Using Technology to Enhance Your Productivity

By Valerie Sprague, Client Technology Manager

As a staff member in the Client Technology Support Department of an association management company (AMC), my day-to-day responsibilities are dynamic and vary in nature. With a number of concurrent projects and tasks on my calendar, I’m always looking for ways that technology can add benefit to my work day. And because it’s imperative that our department stay focused and productive throughout the week, these are a few tools that help us stay on track!

1) Tune out distractions… One of my favorite tools to do this is Noisli. It’s essentially a sound machine for your computer. Use one of their preset ambient sounds or create your own mix of background noise. These sounds help to minimize distraction and keep you focused; and the random color generator provides a relaxing backdrop. They’ve even got an integrated timer function to better assist you with your daily time management.

2) Organize your day… Given that there are a number of task management options available, I believe the key is to pick one that works best for your needs and stick with it. A couple of my personal favorites are KanbanFlow and Todoist. KanbanFlow also offers an integrated timer as another option for time management of your tasks. By organizing your “to do” list in one central location, you’ll find yourself focused for the day and see an increase in your productivity.

3) Prioritize… Our department recently implemented a new customer support software, which has allowed us to better support all of the clients here at IMI. After reviewing a number of products, we ultimately decided on Freshdesk and their free version has been able to meet all of our business needs. At a glance we can manage all of our department’s projects and tasks and, by knowing the priority of each, it can assist us in planning our work day.

4) Internal messaging… IMI also utilizes Slack to communicate internally in a quick and efficient manner. This collaboration tool provides an online chat feature with coworkers. You can also setup various “channels” for personalized communications. Have an upcoming deadline that requires your full attention? Not a problem; just set an away status to stay on task or pause your notifications to minimize interruptions.

5) Mute your Email… Ever notice how you’re working on a task and then you stop and switch gears because “you’ve got mail.” Sometimes it’s helpful to turn off the visual desktop alert temporarily and only check email at selected intervals throughout the day. While this may not always be practical given your responsibilities, it can be helpful if you’re in the middle of a project that requires your full attention. If you do need to ensure full coverage, you can always set a temporary out of office message during this time.

There can be numerous distractions faced during the course of your work week but finding tool(s) to help you stay focused and productive can be of great benefit. What tools have you found help you in your day-to-day? Please share in the comments below.

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NAPBS Reframes Conference Activities to Increase Attendee Engagement

By Meredith Parker, Account Associate

Tchotchkes. Doodads. Swag. If you’re a regular conference attendee, you know that these terms describe the stress balls, t-shirts, pens, and other assorted items available at vendor booths in a conference’s exhibit hall. While the exhibit hall is a place to load up on office supplies, it is more importantly the location where topic-specific vendors can share information about their products. Because not every attendee has the need for color-changing cups or the desire to talk to vendors, it is common for conference planners to provide an incentive to visit booths.

One of IMI’s clients, the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), has used an exhibitor bingo card as an incentive in the past. Upon registration, attendees were given a bingo card with squares to be signed by vendor representatives as attendees visited their booths. Attendees returned the filled card to the conference registration desk and were entered to win a prize. The bingo card has successfully encouraged attendees to talk to vendors; however, it has been utilized frequently in the past and for its 2018 Annual Conference, NAPBS wanted to do something fresh.

In the 15 years since it was established, NAPBS has grown from a U.S.-based trade association to an international alliance of professional background screening firms with the mission of advanc[ing] excellence in the screening profession. In early October, NAPBS members from the United States and its Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Canada Chapters gathered in Baltimore, Maryland for its 2018 Annual Conference. This year’s conference theme, “Passport to the World” reflected NAPBS’s transition from representing national to international background screening firms and consumers. In alignment with their theme, they forewent the exhibitor bingo card for a booklet modeled after the universally-recognized U.S. passport. This booklet, called the Passport to the Exhibit Hall, reminded attendees of NAPBS’s international presence and provided an innovative way to engage with exhibitors.

At the conference registration desk, NAPBS staff asked attendees if they were interested in playing the Exhibitor Passport Game. They showed attendees the passport and explained that at each booth, attendees could get a square “stamped” by the corresponding vendor, just like going through customs on a jet-setting adventure. In an educational twist on rubber stamps, NAPBS distributed sheets of stickers to exhibitors which were printed with facts about the background screening industry to educate participants as they moved from booth to booth. To be entered into the prize drawing, participants had to visit at least half of the 50 booths and return their Passports to the registration desk on the last day of the conference.

Staff at the registration desk noticed increased interest and participation in the exhibitor passport game than in exhibitor bingo of past years. In fact, when some attendees brought their passports to be entered into the prize drawing, they asked if they could keep their passports as mementos, valuing the facts which had been “stamped” inside. This is great news for NAPBS as it means that its vendors received good traffic in the exhibit hall. Also, the conference experience will be shared with industry professionals as returning attendees share their passports with coworkers.

The overwhelmingly positive response to the exhibitor passports was unexpected, and NAPBS is thrilled with the way that a simple tweak to an existing conference activity has given them and their vendors more exposure. They are already pondering how to add a creative spin to other conference elements to engage attendees, further their theme, and execute their mission.

Have you attended or facilitated a conference that found a new way to make attendees excited about conference programming? Leave your comments below.

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Are you our Perfect Match? The Top 4 Qualities IMI Brings to Clients

By Lee Claassen, CAE, Account Manager

If IMI’s integrity, empathy, emotional intelligence, vision, judgement and passion – all qualities essential to working successfully with non-profit organizations – aren’t enough, what else compels organizations to engage IMI in ensuring their future success?

  • Experience: IMI’s team has 170+ years of combined non-profit management experience and expertise ranging from strategic planning and leadership development to finance, membership, marketing and communications, meetings and events, fundraising and all things in between. There’s not a non-profit situation or challenge IMI’s team hasn’t confronted and successfully met.
  • Optimal Size: IMI is a medium-sized association management company that is large enough to support clients’ needs, but small enough that they each receive individualized service and benefit from IMI’s collective expertise.
  • Individualization: Each client is assigned an account team of IMI employees that best fit the needs of the client. Specialists are drawn from a pool of personnel resources and are assigned on an as-needed basis to projects. We work with our clients continually to ensure that they are fully supported in the way that best develops their goals and objectives and meets their members’ needs.
  • Team Approach: Since IMI’s company philosophy advocates a team orientation to the workload, IMI clients have the added benefit of getting to know, and being known by, multiple employees within the company. For all projects, multiple people are involved from concept to completion so work can continue uninterrupted in the event that a team member is unavailable.

With 35 experienced employees, IMI provides exceptional customer service and a highly personalized approach to each client; in fact, we would tout that attribute as the single most important reason for the success of our clients. While we have great respect for the business needs and member satisfaction of each client, IMI clients are also our friends and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Are you interested in learning more about what IMI can do for your non-profit? Email me at lee@imiae.com for more information.

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Happy Blogiversary, IMI!

By Melissa Conger, Communications Associate

Has it been four years already?

September 2014 marked the month IMI introduced its blog, Let Your Association Take Flight. We’ve achieved great accomplishments since the start of this voyage, when we began with that single quote, “If you don’t design your week, it will get designed for you.”

IMI has always been an open, dynamic and collaborative organization. We aren’t content to simply sit back and foresee hurdles or potential challenges; rather, we believe in taking the proactive approach of seeking solutions and finding ways to overcome them.

IMI employees demonstrate this philosophy in their daily routines; while working with clients; and through the sharing of best practices, insight and industry knowledge online.

In honor of our blogiversary, let’s take moment to reflect on this milestone with some of the notable pieces (we think) IMI has had since 2014:

2014: “IMI Goes Red for the American Heart Association

2015: “20 Key Takeaways from the Book The Will to Govern Well

2016: “My First 90 Days at an Association Management Company

2017: “How to write a Request for Proposal (RFP) for Hotel Services

2018: “Time to Stop Using These Subject Lines

We are grateful for the many people and personalities who have dedicated themselves to IMI’s culture and growth. And of course, we want thank the individuals who contributed to our voice through this blog, including our most-recent authors:

  • Angela Allen
  • Jalene Bowersmith
  • Melissa Conger
  • Stevie Kernick
  • Rachel Owen
  • Linda Owens
  • Meredith Parker
  • Valerie F. Sprague
  • Jadine Sturgill
  • Whitney Thweatt
  • Allison Winter

We get excited when we consider how far along our blog has come since it took flight, and the many adventures IMI will be experiencing and sharing with you in the future!

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.

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Individualization on an International Scale at INACSL’s Annual Conference

By Meredith Parker, Account Associate

Around the IMI Office, summer is known as a time when we have the most staff birthdays, the most creative fun committee events, and the most hectic office environment. During these months, our staff is in a constant flurry of activity, with groups in varying stages of preparing for, facilitating, or debriefing from client events held all over North America.

One of IMI’s largest clients, The International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning (INACSL) has close to 2,000 members spread across the world. Each year since 2006, it has held an Annual Conference with about 800 attendees. Because much of INACSL’s membership is American, all of its conferences have been held in the United States; that is, until this year. In 2018, in line with its international focus and in order to recognize its significant number of Canadian members, INACSL’s signature event was held in Toronto, Canada.

Though Toronto is just a hop over the national border between the United States and Canada, INACSL anticipated that its conference would host many first-time attendees because some of its regular, United States-based attendees would be unable to obtain funding for international travel. Also, INACSL knew from past conference feedback that one of the highest-rated benefits of their conference is networking opportunities. With these factors in mind, INACSL developed ideas to help each of the 500+ conference attendees feel individually touched.

First, INACSL created Canada House as a “home away from home” for attendees. During the conference, Canada House hosted light snacks and beverages during breaks, information about restaurants and activities in Toronto, and giveaways like Canadian themed gift baskets and maple syrup – some which were free for all and some which had to be won through games or raffles. Decorated with Adirondack chairs, pictures from around Canada, and the extremely-popular cutout of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada House became a popular stop for attendees throughout the conference as a place to grab a quick cup of coffee, gather information about local sights, and a rendezvous point for casual or organized outings, including a run/walk exercise group that met each morning.

In addition to providing Canada House as a nexus for conference social activities, the INACSL team created specific opportunities for conference-goers to connect outside of educational sessions. One of these opportunities was pay-your-own-way dinners out. Before the conference, INACSL made six-person reservations at area restaurants for several nights of the event. On-site, they provided sign-up sheets for individuals to claim one of five spots on any reservation, with the sixth spot held by a someone from their Membership Committee. These groups would meet at Canada House, walk to the specified restaurant, and enjoy dinner together. This idea was a hit with conference attendees, especially those who traveled to the conference alone as first time attendees, because it provided a low-pressure way to meet other people in the same situation, get out of the hotel, and experience Toronto culture. In addition, because there was an experienced INACSL member at each dinner, there was a helpful resource for any conference or INACSL-related questions.

The INACSL Annual Conference, 2018 was a huge success – and the INACSL Team’s eye for individualization played a key role in making attendees feel welcomed, engaged, and ready to learn.

What strategies have you used to engage attendees at a large conference? Comment below.

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.

 

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Countdown to Accreditation

By Whitney Thweatt, CAE, account manager

IMI recently checked off one more item of the list on our AMC Institute accreditation poster and is only a few steps away from completing the accreditation journey.

As an effort to demonstrate our company’s commitment to quality, service and excellence, as well as employee training and education, IMI is pursuing accreditation from the AMC Institute.

Why? By achieving accreditation status, we are ensuring that best practices are documented and woven into our processes consistently across all clients. Current clients will feel confident that we maintain the highest standards. Communication will be ongoing with clients to ensure all services are provided in an effective and efficient manner. By successfully completing the accreditation process, we can establish a basis for benchmarking and enhancing established documented internal controls and operating systems, as well as identifying greater efficiencies and quality control procedures.

The AMCI Standard of Good Practices for the Association Management Company Industry encompasses the following:

  • Client Contracts: Review Procedures and Requirements
  • Servicing the Clients and Service Delivery Procedure
  • Evaluation of Services
  • Financial Management and Internal Controls
  • Insurance Coverage
  • Employee Recruitment and Selection
  • Employee Training and Professional Development Procedures
  • Subcontracting and Purchasing Requirements
  • Record Keeping Requirements/Continuity of Operations
  • Internal Quality Control Requirements

Over the past several months, IMI staff has been hard at work reviewing internal processes, policies and procedures to see if they fall in line with the Standard, compiling all documentation of our internal systems and processes, and updating or creating any policies necessary.

We recently completed staff training on all company policies and Standard sections. The final step prior to scheduling a third-party audit is to conduct an internal audit to ensure we’ve adopted all practices that we have created.

While it has been a long and arduous process, it is one that will greatly benefit both IMI and all of our client partners.

The last item on the accreditation checklist poster? “Hold an accreditation party!” Stay tuned to hear how we’ll celebrate!

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.

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IMI Volunteer Project Inspires Future Service

By Meredith Parker, Account Associate

Earlier this year, we asked IMI Staff to complete the statement: “I love IMI because…” Responses were featured in our 32nd birthday celebration social media campaign. The below response struck a chord with me:

“I love IMI because we provide the highest level of client service, respect professional relationships, act with integrity, are innovative and creative, value individuals, and work with enthusiasm and enjoyment.”

These points were taken directly from the IMI Core Values and reading the response was a great reminder of who we are as a company: we see every person as a human being before anything else. Because we serve nonprofit organizations, our staff works daily to support people who are making the world a better place. Usually this means management support, but earlier last month, it took on a different meaning.

On Wednesday, August 8, the Fun Committee organized a group of 12 IMI Staff to go to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina for a two-hour volunteer shift. The Food Bank serves 34 counties which are divided into six regions. We volunteered at the Raleigh Region Distribution Center, which covers the counties where our staff works and lives. According to a report released by the Food Bank in 2017, 15.1 percent, or 265,360 people, of the population in the counties served by the Raleigh Branch is food insecure. This translates to one or two people in a group of 10 struggling with food security.

Our task was to sort through one-ton pallets of onions and potatoes and determine whether the vegetables were safe to eat. Safe vegetables were bagged for distribution to hungry families across our state while unsafe vegetables were thrown away. Within the IMI Staff group of 12, we broke into smaller groups of four. My group dug into our pallet, which contained onions that were caked in dirt and, in some cases, spotted with green, fuzzy mold.

This task was completely outside of the skillsets we use in the office, and we were truly humbled by our experience. The food we were sorting had come straight from the farm and looked nothing like what we see at the grocery store. We were struck by the difficulty of making food safe, evidenced by the dirt speckling our clothes and hiding under our nails at the end of our shift. It was definitely a challenge, but it was rewarding to make sure people in our community were receiving the best food.

In addition, through this experience, we grew closer as a team. During the time spent together, we talked through how to discern that produce was safe; made runs to the dumpster to throw away unsafe food or to grab more net bags; and recounted stories around the giant pallets. Our group was fueled by our seamless, cheerful collaboration, especially because we were outside of our typical context.

After our two-hour shift, we felt fulfilled when we look at the “fruits” of our labor and realized that we had helped sort 5,400 pounds of fresh produce, which will provide 4,547 meals to our community.

Humbled, Fulfilled, and fueled by our Collaboration, we agreed that we would like for IMI to contribute to our community through regular volunteer service. Last week, we established an IMI Service Committee so our staff can continue to live out IMI’s Core Values in our community. Reflecting on the past few weeks, I am grateful for my colleagues, people who work daily to serve others and still desire to do more.

