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Working from home? Make your bed, and other suggestions

At his 2014 commencement address at University of Texas at Austin, Admiral William H. McRaven said, "If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed." His point was that by making your bed every morning, it provides you a simple way to accomplish something every day, earning you a check mark on your task list.

With the advances in technology, it is expected that a percentage of employees will be working from home or on the road.

If you work remotely, clearly you have demonstrated independence and self-motivation, an ability to work without constant supervision. You have your checklists and calendars and there are tons of tips on working remotely, here are some of the most common I’ve found:

  • Set aside a dedicated space. This does not mean your dining room table, especially if you have others who share the space. You will need to carve out an area where there are limited intrusions and you can restrict the entry.
  • Make it pretty, or sporty, or feminine or masculine – depending on what you like, what motivates and inspires you. You will be spending hours in this area, make it your own,
  • Although it is unreasonable to daily dress in business attire, while working from home, do manage to make an effort to look put together. Dress as if you expect visitors.
  • Some people find it helpful to adhere to a schedule, my preference is a log I keep, a “to-do list,” which in conjunction with my calendar keep me on track.
  • For the animal lovers, if you have a dog, make a sign for your front door…”No knocking between the hours of 8 – 5.” Probably won’t stop all the barks, but it might help reduce the errant yip.

All these suggestions center around one theme, treat your remote work as a job, not as an indulgence, and finally, always make your bed.

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An intern’s perspective: First impressions of AMPED

Adam Graves June 2018 for webby Adam Graves, AMPED financial intern.  

At some point we’ve all been the outsider who has had to adapt to new people and a new environment. Whether you’re moving from one city to another, switching teams, shifting workplaces, or something completely different, there is always a degree of anxious excitement associated with the change. Having made the jump from my past, laid-back jobs in family entertainment and retail to being an intern at AMPED, there was an expectation that there would be major changes from what I had previously become accustomed to. Knowing what I know now, after all of three weeks, there are a few things I have picked up on about my co-workers and the general culture of the workplace we share.

Things are different… but a lot of things are quite similar to my past jobs. The smaller staff size is something that I’m used to and starting my internship right after Memorial Day where a lot of staff were out of town, on vacation, at conferences, etc. allowed me to get settled in a low-pressure environment and meet my co-workers in waves instead of all at once. Everyone was incredibly friendly, and the staff meeting on my first day allowed me to get a small idea of what each of my co-workers do for the clients AMPED serves. The group is very tight-knit as the workspace is physically small and the success of AMPED and the associations depend of everyone working efficiently and working together. The office culture is far more relaxed than I would have imagined for a more professional environment; almost everyone has their music playing when I walk into my co-workers’ offices and the attire ranges from casual to professional depending on what is happening on any given day. These were welcome sights on my first day as an intern with no prior office experience.

My co-workers work for AMPED, but don’t. Everyone is super invested in the associations they represent. Shirts, buttons, drinking receptacles, and other trinkets for the various associations can be seen at every turn. People are genuinely interested and have gathered tons of knowledge on the many associations they serve. Given that we work in such close coordination with the different associations, it makes sense that there a lot of pride associated with providing the best possible service to them.

What’s in the kitchen? Seriously, what is in the kitchen? It’s always interesting to see what tasty treat someone has brought in on any given day. It seems like a lot of times when something is brought in there is a significant event in someone’s life that prompts the purchase or creation of these delicious delights so the food allows you to gain a bit of insight about the person who brings it in. Other times it’s as simple as passing on some leftovers from family meals to our work family. Regardless, this cornerstone is something that brings everyone in the office together.

Other thoughts. AMPED has been so welcoming that I’ve been introduced at our Monday meeting for three weeks straight. If I’m lucky next week will make four.

AMPED provides a very unique work experience due to the friendly, hardworking people who allow it to provide a diverse variety of services to its clients. The qualities that make AMPED so welcoming to me as a new employee also make it attractive to its present and future clients. The laid-back environment and the hardworking people undeniably make AMPED feel like home from day one whether you’re a new employee or a new association looking to be managed.

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ASAE Annual Meeting 2018: 'A Huge Opportunity Awaits with Young Professionals: Are You Primed?'

Aaron Manogue: I'm Aaron Manogue.

Emily Viles: And I'm Emily Viles, and we're from AMPED Association Management.

Manogue: We're so excited and honored to be speaking at ASAE Annual 2018.

Viles: We will be presenting the sessions, "A Huge Opportunity Awaits with Young Professionals: Are You Primed?"

Manogue: There's two things we really want you to walk away with. The first thing being the common misconceptions of young professionals such as Millennials and Gen Z.

Viles: And we want you to take back that information and apply it to your association so you can engage your young professional members.

Manogue: We're so excited and we hope we can see every one of you there. We'll see you on August 20.

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15 things to consider before starting an association podcast

podcast headphones

It seems as though you cannot throw a proverbial rock without hitting a figurative podcast; everybody seems to have one. Everyone from comedians to movie buffs and, yes, associations are trying their hand at podcasting. There are many blogs, videos and podcasts describing why you should, or should not start a podcast. 

Don’t be in a rush to hit record. It is fun and exciting to jump into a new project, but without extensive planning, you will be on the road to a destination with no map or GPS. Hang tight; let’s consider what needs to get done.

An association’s podcast is a communication, marketing, and membership development activity, and as a result, many departments in your organization should have input. 

1. Consider what you want to accomplish by starting a podcast:

  • Shape public perception/policy
  • Member business development
  • Reach new audience
  • Deepen your network
  • Get to know your members and industry leaders

Whatever your motivation, plan your content to align with your business goal.

2. Know your audience. Do not rush this step. A content marketing best-practice is to develop buyer personas. According to HubSpot, “A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. When creating your buyer persona(s), consider including customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. The more detailed you are, the better”Many podcasters develop their content to an avatar. An avatar is a single representative of the large audience, similar to a buyer persona. The podcast is created for this person. Speak to this person. Will this person enjoy this episode, this guest or topic? If you think about and speak to this person when planning your content, you will create focus and a niche audience. 

Take a lot of care here. If you are doing an interview-style podcast, are there enough people in the guest-pool to fulfill your format and angle? If you begin the podcast without a clear avatar, your focus can drift, and potentially alienate listeners.

Do not be afraid to create niche content vs. for the masses. If the internet has taught us anything, it is that there is something for everyone. Case-in-point: Ever notice that there is an association for every profession or interest?

3. Commit. Weekly, monthly or by “season,” commit to the podcast. Without a plan, you may get the “seven-episode itch” and quit. Starting a podcast is relatively easy. Maintaining one is difficult. iTunes and other podcast directories are littered with podcasts that publish fewer than five or 10 episodes. About 10 episodes into this venture, you will still be figuring out your recording and editing workflow. It will get more difficult before it gets easier. While there are many resources online from expert podcasters, you still learn by doing and by going through your own learning curve. You will also discover this new venture is a lot of work and takes more time than you anticipated. If you commit to posting regularly no matter what, you will learn to streamline your workflow. 

4. How often will you publish? Establishing how often you post an episode correlates to the aforementioned “Commit” consideration.Whether you choose to post an episode weekly or monthly, once you commit, stick to your schedule. The key to building an audience is posting regularly. I expect a new episode every Monday on Bill Burr’s “Monday Morning Podcast.”

Want to take a break? Some successful podcasters produce “seasons” like TV shows. NPR podcasts like Serial and Invisibilia do this. 

If the content is not time-sensitive, you may want to “stock up” on a few episodes so you can take a vacation, or publish over a holiday. It is also common to upload a “rerun” of a previously published episode.

5. Who will host the podcast? While people might listen and subscribe to your podcast because of the title or the subject matter, they will continue to listen because they appreciate the host’s stance, opinion or style. The host or hosts tie(s) the show together. Ensure that whoever hosts the show, they are committed to the process of producing a regular piece of content.

6. What is the format and length of an average episode? You have an idea for a podcast and an idea of personnel involved. How will the information be presented? Will it be a highly produced NPR-style podcast, a single host speaking to the listener, or a host or panel discussing a topic? Perhaps you will consider a Chris Hardwick-style interview where a host has a deep conversation with a subject for an hour. Maybe you will have 5-10 minute episodes like former “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe reading an essay in his show, “The Way I Heard It.”It is OK to experiment with this a little, as your show “finds its way” eventually.

7. Script. One thing I love about the podcasts I listen to is I can always count on certain things happening or being said. As a creature of habit, I enjoy singing along with Kevin Smith’s opening theme on his show, SMODcast, or say, “Enjoy your burrito” on the ID10T (formerly Nerdist) show with Chris Hardwick. I always enjoy when Bill Burr gives uninformed advice at the end of his “Monday Morning Podcast” to listeners who write in. We all like routine and structure.

These shows are successful partially because famous people host them, but I would argue that listeners love their format, executed by their script. Having a script does not mean reading from a page word-for-word. A podcast script can simply organize intro and outro music, promotional reads, advertisements, when one speaks and the general flow of an episode. 

Our script helps layout the order of the episode long before we start recording. It aids in planning and gives the listener an idea of what to expect from your show each episode. Here is my script for our client’s show, Talking Industrial Automation which I based on this guide that the CDC authored.

8. Scheduling guests. If you do have guests on your show, then you will discover that scheduling a time is like scheduling any other meeting: there’s a lot of back and forth to find space on each other’s calendars. 

You want to make it easy on your guest, so use a tool like Calendly or other scheduler-app that will show your availability. Tools like this will integrate with your work calendar and allow the guest to book only on days or dayparts you choose. I record only on Wednesdays and Fridays, typically between 10-3 p.m. Central. My guests cannot see my other appointments and cannot book outside of these parameters. They can choose a time slot that works for them while ensuring I am not double booked.

9. Equipment. I have launched two podcasts in my career, and both were started with borrowed or already-owned equipment and free software. You do not have to go out and buy hundreds of dollars of equipment to start. You can begin recording a podcast with a smartphone. Add headphones which include a mic and record in a quiet space and you are underway. You will want to consider, though, if you will be able to budget for some podcast equipment. 

