Out of Office Best Practices

Image Credit: Sonja Langford
Image Credit: Sonja Langford

By Rachel Owen, Communications Manager

We are headed full swing into the holiday season when many people will be out of the office. Do you know what the best practices are for when you are out of the office?

Phone

Update your voicemail to reflect that you will be out of the office. Don’t forget to include information about when you will be returning calls and an emergency contact number. Also, set a calendar appointment to help you remember to update your voicemail message when you return.

If your organization requires call forwarding to an associate when you are out of the office, be sure to let your associate know about any issues they may receive calls regarding (such as membership renewals).

Email

Set your out of office email notification to indicate:

  • When you will return
  • When they can expect a response
  • An emergency contact

Example:

Thank you for your email. I am out of the office through December 30 and I will be responding to emails after I return on January 1.

If you have an immediate need please contact Staff Member Staff@fakeemail.org at 222.333.4444.

Thank you,

Your Name

For Your Associations

If your association office will be closed, such as for a holiday, update the main line voicemail to indicate the office is closed. Also, make sure to communicate to members when the office will be closed through a standalone email to members, a small “blurb” in a newsletter, or a post on social media.

For Longer Vacations

If you will be out of the office for more than a day or two around the holidays, you may need a bit more preparation to make sure everything runs smoothly while you are gone.

  • Allot a little bit of extra time to give information to any team members that may be covering for you during your absence. Make sure the rest of the team knows who is handling which concerns while you will be unavailable.
  • If you are expecting time sensitive mail or packages, make sure a team member is assigned to open any mail you receive.
  • At least two weeks prior, notify your key contacts and ask if they need anything completed before you leave.

 

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

 

Create a Culture of Givers

Image Credit: Ilham Rahmansyah
Image Credit: Ilham Rahmansyah

By Jalene Bowersmith, Executive Director

These ideas are inspired by the General Session “Give and Take” at the ASAE Annual Meeting on August 10, 2014, presented by Adam Grant.

Adam Grant, author of “Give and Take,” says there are three kinds of people in the world: Takers, givers, and matchers. Takers try to get as much as possible from others. Givers go out of their way to support and help others with no strings attached. Matchers expect back what they give others.

A “giving” culture is a great atmosphere to cultivate in your organization. Here are some ideas on how you can promote “giving” in your office.

  • Fast action! Find quick and easy 5-minute acts of giving. Look for opportunities that bring high value, such as praise and recognizing givers, with a low investment of your time. This maximizes your giving without sapping your energy or hurting your own productivity.
  • Lead by example. Remember to ask for help so others have an opportunity to give.
  • Reward the givers. Change the reward systems to also recognize those that contribute to others’ successes rather than only those that strive to succeed on their own or possibly step over others to achieve success.
  • Start a Reciprocity Ring. Get a group together and instruct everyone has to ask for help with one project or task they are working on.
  • Remind team members that it’s a good thing to ask for help. Odds are, most people are willing to help if they are asked to assist.

Now that we’re in the mindset of helping each other, who should you ask for help?

  • If you have a “normal” project, stay close. Check with close contacts first because you know the same people and do similar things. Close contacts often can easily integrate into your project with little or no preparation.
  • If you’re doing something new, think outside of the box! Distance contacts have more of an effect when you reach out for something new because they know different people and do different things. Who is outside of your normal circle that could help?
  • Get the best of both worlds by reconnecting. Activate dormant ties, colleagues or friends that you haven’t connected with for a while. This will achieve “close” contacts you once knew and have something in common with, but who now know different people and do different things.

 

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

Make Your RFP Work for You

Image Credit: Lucas Theis
Image Credit: Lucas Theis

By Lee Campbell, Executive Director & Director of Conference

These ideas are inspired by the session “RFP Reconstructed” at the ASAE Annual Meeting on August 11, 2014, presented by Rachel Benedick, Mary Kreins, Christine “Shimo” Shimasaki.

If you are an event planner you know the Request for Proposal (RFP) is one of the most important documents in your arsenal and its contents can make or break your event.

Here are a few tips on making sure your RFP is as ready as you are.

Make Sure the RFP is Complete

Hotels need complete information about an organization’s conference program in order to offer the best proposal. Be thorough, but be concise.

It’s important to accurately reflect your conference program, needs, and budget. The hotel team will review all aspects of your information from the RFP to determine if your program is a good fit for the hotel, and vice versa.

