August 26, 2009

Lesson Learned: Trust is Key in Volunteer Management

So I was lucky enough this past weekend to serve as a volunteer for the Solheim Cup, the women's golf equivalent to the Ryder Cup where the US takes on Europe to see who's best in women's golf. (US won 16-12!! GO USA!)

Now, by no means was I a top level volunteer - I was on the Programs committee. In fact, I never saw a staff member during my entire volunteer experience. With 1,600 volunteers as a part of the event, I was not surprised by this. I was managed by another volunteer, who did an admirable job for someone who doesn't manage volunteers on a regular basis.

As usual, I tried to pull something that I could use in my future from my current experience, and what I really learned this time was that TRUST is paramount! There are times when the staff, even with all of their preparation and experience, can't account for all of the intricacies of what might happen.

Here is just one example:

We were told to hang out at the entrance ready to sell programs until when people came in. Well, with only two of us at the main entrance and hundreds of people in line, we were going to get slammed when the people began piling in. So, instead of waiting until people came in and crushed us, we decided that we were going to walk down the middle of the crowd and sell as they were waiting. We ended up selling a number of programs, and weren't slammed when the crowd was finally allowed to enter. It was quick thinking and just a bit of common sense that made that experience more palatable for us volunteers, and the staff had nothing to do with it.

It was a real lesson for someone who often works with volunteers and at times, is a little more territorial than I should be.

To close, here are a couple of questions to consider:

How can we as associations encourage innovation with our volunteers?
How can we ensure that they feel empowered to make decisions that are going to make the experience better for them and the association?
How can we learn to TRUST our volunteers more, and allow their contributions to be celebrated when they do something that makes the experience better?

Thanks for reading...

Still Think Social Media is a Fad?

Watch this:

Special thanks to co-workers Beau Hanger and Kyle Libra for turning me onto this. Very interesting!

August 24, 2009

Twitter and Its Reach...

I saw an interesting story on the web site for The Chronicle of Higher Education today, called Teens Don't Tweet. It talks about a new piece of research from the Nielsen Company that says Twitter's surge in popularity and growth is not being fueled by young people.

The second paragraph was extremely interesting to me:

"Twitter’s footprint has expanded impressively in the first half of 2009, reaching 10.7 percent of all active Internet users in June. Perhaps even more impressively, this growth has come despite a lack of widespread adoption by children, teens, and young adults. In June 2009, only 16 percent of website users were under the age of 25. Bear in mind persons under 25 make up nearly one quarter of the active US Internet universe, which means that effectively under-indexes on the youth market by 36 percent."

If you recall, I posted on this blog back at the end of July about the infatuation with the younger generation on texting as opposed to Twitter. Texting is a tool that they are already using, and one that we are underutilizing as a means of communicating with our members.

But, what I really want to get at is all of the conversations at the ASAE Annual Meeting that related to "focus on the strategy, not the tools." I think too often (my own organization and myself included), we are experimenting on different tools without a real strategy in place to start with, which is not the right way to do things. A strategy needs to guide us to which tools we will utilize.

As much as Twitter is the phenomenon right now, it may not be a long-term tool to accomplish the strategy that should be in place. Looking at what the younger generation is talking about (or not talking about in the case of Twitter) now, will allow us to have a better understanding of the types of tools that we should be utilizing as a part of our strategy.

So, how can we develop a strategy that will allow us to not have to reinvent the wheel every time a tool goes away?

I'd love to hear your comments on this post below. Thanks for reading...

August 18, 2009

Day 3 Recap of ASAE 2009

I talked about what usually happens to me on Day 2 of conferences in my post yesterday. I think that finally happened to me on the third and final day of the event. It was a bit lackluster for me, really because of the closing general session.

Sadly, what was my most anticipated session didn't go as planned... It featured Fareed Zakaria from Newsweek. Unfortunately, due to the length of time it took for all of the business that was crammed into the session, I had to leave to head to the airport to make my flight. In new ASAE chairman Velma Hart's speech, she talked about not sitting on the sidelines and complain about what was happening. Instead, be involved to make the change. This post is not meant to be from the sidelines, and I have some ideas as to how to fix the final session...

1. The opening "entertainment", who were dancers and a guitarist, could be cut. First off, that started about ten minutes late, and then that took up about ten minutes itself (i.e. 20 minutes of time in all...) Eliminate that stuff and you'd get to the keynote a little quicker.

2. How about having the new chairmen of ASAE and The Center give their keynotes at the OPENING session, to key up the members for their vision of what the association should be doing? I think the last board meeting of the previous board happens before that opening session, so that would be logical to me. Perhaps I'm missing something though...

3. I didn't get why the person from the Ontario Tourism Board was included in the closing general session. Why would they not be in the opening session talking about what there is to do in the city, etc.? She talked about things we should see while in the city. Umm... We were all leaving either later in the day or the next morning.

