Group Interviews Yield Positive Results For Association Leadership

When you start the strategic planning process for your association you’ll need to collect information from members. This information will help you articulate your plan later. Last week we went over how to get the most out of one on one internal interviews. This week we are focusing on how to maximize the value of internal group interviews. Like one on one interviews you should make it clear to the attendees that it is not an exchange of ideas; you are there to get answers and insight to specific questions that you have.

Group sessions allow association members to communicate with each other and work as a team. This dynamic collaboration offers insight that one on one interviews cannot match.

Prior to your group sessions make sure to meet with each person who will be attending. Even if you work with them everyday make time for a conversation. As we mentioned last week a 30-60 minute interview is best.

Those individual sessions will help guide the type of questions you ask in the group interview. If you notice different responses to one question in particular considering asking that again in the group interview. Ask clear questions about the issues association leadership are considering to attendees. This will help your group give more informed answers.  

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A few basic principles for group interviews:

  1. Make sure to keep the group small enough for everyone to speak and be heard.
  2. Remember that people are more vocal when their boss is not in the room. So if you are their direct boss or supervisor do not conduct the interview.
  3. Adapt a set of questions based on the list you used for one on one interviews. Make note of which ones were contentious and which ones had a more universal reaction. Start with one that unifies the group. Don’t be afraid to add questions based on your own thoughts and reflections since the one on one interviews.
  4. Announce to the group at the beginning of the interview what you will do with your notes. Similar to the one on one interviews you will get more frank responses if you can honestly say you won’t attribute anyone’s comments to them directly.
  5. Always tell your group at the beginning that you will send them your notes immediately after the interview. Allow them to recommend amendments to your notes and offer further commentary.
  6. Ask open ended questions, except where you need specific responses. Don’t be afraid to pose the same question several different ways to get the information you need.
  7. Exactly like the one on one interviews aim for a 45 minutes and do not go over an hour.
  8. Send an email to the group prior to the meeting to help them understand how it will be used in the broader process. Emphasize at the beginning of the email before you ask any questions. Always be honest about the reasons for the interview.

Group interviews get participants to take an active role in the planning process. It also gets them talking to each other and ensures everyone is on the same page.

As we said last week most people never seriously consider the future of the organization until someone like you comes along to ask. Do you have any tips for running internal group interviews? If so leave them in the comments or through social media.

Why Association Leadership Should Conduct Internal Interviews

As you start in the strategic planning process you will need to collect information which will help you articulate your plan. Conducting one on one internal interviews, and later group interviews, is a great way to gather that information. First by calling it an interview, you make it clear that it is not an exchange of ideas; you are there to get answers and insight to specific questions that you have.

On top of that association leadership can gain valuable insight in a one on one situation, which may not come across in your group sessions, especially if you are interviewing an introvert.

one on one interview association leadership

Try to have a brief conversation with every single person that will be in your group sessions, before the session even if you work with them every day. Of course a 30-60 minute interview is even better. This simple step takes a lot of pressure off you when you get to your first group session, and you’ll dramatically improve the results. One on one interviews will also give you a better idea of the questions to tackle during group time.

You’ll also hear a lot of the important history and biases in individual interviews that you just won’t get facilitating a group session.

8 basic principles for one on one interviews:

  1. Make sure they really are 1:1. Ganging up on someone in this type of internal interview will not produce the results you want.
  2. Remember that people are more vocal when their boss is not in the room. So if you are their direct boss or supervisor do not conduct the interview.
  3. Prepare a set of questions in advance and type your notes as you go. You can even send the questions to your interviewee in advance.
  4. Tell your interviewee at the beginning of the interview what you will do with your notes. If you can honestly say you won’t attribute their comments to them directly, you will get much more frank responses.
  5. Always tell your interviewee at the beginning of the interview that you will send them your notes immediately after the interview to give them a chance to edit them. This takes off all the pressure and makes for a much more open discussion. You will also get some useful input that your interviewee thought of after the interview.
  6. Keep your questions as open ended as possible, except where you need specific responses Don’t hesitate to ask the same question several different ways to dig out the information you need
  7. Aim for a 45 minute interview and do not go over an hour.
  8. Always provide context for how the interview output will be used in the broader process in an e-mail before and in person the beginning of the interview. Always be honest about the reasons for the interview.