Don’t Forget to Include Your History and Expectations

  • Organizational goals (e.g. What does your organization hope to gain from the event? How will you measure success?)
  • Expected number of attendees and the demographics of your group
  • History of the organization’s conferences the last 3 years
    • Hotel and city locations
    • Sleeping room pickups
    • Food & Beverage history
  • List of the expected and requested concessions
  • Date pattern
  • 3rd Party Information (will you secure your own AV Companies and Tradeshow Decorator Companies?)

Make Good Connections

Did you know? EmpowerMINT.com is a resource that hotels will check to investigate an organization’s history to determine if a partnership will be a good fit. Organizations can also use this site to register an official RFP document in order to connect with hotels.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

Productivity: Your Best Friend and Biggest Hurdle (Part 2)

Image Credit: Aleksi Tappura
Image Credit: Aleksi Tappura

By Linda Owens, President

This is the second in a 2-part series about productivity based on a recent Association Chat (#assnchat). Click here to read part 1.

Read below for more helpful thoughts about productivity from the IMI staff.

Q5: Do you keep your inbox at 0 emails, like some productivity experts suggest? If so, how? If not, why not?

  • Almost – I try to keep sent and inbox at under 20 emails each. I answer quick emails immediately and save emails to the server that have important info but require no action. I use flags as reminders.
  • I do not keep my box at 0 but I like to keep it as clean as possible. I keep items in my in-box that I need to do or follow-up on later. I also use categories and flags to make it easy to find anything in my inbox.
  • I really, really try to keep my inbox at 0. I delete what has been handled and change action items into tasks.
  • I “try” to limit my inbox only to those emails that require an answer or follow-up by me
  • I try to keep 0 emails in my inbox by moving items to the task area, the calendar, and or saving the message in a folder. If I am unable to keep my inbox clear every other Friday I go through and move items out of my inbox.
  • I like to keep my inbox clean, and only keep emails in my “inbox” that I have not completed or I still need. Once I have completed a task I file the email away. I do not delete any emails. I also move emails older than a year in the archives.
  • For the most part I have my inbox to 0 before I close for the day.
  • Sometimes it gets to 0 but my goal is to at least tackle all the new ones each day.
  • I keep my inbox at 0 unread emails. Everything is read and triaged (I color code with urgency, emails that are awaiting responses, etc.).

Q6: Where do you turn for advice about productivity? What are some of your go-to resources?

  • Some great articles pop up on my LinkedIn
  • I ask fellow co-workers to help me not reinvent the wheel on developing plans or documents that have already been used and approved to work.
  • I don’t have a go-to for productivity resources. I try to read articles and anytime I see information in online, in print, or word of mouth I determine if I can incorporate the suggestion into my system to further enhance productivity.
  • I like to learn new features of the software I use, like Outlook and Excel, for new ways to better organize and manage my day.
  • Coworkers have helped me greatly and so have webinars on Outlook productivity.
  • https://www.themuse.com

Q7: Complete this sentence. “For me, the most important thing to remember about productivity is _______________________.”

  • Because, productivity is not just about getting things done. It is about getting things done more efficiently and remembering that there will always be more things to do then there is time in the day.
  • If you are productive, it leaves more time for enjoyable things.
  • That you eat an elephant one bite at a time. This helps me not to get overwhelmed with big projects and keeps me moving forward.
  • I can only do one thing well at a time. Multi-tasking or hurrying can often lead to mistakes. I have to s.l.o.w. down and just do one thing at a time.
  • To stay focused on the current task.
  • It is not about an empty “in box.” It is about using the time you have available to accomplish the tasks which are most closely aligned with your success as you define it.
  • Focus and the ability to stay on task without distraction, especially social distractions.
  • Knowing what you need to do and when it needs to be done.
  • Quality accomplishment of tasks on or before deadlines.
  • Prioritizing projects and staying on top of deadlines.
  • Quality over quickness.
  • Being “busy” is not the same as being productive.
  • Keeping the quality along with the speed.

Q8: Do you do things for your health in order to improve your productivity? (Ex., take supplements, exercise, eat right, etc.)

  • Exercise and yoga help me let go of work. Reading, both for pleasure and for knowledge. Eating healthy. When I start to feel overwhelmed or can’t sit any longer in front of my computer screen I get up and take a quick walk to clear my mind and re-gain my focus.
  • Nothing gets the day ramped up like my 6 a.m. spin class!
  • Get 8 hours of sleep! If I find I’m losing focus while working on a project I push away and go work on something else or walk around for a few minutes.
  • I take a break sometimes just for sanity, walk around, get some sunshine.
  • Exercise, absolutely. Clears the cobwebs, stretches the limbs and makes sitting back down at your desk more comfortable both physically and mentally
  • Yes, yes, yes and yes. Get up and walk away from your desk at least every 30 minutes.
  • A daily walk of 30 minutes is key. I decided not to allow other’s personalities to affect me personally so I wouldn’t take their attitude to heart.
  • I am one to just power through until it all gets done or I have just worked until I can’t work anymore. (Not the greatest for one’s health, I know)
  • Sleeping more hours each night, eating healthier, nutritional supplements.
  • I exercise, eat right, drink water, supplements.
  • I do things for my health, not for productivity. My body serves me first.
  • Yes, I exercise, take supplements, eat right, and take breaks.

We hope you enjoyed IMI’s in-house #assnchat. If you haven’t tried #assnchat on Twitter, give it a try! You may find answers to questions you didn’t even know you had.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

Productivity: Your Best Friend and Biggest Hurdle (Part 1)

Image Credit: Aleksi Tappura
Image Credit: Aleksi Tappura

By Linda Owens, President

This is part one of a 2-part series on productivity based on a recent Association Chat (#assnchat).

Have you tried the Association Chat recently? Every Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET follow #assnchat on Twitter for a moderated series of questions designed for association professionals to interact and share their experiences. The chat is hosted by KiKi L’Italien (@kikilitalien) and anyone following the hashtag can respond with their answers and participate.

We decided to hold our own in-house #assnchat on productivity, based on the October 7, 2014, #assnchat questions. Read below for productivity troubles and tips from the IMI staff.

Q1: What are some of your productivity killers? What gets in the way of your productivity?

IMI team members shared that their top productivity killer is interruptions. Emails, phone calls, and office visitors were named as the most common interruptions.

Other productivity killers:

  • When others don’t plan their schedules accordingly and it causes an emergency through poor planning.
  • Waiting on others to answer questions or provide information to complete the job from my standpoint.
  • Too many tasks to accomplish in a short amount of time.

Q2: What is the best productivity tool you use regularly?

Across the board, team members cited lists, lists, and more lists as productivity aids!

  • I categorize and assign tasks, due dates and deadlines to items that come in through email. I also use the Franklin Covey system of prioritizing items.
  • It’s a tie between Basecamp and Outlook (color coding emails).
  • I delegate, break big projects into little tasks that I try to work on a little each day, and work at home one day a week, which has fewer interruptions. I also unsubscribe from irrelevant emails and set goals for myself (e.g. I will complete this project in 1 hour).
  • I establish a timeframe during which I will focus on one task that needs attention. No Email interruptions and all phone calls go to voicemail.
  • Not waiting until the last minute to complete the task or responsibility.
  • Outlook! I set reminders/due dates on emails and setup tasks on my calendar.
  • I use a spreadsheet with reminders and deadlines. I also use the Outlook Tasks feature. I just have to remember to stay on top of it!
  • Reducing distractions! I turn off email notifications, set my phone to do not disturb, etc., for a brief time while I focus on critical tasks.
  • I will switch to non-computer tasks for short occasional breaks to rest my eyes and mind from the computer.

Q3: Do you have rules for the way you prioritize tasks each day? What are they? (Such as: List your top 3 priorities but no more, etc.)

  • The week prior, I map out overall items that need to be accomplished during the upcoming week. I then break these down into specific items for specific days of the week. Each day I look through the list for the next day and assign priority to items. A1, A2, A3 are most important and need to get done. B1, B2, B3 are second level of importance, C1, C2, C3 are items that I will do if I have time, but can be pushed to the next day if needed. During the day if an item comes up that needs to trump one of my planned priorities I assign U1, U2, U3 (U = urgent) and determine which item will be bumped to the next day.
  • I get the urgent items done, but each week I also make sure to save some time to work on tasks that have been on the back burner.
  • Each day I prioritize my top nine tasks into three categories: A-one big thing, B-three medium things, and C-five small things.
  • I prioritize tasks by categories: Today, This Week, This Month, This Year.
  • Review deadlines for the week and prioritize tasks based on those deadlines.
  • Prioritize tasks to match or exceed the time available.
  • I usually prioritize by first come first served, starting with tasks that are older than a day that haven’t been completed. Then, I prioritize by request type. For example, requests that take longer to complete I will carve out a time slot in the day, like the whole afternoon or first thing in the morning, and work on other smaller tasks around it. I make sure to complete everything I promised before leaving at the end of the day. If I cannot complete something in a reasonable amount of time or if it has been sitting for a while I will send updates letting the appropriate people know when I will complete the task.
  • Review daily tasks each day and prioritize.
  • I respond to the most important emails first and then go back to the others as time allows. I block time periods to not handle email when working on project.
  • I list my tasks by priority and work on them based on deadline.
  • I first list the tasks that MUST be finished and label them in order that they should be completed. I make a second list below it of tasks I will conquer next if I have time after the critical tasks are complete.
  • I prioritize based on: 1. What needs to be done today? 2. How long has it been waiting? 3. Does it affect our members?

