehorne offers links to some great examples of unique ways organizations are welcoming newbies and helping them navigate meetings, including:

Make meetings "network-friendly"

We also offered up some tips for Creating Network-friendly Membership Events a while back, including ideas to help spark connections and ways to stimulate an "atmosphere of connectedness" at membership events. Some ideas that might help all of your members, especially newcomers, feel more welcome and take advantage of networking opportunities include:

  • Plan Pre-Event Preparation: Put articles and tip sheets on “networking know-how” in your magazine, newsletter, and convention packets.
  • Put Networking Know-How in the Spotlight: Give attendees at your events the rules and tools for making networking an art, not an accident. Schedule a keynote or opening session that shows attendees how to make the most of the meeting.
  • Make Nametags Novel: Print the first name as LARGE as you possibly can. As a conversation starter, add a colored ribbon or sticker to designate “first timer” or “award winner.”
  • Maximize the Mix & Mingle: Include some short, structured one-on-one or small group activities to encourage mixing and meeting. Choose an upbeat, energetic, well-known person to lead the session.

Don’t forget to welcome new volunteers too

While it’s important to make new members and event attendees feel welcome, don’t forget your new volunteers - especially those who are helping out for the first time at your conference or annual meeting. They should be welcomed, introduced to your entire staff and volunteer team as well as receiving an orientation to the venue and the event. After all, your event staff and volunteers are your goodwill ambassadors, so you want them to feel comfortable and connected so they can model inclusive behavior.

How you can make new members or attendees feel welcome?  Offer up your suggestions in our comments below.

Image courtesy of Lavoview /

Does your 2014 planning really reflect your priorities?

Meredith Low provided this guest post.  She is a management consultant, focusing on helping organizations and companies understand how, when, and where to grow in the context of fast-changing environments. Her work with associations includes leading strategic and tactical planning, performing assessments to position conferences and meetings for growth and durability, and assessing the needs of members and other stakeholders.

“Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” - US Vice President Joe Biden

“Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.” - James W. Frick

Quotes like this are easy to find online and they’re absolutely correct. But only partially.

Budgets do indeed tell us a lot, but they aren’t the whole picture when it comes to planning.

Everyone has examples of fine-sounding strategies, priorities that seemed impressive but fell apart because nobody had the resources to get them done. But not just financial resources – to really make things happen, we also need to devote our time, attention, and ability to dedicate themselves to what was needed to really make things happen.

Time is arguably a more precious resource than money. To really understand our priorities, our schedules and our to-do lists can be just as illuminating as our budgets – and can show us earlier whether we’re on track or not.

So how can we make sure we’re spending time as well as money on the things that really matter for our success?

Book it. Are the big, immoveable objects already booked into the schedule? A critical board meeting, a vacation, a publication date, a conference, a family wedding… Anything that involves non-refundable deposits tends to stick, so those are things which – for better or for worse – are probably going to happen.

Lock it in.  Once you’ve signed a contract (or written a check), you’re more likely to look at something as a sunk cost, and not back out. I recently spent a few months contemplating how to tackle a particular project in my own business – but lo and behold, once I signed a contract with someone who could focus on the task, it actually got done.

Plant the flag. Can you go public with a specific commitment? Even if it’s just within a smaller group of people – your management team, your board, or your spouse, you might get a lot of value by saying (more than once) exactly what commitments you’re making, or how you want to spend your time. And this may benefit everyone in terms of focus.

Find some company.  Plenty of people find that having a running buddy helps them actually get up at o’dark thirty to get on the road. Do your colleagues also find it a challenge to carve out the time for your real priorities? Can you help each other?

Make it a habit. Look at everything through the lens of your priorities. An agenda should spend more of its time on the key priorities. Look at what the real estate on a communication is devoted to.

Make it visible. Reporting results does tend to galvanize action. It’s like insurance against our future selves, who may be less industrious, brave, or quick-acting than we might have hoped. So we can use some kind of reporting of progress to keep us focused and make sure we are using our time the way we were hoping we would when we planned out our week, our month, our year. This can be as sophisticated as a time-tracking system that’s shared across the whole organization, or as simple as a weekly stock-taking that’s jotted down.

What is 2014 going to be like for you?  Is that what you want it to be?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /