Two More Essential Principles for International Success

Last week The Planning Group’s Peter Wright gave us some expert advice for association professionals travelling abroad. This week we have two more important tips to help you avoid making these mistakes on your next trip!

Do – Notice patterns and modify your strategy.

“There have been times when I’ve started think that whenever the French are involved, my projects tend to go sideways, but that isn’t really true and starts to become an excuse.” It’s important to step away from stereotypes and look at the bigger picture. “Better yet, think about patterns or trends you have seen dealing with particular cultures and work modifications and mitigating strategies into your approach.”

 

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Do – Above all, stay true to your ethics.

“We all know someone who has been entertained a little too much by a client the night before a big sales presentation. I myself have firmly said no to a client when a fun night of Karaoke in China ended with an offer that conflicted with my values.”

Although it is important to try to experience the local business and cultural practices as much as possible, the old adage ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans’ only works to an extent. Whenever you are presented with a situation that goes against your ethics, stay true to yourself and your values.

 

Essential Principles for Navigating Cultural Differences & Language Barriers for International Success

Association expert Peter Wright from The Planning Group has some practical advice for association professionals travelling abroad. In 2007 Peter’s international endeavours heated up and as a result, he now works with clients in over 20 countries around the world.

With experience comes knowledge and Peter has shared some of the principles that he has developed over the years. “I’ve made some mistakes but I’ve learned a lot about doing business outside of North America. My clients all struggle with the same fundamental planning and execution issues: How do we add value? Where do we want to be in the future? How do we get there?”

 

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These are a few of the successful principles Peter has developed along the way:

Don’t assume that other cultures are homogenous.

From a North American perspective, it is natural to want to treat other countries as one big culture that differs from our own. China for example, has many cultures, languages, and practices that vary from one Province to another. So this assumption is not only culturally insensitive but will lead to faulty business decisions for your organization.

Don’t equate English fluency with intelligence.

This can be easy to forget when a meeting is being conducted in English where English is the second language. Remember that if someone’s English skills are not very strong, chances are they probably speak more languages than you!

Don’t gravitate to the best English speaker in the room.

In any country this will likely come off as disrespectful. There may be situations where the most junior people at a meeting or a dinner have the strongest English skills … and the association’s president does not. As a foreign guest be aware of how much time you spend with each person. Treat client interactions similarly to how you would in North America, and set language barriers aside.

Don’t be upset if people don’t always speak English around you.

“Admittedly, there were times I felt offended when a room (or car) full of people all spoke as if I wasn’t there! My advice is to think about the situation from their perspective. If we had a German visitor at a meeting here, would we all try to speak German?” Just remember that you are visiting them, and the world doesn’t always work in English.

 

How does your association prepare its staff for traveling over seas? What are some of the principles you have developed for interacting with clients from other countries?

 

 

Effective Networking At Association Conferences

Association Hub expert Peter Wright had the pleasure last week to speak at the annual conference of the Florida Society of Association Executives. The focus of the session was helping FSAE conference attendees get more out of their conference networking experience. The audience was incredibly receptive and enthusiastic to learn how to be great networkers. With plenty of time for interacting and meeting new people, the session was high energy and lots of fun. Peter offered a range of tips to help delegates maximize their networking experience.

  1. More effective networking leads to a more valuable conference experience, and you control the value you get from networking by the effort you put in
  2. It takes planning to get more out of networking
  3. Planning to meet a speaker is something you should set up before the conference
  4. You have a critical role to help other people benefit from networking
  5. Helping others get value from networking is a great way to take the spotlight off you and be more comfortable networking
  6. Don’t go in to a conference with no objectives for networking. Think about what you want to get out of your networking experience
  7. Write down your rough networking plan
  8. Choose a networking wing-man in advance
  9. Ask your association’s staff and board for introductions to people you really want to meet at the conference
  10. Take lots of business cards and give them to everyone you introduce yourself to

If you would like Peter to speak at your next event, have a look at his services page.

Peter Wright Association Conference Networking

Peter Wright
Association Conference Networking

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.

Do association executives always need to plan large events?

For an association executive, there is often pressure to organize a major event to put the organization on the map. However, while that can certainly be an effective marketing tool, it is important to remember that large events are not the only option. As pointed out by a recent article on Associations Now, there are plenty of ways to achieve results from a nontraditional setup.

The news source cited a study from 2012 by Active Events, which found that in five of its major markets, half of all meetings were "small-scale affairs of less than 50 people." The source added that this trend is growing.

"There has been a shift away from choosing resorts in favor of downtown hotels," the source read. "Destinations that offer more direct flights or more travel options are winning out over their competitors. Significantly, venues that are capable of offering smaller meeting spaces are finding themselves on level footing with large convention halls, competing for events that had not traditionally been available to them."

These options make sense in particular when dealing with smaller associations, which have limited budgets and are more focused on convenience, rather than extravagance.

The news source added that, when planning, association executives should focus more on useful perks such as speedy wireless internet access, videoconferencing equipment and even on-call support staff. Sometimes, the convention center is actually one of the least important aspects of the conference. Above all, it is important for planners to determine exactly what they are looking to get out of their efforts before commencing.

Appropriate uses of executive session during meetings

Often, association boards pride themselves on openness and accessibility. Smaller organizations, in particular, want to show confidence in their members by gathering as much input as possible. But there are times when this is not feasible. That’s where the practice of executive session comes into play.