One of the most useful reasons to do interviews is to simply get your participants thinking about planning in advance of your sessions. Don’t forget, most people never really think about the future of the organization until someone like you comes along to ask. Next week we’re going to look at how to conduct a great group interview.

Association Executives Must Make Their Trade Show Unmissable

The Entertainment Software Association’s annual expo, E3, will miss one of it’s most prominent exhibitors Entertainment Arts (EA) this June. EA is organizing a separate which is set to start the day before this year’s E3 and run in tandem with it.

According to Association’s Now EA’s departure from E3 could reduce the ESA’s exhibit revenue. It may also signal a trend of exhibitors seeking out different ways to engage their audience away from the traditional trade show booth model.

With that in mind here are three simple steps your association can take to keep exhibitors coming back year after year. 

Press, exhibitors and attendees watching Nintendo's 2011 E3 presentation.

Press, exhibitors and attendees watching Nintendo’s 2011 E3 presentation.

Emphasize Exclusive Attendance Perks

Before your expo begins ensure all exhibitors know about the great opportunities available to them. You can drive this excitement by including networking events, talks, and special discounts. It could be as easy as offering members a chance to have their product or booth featured in the next newsletter. These little steps go a long way in retaining exhibitors.

Walk The Show Floor

This will allow you to notice problems as they start to arise. Engage exhibitors with questions about their product and booth. Take time to ask them about their specific needs. Was their set up easy? Is the space conducive to the experience they want to offer attendees?

Keep a running list of things your exhibitors like about your conference. If you believe something is going well get confirmation from exhibitors about it. This demonstrates you truly care about what your association members are working on.

Distribute A Post Show Survey

Within a week of your expo send out an email survey to attendees to collect their feedback. Consider making responses anonymous to encourage brutal honesty. You might not like everything that they fill out but in the long run it is better. Harsh feedback will improve your expo next year. When association members are deprived a platform for open and honest feedback the likelihood of further miscommunication or alienation occurs.

When association executives take a proactive in approach in expo planning members notice and appreciate it. Don’t assume that because your show has had success in the past that it doesn’t need to be tweaked or improved.

Does your association already use one of these strategies? Are there others we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments and on social media.

Three More Ways Association Management Can Combat Silos

Did you get a chance to read last week’s post? If you haven’t you should take a few minutes to look it over before reading this.

Great, now that you’re caught up we can go over more strategies association management can use to get rid of silos.

Your association's structure still shouldn't resemble this picture.

Your association’s structure still shouldn’t resemble this picture.

1. Strong Vision

Craft a vision that can only be achieved with intimate organizational collaboration, and then provide the tools and permission to let staff work together. If everyone is working together departments will not isolate themselves. Think of your vision as a catalyst that highlights the need for true collaboration.

2. Smart Leadership Succession Planning

Your formal succession planning process is part of your silo reduction strategy. Let me explain.

First, remember that succession planning isn’t only about the current corner office occupants. Use your process to identify potential future stars by digging through many layers of your organization. Next, ensure you have an organization-wide process that is pure in mission, and agnostic to functional-areas. Do not protect star employees for promotion only within a functional area.

Employees destined for big things should be required to change functions on every promotion. This  will generate better leaders in the long run and with each movement those employees will poke holes in your silos.

3. Cross-Functional Teams

Identify the goals, issues and obstacles that are best addressed by a cross-functional team. Communities of Practice and cross-functional working groups are sometimes the only way to solve cross-functional problems, and the solutions they produce are superior.

That being said forcing a cross functional group just so you can have it can worsen silos. Make sure the group is well composed, has a clear purpose, and real goals to achieve. Then check if the group has the mandate, power, and resources to get things done.

When you meet those prerequisites the goodness coming from employees in different areas working together on specific issues will quickly spread to other parts of the internal relationships. Stronger internal relationships are a key to killing silos.

Let us know if these strategies have worked in your association in the comments or social media.