Anyway, I think the ASAE 2009 Annual Meeting was absolutely great, but that final session left a bad taste in my mouth. I sat there for an hour and a half waiting for Zakaria to speak, but instead of hearing him, I was just overwhelmed with too much content that seemed like advertisements. I hated having to leave, but with the way the event was scheduled, I would have been in Toronto rush hour trying to get to the airport for my 7 pm flight. Just wasn't something I could risk, and so I missed what would have been a real highlight for me.

I hope these tips are taken for what they're worth - constructive criticism on what was otherwise a really great event!

Thanks for reading...

August 17, 2009

My Day 2 at ASAE Annual Meeting '09 - Full of Hits!

After a great first day at the ASAE Annual meeting, I was prepared for a slight letdown. It's just something that usually happens to me at conferences for some reason - a great first day full of excitement at being there, and then a lackluster second day without all of the adrenaline from Day 1.

However, to my pleasant surprise, this year that did not happen! I had a fantastic second day, and am really jazzed for everything that is still to come!

A Recap

The day started with a bang, as Charlene Li, author of the book Groundswell, took the stage and did a great job at talking about utilizing social technologies to enhance community. As I have talked about on this blog in the past, having raving fans is important, and with the social technologies that are out there these days, building that groundswell of support from those raving fans is easier than ever. It was a thought provoking session on how we can put her ideas to use in our own organization. Letting go of control is a key to this, which is something that we need to embrace!

Following that session, I was lucky enough to get a seat in the standing room only session led by Jamie Notter on dealing with conflict in a constructive way. He gave seven practical tips on how to effectively deal with conflict in your organization and with people, and I think it was an outstanding opportunity for me to gather some insights into an area where I know I need some work. Thanks a lot Jamie!

I was able to have lunch with a former co-worker, who is having a fantastic experience in his post-fraternity career. I enjoyed catching up with him and hearing about the fun things he's been up to.

This afternoon, I sat in on a session led by Francie Dalton that talked about Motivating the Unmotivated. It was the standout session of the conference thus far, talking about the seven different types of people you are likely to have as bosses or subordinates, and how you need to handle them in your management up or down. I thought this session provided a great deal of very practical information, and was done in such an exciting and invigorating way that I stayed engaged throughout. I am looking forward to reading and listening to all of her resources that she provided to attendees as we left. Outstanding session!

As I finish this, there is still more fun to come. I am meeting up with a group of fun fellow professionals for dinner in about an hour, and then heading to the YAP Party a little later on. It will be fun to hang out with the group of folks that will be there, many of whom I will meet for the first time in real life.

That's the great thing about social media tools - you are able to develop real relationships with people who live hundreds and thousands of miles away, and when you meet in person, it's like you've known one another for years. I am excited about this opportunity, and about what's still to come tomorrow on Day 3!!

Thanks for reading...

August 16, 2009

First Day of ASAE 2009 in the Books

What a day today! I woke up at 3:15 am to catch a flight to Toronto, and am running on fumes now at 9:15 pm after an exhilirating day at the 2009 ASAE & The Center Annual Meeting & Expo.

Upon arriving at the Convention Centre, I was able to take part in the Expo and meet a number of vendors for a very specific thing that is coming down the pike for my organization - online elections for one of our Board members... It was interesting to talk to them and hear about their strengths and in some cases, weaknesses.

There were a number of additional highlights for me:

1. The session about Associations Now's crowdsourcing experiment on one of their recent issues really was outstanding. They highlighted a lot of great things that they did, but also laid out a great deal of ways in which they felt they could have improved their experiment. I really find that the real jewels and lessons for others come from the mistakes that were made that people are willing to share. I appreciated Lisa, Joe and Samantha's willingness to share the few areas in which they felt they could have been more successful.

2. The awesome impromptu tweetup following the first bank of educational sessions allowed me to meet a great deal of people I knew virtually, but not IRL (in real life). It was great to spend some time with an alumnus of our organization, Eric Casey, as well as all of the others. I love that there is so much social media being integrated into this year's ASAE Annual meeting.

3. I sat in on an interesting session called 10 Steps to Use Social Media to Engage Volunteers, which was led by a Communications Sections Council buddy Jennifer Ragan-Fore. She and her co-presenter really did a nice job of explaining the concepts behind engagement of volunteers using social media, without getting bogged down in the vehicles. I thought that was a really great aspect of their session. Not all platforms work for every organization, and by not talking about specific platforms too much, I think they held my attention a lot more than if they would have talked about Second Life the whole time... I just don't think that we would be successful using that tool... The concepts were really great though.

4. The Gold Circle Awards Ceremony was great, as outstanding efforts in communications over the last year were recognized with awards. I believe that there were a number of very deserving award winners, and I congratulate each and every one of you.

The evening ended with a quick dinner, and me heading back here to the hotel to get some work done for tomorrow. I am looking forward to a GREAT Day 2 (for me, Day 3 for everyone else.)

Until then, it's now B.E.D.T.I.M.E.

Thanks for reading...