An association board executive session is a portion of a meeting when attendance and discussion is temporarily closed to certain members. As is often the case, all but members of the board of directors are asked to leave so sensitive matters can be discussed, such as the act of dismissing certain staff members.

The Center for Association Leadership recently featured a blog post about how this can prove to be a more difficult practice than one might expect. It all comes down to how they are viewed by different members of the organization. Board members see them as an opportunity to speak frankly about the issue at hand, without worrying about offending others in the organization. However, other members might view them as a sign that the association does not trust their input on certain matters.

There are some ways that boards can mitigate this response, however. They can take care to adequately communicate the nature of the executive session, so that others understand why they must be excluded. During the session itself, they should ensure that proper minutes are kept so that the substance of the meeting can eventually be spread to the association when necessary.

It is not always easy to balance the desires of all association members when going into executive session. However, training programs area available for those who need more guidance.

What are the best conference locations in North America?

Planning a major conference for your nonprofit or association can be an enormous undertaking, so much so that it is easy to lose track of some of the important details. While it is certainly crucial to focus primarily on the content of these conferences—such as who will be attending and what sort of presentations will be put on—it is just as important to choose the right location that will set the overall tone of the event.

North American has no shortage of cities with numerous impressive venues for conferences. So which one will be right for you? Consider the list of the top 50 U.S. meeting destinations compiled by Cvent.

After evaluating more than 1,000 cities and ranking them based on how popular they are among event planners, Cvent concluded that Orlando, Florida is the best city for conferences. It’s certainly hard to find fault with the weather, but the list also pointed out that the city has the second-largest concentration of hotel rooms in the U.S., which are meant to accommodate the roughly 50 million people who visit the city every year.

It’s also important to factor in accessibility when planning a major event. Ask yourself whether the city you’ve chosen is within reach of the people whom you want to attract. This is the reason why Atlanta, Georgia scores so high on Cvent’s list, as it is within a two-hour flight of about 80 percent of the U.S. population.

Given the sheer number of details that event planners must consider, it is understandable that you may need some assistance to make your event the best it can be. Luckily, there are many training programs available that can help you along the way.

Planning a major conference for your nonprofit or association can be an enormous undertaking, so much so that it is easy to lose track of some of the important details.

Planning a major conference for your nonprofit or association can be an enormous undertaking, so much so that it is easy to lose track of some of the important details.

Organizing Innovative Association Events

Associations rely on events to draw new members and spread information about their activities. It’s a fairly simple concept—but the actual practice of planning and executing a successful event is far from easy.

Writing for Association News, Cynthia Cortis makes an important point that all association organizers must remember: while you may be planning what you think is going to be a unique conference, chances are that other organizations are working on similar events.
“These days, associations must offer something different to set their events apart and prove to members that it will maximize their return on investment,” Cortis wrote. “Thinking outside of the box, incorporating new technology tools and re-imagining traditional features or agendas can create a meaningful and engaging event or meeting that attendees will want to experience year after year.”

How can you do this? Cortis advises planners to innovate everywhere possible.
This includes using technology to facilitate registration. Cortis points out that QR codes are an increasingly popular way for people to check into an event and receive information via their smartphones. In addition, technology is necessary to set up and run innovative demonstrations that will keep attendees’ attention. Digital signage is one solution, but there are many low-cost ways to deliver hands-on, interactive presentations.
Finally, be sure to use technology to follow up with attendees who may want to get involved further. Social media is an excellent tool for this, and since so many people have smartphones these days, it is less of a challenge to encourage them to become loyal fo

Associations rely on events to draw new members and spread information about their activities. It's a fairly simple concept—but the actual practice of planning and executing a successful event is far from easy.

Associations rely on events to draw new members and spread information about their activities. It’s a fairly simple concept—but the actual practice of planning and executing a successful event is far from easy.

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All of this may sound intimidating, but there are plenty of opportunities for associations to invest in proper training that is relevant to event planning.
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How to organize innovative events

Associations rely on events to draw new members and spread information about their activities. It’s a fairly simple concept—but the actual practice of planning and executing a successful event is far from easy.

Writing for Association News, Cynthia Cortis makes an important point that all association organizers must remember: while you may be planning what you think is going to be a unique conference, chances are that other organizations are working on similar events.

“These days, associations must offer something different to set their events apart and prove to members that it will maximize their return on investment,” Cortis wrote. “Thinking outside of the box, incorporating new technology tools and reimagining traditional features or agendas can create a meaningful and engaging event or meeting that attendees will want to experience year after year.”

How can you do this? Cortis advises planners to innovate everywhere possible.

This includes using technology to facilitate registration. Cortis points out that QR codes are an increasingly popular way for people to check into an event and receive information via their smartphones. In addition, technology is necessary to set up and run innovative demonstrations that will keep attendees’ attention. Digital signage is one solution, but there are many low-cost ways to deliver hands-on, interactive presentations.

Finally, be sure to use technology to follow up with attendees who may want to get involved further. Social media is an excellent tool for this, and since so many people have smartphones these days, it is less of a challenge to encourage them to become loyal followers.

All of this may sound intimidating, but there are plenty of opportunities for associations to invest in proper training that is relevant to event planning.