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Your Moment of Virtual Tech Zen

worldatiltThe flurry of tweets, blog posts and video streams covering ASAE and The Center’s 2009 Technology Conference have provided an invaluable source of information and useful insights for those not able to attend or participate in the entire event.  Okay, so it’s not surprising that a gathering of tech-heads and those with curious interest would use technology to share ideas, insights, and information.  Duh!  What’s fantastic though is the steady stream of minute-by-minute insights and the overall collection of both subtle detail and grand perspective throughout the event and beyond.  If you couldn’t be there, here are a couple of places to learn from those who were:

* Take a look at #techo9 on Twitter.  Don’t have a Twitter account?  It’s worth setting one up just to read the comments.
* Visit with Jamie Notter’s blog.  He’s done a fabulous job of capturing the big ideas and providing links to other participants sharing their own perspectives.
* Get thyself to Acronym.  The blogging tag-team at ASAE and The Center have captured so many ideas—as one participant said—“it makes their head hurt”.

One final observation.  The sheer volume of chatter, on-line video, and commentary arising from ASAE and The Center’s 2009 Technology Conference has illuminated the essential need to re-think the immortality of trade shows and other large-scale gatherings.  With a strong, citizen-based media, openness on the part of sponsors (kudos to ASAE and the Center on this count) and a strong selection of web-based tools to handle the distribution workload, we are all witness to a remarkable new value proposition for associations, event and meeting planners and the audiences they serve.  Is it too much of a stretch to imagine a strictly on-line virtual conference or event in which bloggers, citizen journalists, members and other observers are asked to participate virtually using tweets, IMs, blog posts and other “real-time” online tools to comment, criticize, give props, or rave and rant about the speaker’s content, ideas and value gained by participating in the non-event, event?  Before you answer, take a close look at the instructive lessons from ASAE and The Center’s Tech 09.

Copyright © 2009  Kerry C. Stackpole, CAE IOM   Visit the original article at:  http://www.neoterica.com/blog/2009/01/your-moment-of-virtual-tech-zen

Leadership At The Intersection of Bad and Worse

flat-tire-walthamIt was a difficult—some might say ugly—Board of Director’s meeting.  With the association “bleeding red ink” and its reserves almost depleted, the Board desperately wanted to hear a plan, any plan, for saving their organization.  The new, first-time CEO was fighting fires on every front—marginal cash-flow, overpriced office space, overworked staff, too many expensive outsourced services and stagnating revenues.  In a borrowed meeting room at a member’s office facing an anxious Board, the turnaround plan was laid-out in excruciating detail.  Pro-forma financial and cash flow statements, clear, vivid graphs, detailed severance agreements, outlines for early termination of leases, cost cutting steps and finally the potential sources of revenues including increases for dues, rising education program fees and two new activities with a strong potential to generate much needed additional revenue.  The case for operational cost reductions and revenue growth sufficient to save the Association from extinction were clearly presented.  The tension in the room was palpable and the debate about the much needed change went on at considerable length.

It didn’t take long to realize that as good as the plans were, it would be the proposed dismissal of long-time staff that would ultimately derail the conversation.  Several influential and out-spoken Board members were unwilling to allow the termination of their favored “insider staff”.  By insisting these “favored” staffers be retained, they were severely hobbling the possibility of a financial recovery.  The rest of the Board had no stomach for pushing back against their out-spoken brethren.  The vote in support of the turnaround plan went down to defeat.  With no clear alternative at the hand, various Board members engaged in blaming each other broadly for the failures, ridiculing current and former staff and in short order adjourned the meeting.

Frustrated, demoralized and without a clue as what to do next the new CEO left the Board meeting.  As she drove away, she noticed a member of the Board stopped alongside the driveway changing a flat tire.  She stopped to help.  The two of them struggled with the task of changing the deflated tire and as they worked side-by-side the new CEO shared her feelings about the Board meeting, the lengthy preparation, detailed presentations, challenging debates and the exhausting, hard work of it all.  At a lull in the conversation the Board member glanced up and quietly said, “you know, sometimes even your best just isn’t good enough.”

In that moment an important leadership lesson came to light.  You can do your best.  You can be all you can be.  Sometimes though, you still have to be better.  And that’s what leadership is all about—being better, striving for better and pursuing excellence in all that we do.  Leadership is about changing, adapting, being resilient, sharpening our skills and working to be better, stronger and smarter each and every day.  It’s also knowing where the limitations of one’s best effort lie.

A New Twist for Twitter & iPhone

PCH Game Images courtesy of the New York Times

Under the category of “teaching an old dog new tricks”, an article in today’s New York Times might be of interest to those working on an Association Facebook and/or Twitter strategy for 2009.  None other than the giant direct-mail sweepstakes firm Publisher’s Clearing House has announced it’s plans to plunge into the digital pool by asking contestants to check their Twitter accounts and iPhones to see if they have won the sweepstakes.   According to the Times article which quotes  Alex Betancur, the general manager and vice president of PCH Online Network  “The objective is to bring young customers into PCH’s world.”  The Twitter contest will offer a prize of $100 a month to participants who register on a designated Web site.   The iPhone applications will include two games: PCH Slots, a slot machine, and PCH Trivia, which poses questions about entertainment, history and sports.

In a comment somewhat reminiscent of the GM’s advertising slogan, “It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile”  Mr. Betancur is quoted as saying that many young people view the PCH sweepstakes as “It’s kind of my parents or my grandparents that play that”.  He’s hoping that a younger generation might be atracted by fresh prize ideas.  “The whippersnappers may not necessarily be all excited about $1 million, said Mr. Betancur but they would maybe be excited about guest starring on ‘The Real World’ or something like that.” 
I’m not so sure about calling potential new customers “whippersnappers” but then again, I’m not so sure about the PCH business model in general given the charges of deceptive marketing practices in the early 2000.  Surely Associations can do better.  Well, what about it Whippersnappers?