Q4: Do you use an organization or scheduling system, like GTD or the Pomodoro Technique?

Overall, Outlook features, such as tasks and reminders, were the most popular scheduling system.

Other helpful systems:

  • I use Franklin Covey’s system and I do recommend it for people that like to make lists. The system is a great way to bring your love of list making to the next level.
  • Basecamp.
  • Evernote – It’s easy to make lists and check off tasks.
  • I’m a list-keeper, using highlighters to prioritize tasks.
  • I use an Excel spreadsheet with my tasks and their expiration dates.

We hope you enjoyed IMI’s in-house #assnchat. If you haven’t tried #assnchat on Twitter, give it a try! You may find answers to questions you didn’t even know you had.

Check back next week for part 2 of this discussion on productivity.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

Using QR Codes for Event Planning

By Whitney Bertram, Operations Manager

What is a QR code?

A QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response Code) is a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional barcode). A barcode is an optically machine-readable label that is attached to an item and that records information related to that item.

The QR Code system has become popular due to its fast readability and greater storage capacity compared to standard UPC barcodes. Applications include product tracking, item identification, time tracking, document management, general marketing and more.

A QR code consists of black modules (square dots) arranged in a square grid on a white background, which can be read by an imaging device (such as a camera) and processed using Reed–Solomon error correction until the image can be appropriately interpreted; data is then extracted from patterns present in both horizontal and vertical components of the image.

Free QR code generators

How to utilize QR codes during your events

  • Schedule & Program Information. QR code on a name badge or the paper program that links to the schedule or program information
  • Tradeshow Booths. Exhibitors can have a QR code at their booth that attendees can use to get further information about their company.
  • Business Cards. Add a QR to your business card so people can download your information to their phone.
  • Conference Handouts. Add a QR code to a sign posted outside of the session that can be used to download course notes or relevant web pages.
  • Put a QR sign up at an event so people can access the event survey on their phones.
  • Social Media. Post a sign at the registration desk that has QR codes that link to the association’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
  • Scavenger Hunt. Host a QR code-based scavenger hunt during an event.

QR Code Example Name BadgeTips

  • Include instructions on how to download the QR reader app and how to scan the QR code.
  • Make sure you have a mobile-friendly site to direct people to.
  • Before you decide to include a QR code, determine if it will add value.
  • Instead of a QR code, a link would be more useful on a website or electronic marketing piece. It’s far more convenient to click a link on a website than to get out your phone, open an app, scan a QR code, and read the site from your phone.
  • Don’t use QR codes where there is no Wi-Fi or cellular connection.
  • Don’t rely on the QR code as the only source for attendees to get more information.

Related Articles

http://www.smartmeetings.com/event-planning-magazine/2011/07/qr-codes-and-beyond

http://www.spyderlynk.com/ – The new QR code.

http://en.wikipedia.or
g/wiki/Near_field_communication – Beyond the QR code.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

IMI Goes Red for the American Heart Association

IMI Turns Red for the American Heart Association
IMI Goes Red for the American Heart Association

By Adrian Emerson, Association Accounting Specialist and 2014 Chair of the IMI Association Executives Fun Committee
    
Are you considering starting a “give back to the community” initiative in your office? Read below for Adrian’s experience with IMI’s efforts to branch into office-wide charity efforts.

The Backstory
Based on a lot of individual interest in charity efforts during 2013, IMI asked me to start an ongoing office-wide charity program in 2014.

First Steps
My first step was to determine what kind of charities and charity programs would be the best fit for our team’s interests and availability. So, I created a good old fashioned survey. I found that everyone had different passions and interests when it came to charities. Some team members were interested in charity events like a group walk, while others were more interested in collecting donations. I also found that choosing charities for everyone to agree on would not be an easy task! I had to create a plan that would satisfy our desires to give back to the community, but would also fit within the team’s availability and would be appropriate for the entire group.