Want to team up with IMI to complete service in the Triangle? Comment below or email me at meredith@imiae.com.

  

  

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Staff Spotlight: Allison

By Breanna Appling, account associate

In this feature, we interview one of our fabulous team members to show a little spotlight on the staff that makes IMI great. Today we’re highlighting Allison Winter.

Originally from Greenville, NC, Allison has been gracing IMI with her bubbly personality and outgoing presence since 2013. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English with minors in Creative Writing and Journalism from NC State University. This month, Allison takes us all back to school and a time where getting a pimple was the end of the world. Check it out!

IMI: What was one of your most embarrassing moments in school? (elementary/ middle/ high school/ college).

Allison: I was very quiet in school, and I mostly kept to myself, which has prevented me from having any great, embarrassing stories to share later in life. However, if I had to pick one, it was when my AP U.S. History teacher in high school called me out in front of the entire class and said I’d be lucky if I made a 2 (out of 5) on the AP test. He picked on me throughout the year and, looking back, I think it’s safe to say he was a big believer in the blonde stereotype. So, needless to say, I was ecstatic when I got a 4 on my test and was able to count his class towards college credit!

IMI: What was your favorite teen show, movie, or book?

Allison: The two channels I stuck to in high school were the Disney Channel (shocker) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM). One rainy afternoon, my mom and I stumbled upon the movie Rebecca on TCM. It’s one of Alfred Hitchcock’s first movies and is an incredible thriller. I loved it, and I’ve been hooked on Hitchcock movies ever since! As far as books go, I was a total Harry Potter fan, and even went to the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

IMI: If you could give one piece of advice to your 16-year-old self what would it be?

Allison: Don’t take yourself so seriously, and don’t care so much about what other people think.

IMI: What is one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?

Allison: To keep with the school theme, I loved to dance back then, and I took ballet, tap, jazz, and modern. We performed the Nutcracker every year during the holiday season, and we always had a big production right before the start of summer vacation. My two favorite roles throughout the years were the Mirliton in The Nutcracker and Alice from Alice in Wonderland!

In more recent years, something that may be surprising is my husband, Cameron, and I are trying to live a “zero waste” lifestyle. I could talk about this for hours, but if you’re interested in learning more, then I’d highly recommend the book Zero Waste Home. It’s amazing!

IMI: What has been your favorite place to travel while working in AMC?

Allison: The Greenbrier, hands down! It’s a big, beautiful resort in West Virginia with a lot of history. Every inch of it was decorated by Dorothy Draper in her unique style, and it was such a treat to explore the property! Visiting The Greenbrier fulfilled a dream I had of staying there since middle school, and I still count myself so lucky to have gone there.

 

The first picture is Cameron and I in front of Notre Dame. Paris was our last stop on the month-long European adventure we took two summers ago!

The second picture is of the two of us at the first Georgia Bulldogs football game this past season. Yes, Cameron’s beard has grown exponentially since we moved to Georgia. Go Dawgs!

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.

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IMI team member Jalene Bowersmith, CAE, receives INACSL President’s Award

By Meredith Parker, Account Associate

It is with great pride that we congratulate our colleague Jalene Bowersmith, CAE, for receiving the President’s Award from the International Nursing Association for Clinical Stimulation and Learning (INACSL) during their Annual Conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Jalene has served as Executive Director for INACSL since October 2013.

The INACSL President’s Award was created to recognize an individual who has contributed significantly to advance the mission and vision of the organization. In her speech, INACSL’s President, Kristina Thomas Dreifuerst, PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF, noted that she chose Jalene for this award because “[Jalene] has been the wind in INACSL’s sails. As an organization primarily made up of volunteers that rotate in and out of roles, Jalene has been a constant in providing direction and support to keep the ship afloat. She brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the organization in a gentle and guiding manner. She is incredibly efficient, organized and always willing to go the extra mile. Jalene has helped the Board of Directors navigate through challenges in the organization, and guided us to keep moving forward.”