Next Steps
I decided that this year would be a testing year. We would freely test a plan and be ready to change things up in 2015 based on our experiences. From our survey results, I picked several different types of charity options and just see how they worked with our group of individuals. We settled on one charity drive each quarter and preplanned the four charities for the year. We obviously couldn’t participate in all of the charities suggested by our team members, but we did our best to focus on the main charities our team felt passionate about. I’m keeping the list of the remaining suggestions for future years’ charity efforts.

Going Live With the Plan
For our first quarter charity we picked Go Red for Women, which is a charity drive sponsored by the American Heart Association. The event is during the entire month of February and is part of the National Wear Red Day. Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States? For this charity drive, I built a free online webpage on the Go Red for Women website to collect donations from our employees. Our February staff meeting happened to fall on National Wear Red Day so we asked everyone to wear red in support of the cause. IMI collected donations for about a month and we raised $252 for the American Heart Association. I look forward to the good we hope to do during the rest of this year.

Your Turn
Does your office have an ongoing charity program? We’d love to hear about your success stories and how your program works. Please share in the comments below!

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

What to Consider When Re-Organizing Volunteers

Image Credit: Canva

By Jalene Bowersmith, Executive Director

These ideas are inspired by the session “Re-Imagine Volunteering” at the ASAE Annual Meeting on August 12, 2014, presented by Debra BenAvram and Peggy Hoffman.

Considering how to help your organization’s volunteers be more effective? Maybe it’s time for a re-organization of your volunteer structure.

What to Consider When Re-Organizing Volunteers

Define success.
Before you get started, make sure you have the end result in mind. What are you looking for? Do you want to increase documented engagement, stronger member satisfaction, or added interest groups? Make sure you have an overall plan with a clear timeline, expectations and commitments. Establishing where you want to go is critical to knowing how to get there.

Remember, change it takes time.
It seems to take about 18 months for a board structural change to take affect and everyone to get on board with the new process and roles. Be prepared to be patient – and to help your volunteers settle into their new holes.

Clarify roles and responsibilities.
Make sure every one – board, chairs, volunteers, and staff – knows what their responsibilities are. This is critical during a transition to keep projects moving forward and to make sure all tasks are covered.

Go slow to go fast.
Take the time to communicate well when you are onboarding volunteers. A good foundation will help speed the transition and make for more effective volunteers in the long run.

Listen to the experts.
Let the volunteers determine their skills and expertise. Always start by asking your volunteers about where they feel they would fit best within the organization and work from there.

No volunteer left behind.
Every new process will have people who need help getting on board with the change. Use education to help the stragglers see the benefits of the new process and let them be a part of the solution. Each of your team members can be a positive advocate for the change.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

7 Evergreen Ideas to Engage Volunteers

evergreen ideas for volunteers jpgBy Jalene Bowersmith, Executive Director

These ideas are inspired by the session “Re-Imagine Volunteering” at the ASAE Annual Meeting on August 12, 2014, presented by Debra BenAvram and Peggy Hoffman.

Don’t miss these 7 evergreen ideas to engage volunteers – and keep them engaged.

1. Make sure the board and volunteer messaging is positive and collaborative.
Proactively establish that the organization works as a team to accomplish the goals.

2. Hold comprehensive training every year for all volunteers.
Group experiences like training help volunteers to feel more invested and anchored in their volunteer experiences.

3. Sunset committees that aren’t needed anymore.
Closing committees that are no longer active allows the volunteers’ energy and efforts to be poured into new tasks where they can see the fruits of their labors.

4. Formalize the volunteer application system.
Having requirements and an application for volunteers will help you to gather information about volunteers and place them in projects that will be the best fit.

5. Know when the project is too big.
No one enjoys volunteering on a project that is struggling. If initiatives are floundering, then it might be time to consider bringing in a staff member or an outside consultant to take over all or part of the project.

6. Develop non-traditional volunteer roles.  
Stop thinking of “positions” and start thinking of tasks and projects that need to be accomplished. Pool the creative resources in your team!

7. Use volunteer satisfaction surveys.
Volunteer satisfaction surveys help your volunteers know that your organization cares about the volunteers. Ask what made participants decide to volunteer, what strategies are working, and how they would like to see the organization change.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us at info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.