With Jalene’s guidance and management, INACSL has increased its assets by more than 568 percent, increased its net income by more than 5 percent, and been able to secure the organizations future by setting aside over $1 million in reserves and invests. In addition, INACSL has had three consecutive years with record high membership numbers and recently released the redesigned INACSL.org. Finally, the INACSL Standards of Best Practice: SimulationSM have been translated from English to Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean. Translations in French, Spanish, and Portuguese are also currently in process.

Congratulations, Jalene! We are so thankful to work with you and learn from you.

Dr. Kristina Thomas Dreifuerst, INACSL President; Dr. Bette Mariani, President – Elect; Jalene Bowersmith, CAE, Executive Director; and Dr. Teresa Gore, Immediate Past President at the INACSL Conference, 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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Quick Strategies to Inspire Creativity in the Workplace

By Meredith Parker, Account Associate

In pondering the nature of creativity, I think about moments when I happen upon the thread of an idea for a writing project. I follow the thread, weaving together ideas in my mind until I can envision the finished writing piece as an intricate tapestry. Though I most consistently experience the pull to create in writing, it is not the only area of my work where creativity could be beneficial.

Following this, one of my goals in 2018 has been to set aside more time for creative thinking in all areas of my work. After much reflection over the past few months, I have personally found that that stimulating creativity requires setting aside a space in my mind for new thoughts to take root and flourish. The best way for me to do this is by engaging in some mildly stimulating physical activity for a few minutes.

Most of my work as a nonprofit professional is mentally, rather than physically, challenging, so physical activity provides a respite for my brain. This rest provides space for my mind to wander while the rest of my body is occupied and brings renewed energy and focus when it’s time to turn back to intense mental activity. Sometimes I find creative inspiration in the physical activity itself or in the burst of energy following it. Some strategies I’ve used for engaging in work-appropriate physical activity are below:

Coloring

Physical activity does not always entail breaking a sweat. One of my favorite ways to give my brain a rest is by coloring. Ever the perfectionist, I find that selecting crayon colors and working to stay in the lines of an intricate mandala design is immensely satisfying, though not too challenging. If I am stuck on how to attack a problem, I set my iPhone timer for a few minutes and open my coloring book. In the time it takes me to fill a section of a picture with color, my mind relaxes and, after a few minutes of solitude, creeps back to the problem at hand with a new perspective.

If you are interested in this method, you can print adult coloring pages here.

Desk Yoga

Another way to practice physical activity at work is by doing desk yoga. As the name implies, desk yoga is yoga that has been modified to be completed while sitting at a desk. Yoga practice is steeped in mindfulness, so when I do this, I am forced to focus on my body instead of work for a short period of time. A break doing desk yoga refreshes me mentally and spiritually with the added bonus of alleviating any stiffness from sitting at a desk all day.

Watch this video to give desk yoga a try. Subtitles are included so your coworkers don’t have to listen to your desk yogi.

Walking Meetings

A final way to inspire creativity at work is through a walking meeting. At its heart, a meeting is a conversation between coworkers. Though technology requires that some meetings take place indoors, many meetings can be moved outside; in fact, I prefer this strategy when I have a challenging problem and would like the input of one of my coworkers. I find that walking meetings promote a relaxed and collegial dynamic, which makes tackling problems less intimidating and more productive. In addition, I think that the simple act of switching from an office environment to the outdoors has the potential to inspire my brain to new heights, stimulating my senses by the smell of the air in my nose; the feel of the terrain on my feet; and the sights and sounds of trees, plants, animals, and other people.

In the mental Olympics of the contemporary workplace, it can feel like too much effort to take the time to cultivate creativity. Nonprofit professionals need only a few minutes a day to color, stretch, or walk outside to give themselves outlets for creative thought.

What are your strategies for inspiring creativity at work? Please feel free to comment below.

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.

 

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