Once you have a budget to upgrade your equipment, you can start to add items to improve the sound quality and time spent editing. Adding some key things like a digital recorder (like an H4N Pro) and a few decent microphones will improve sound quality and are good first choices.
For under $500 you can own some decent equipment that is mobile and will set you up for success. Here’s a sample equipment list and what we use.

10. Technology. How will you conduct your podcast? Will you record in person or remotely? There is nothing like being face to face, but if your guests are international, it may be necessary to record over the Internet. This consideration goes hand-in-hand with equipment.

I like to use Zoom video conferencing, which is free to use for one-on-one meetings. You can set it to record individual video and audio files in case you need to do some advanced editing. If you also plan on a video podcast for YouTube or Vimeo, Zoom will record your respective webcams. Zoom has a built-in “director.” In other words, the camera shows whoever is speaking. If you plan to have three or more people then you will need to upgrade if your show is over 40 minutes. You can also evaluate Skype along with plugins like “Pamela” or “Evaer.” One other platform is Zencaster, an online podcasting-specific platform.

You can edit your podcast with the free software Audacity or a paid software from Adobe called Audition. Apple’s GarageBand has become podcaster unfriendly in the last few years.

11. Podcast hosting platform. Choosing the platform that works for your association is a big decision. There are free or $5/month platforms, and $15-20/month platforms. Consider how often you will publish episodes. Most podcast hosts have a tiered platform based on how many megabytes you upload or host per month. 

You do not want to move your podcast to another host without careful consideration, so choose wisely. It can be done, but you risk losing all of your hard-earned subscribers if you do not do your research.

12. Preparing the guest. Whether you have a guest host, panel or guest, ensure you are preparing them to hit the ground running.

I created a document I share with my guests that helps them book a time and prepare their surroundings for the best quality recording. Awareness of distractions and noise in their office will increase the audio (and video) quality of your show.

13. Consider slowing your roll. Are you ready to tell everyone yet? Hang on, you are almost there!

Make a list of podcast directories you will want to be found on. iTunes? Check. Google Play? Check. Those two might be obvious. You should research to find if there are niche podcast directories that align with specific formats and subject matter. Did you know that iHeartRadio and Spotify are growing their offering of podcasts?

Keep it all straight with a spreadsheet. Some directories will not accept you until you are one or two months old. Others may list your podcast only if they approve of your content.

Submit to directories and post a few episodes, but do not go “pedal to the metal” just yet. This gives you time to make tweaks and edits before you let the world know you have your own show.

14. Hard launch. Are you now listed in the most popular directories? It might take 1-2 months to be approved. Once you can confidently tell listeners that the show is found wherever they listen to podcasts, you are ready to go.

How will you get the word out? Here are the promotional activities I do for each episode:

  • Post to our online member forum
  • E-blast to all members
  • Post to association’s LinkedIn company page
  • Personal LinkedIn profile
  • Tag interviewee and your LinkedIn page.
  • Post to association’s LinkedIn group

Here is the email template I send to guests and their marketing contact, which asks them to participate in promoting their episode.

15. What about a news release? You should consider holding off on releasing this to the media. Ever see a blog or video series with only ONE entry that says, “This is my blog. Here I will… I’m going to…I look forward to…”

Your podcast isn’t anything yet, so why would a journalist want to cover something that you might do or say? After nearly 20 episodes, I still have not prepared a news release.

I’m reminded of Anthony Bourdain’s advice when cooking a steak: like a steak hot off the grill, let your show be. Just make new episodes. Concentrate on content, good guests and great conversation.

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When your hotel double books your meeting space

hotel pillow

A meeting planner’s picture perfect dream. You’ve got a record-breaking meeting in every way: registration, sponsorship and exhibit sales. Yet at the same time, your worst nightmare is surfacing. The host hotel has double-booked portions of your meeting space and there are only weeks to go before the live event. This happened to us recently. And while it was an incredibly complex situation, our goal was simple: find a solution that would deliver the experience attendees have come to expect year after year without giving the impression that there were ever any challenges taking place behind the scenes. 

Although this was one of, if not the, most challenging planning obstacles I have encountered, I’m proud to say, mission accomplished. Ultimately we found a solution that allowed us to stay at the contracted property and the meeting went off without a hitch! Here’s what we learned throughout the process: 

Engage all of the appropriate key players. Go straight to the top. We were in daily communication with the hotel leadership including the general manager, director of sales, and director of events. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having decision makers at the highest level in your court. Involve the “feet on the ground” as well, especially your convention services manager and the sales person you worked with at the time the contract was signed. Think beyond the hotel, as well. The local CVB was an extremely valuable resource as we explored the possibility of relocating the meeting. Seek legal counsel for expert advice and a factual perspective, too.

Know the value of face to face meetings. After countless hours of phone calls and brainstorming sessions without a concrete direction, it became clear that we weren’t making progress and the clock was ticking. It was time for an in-person meeting to negotiate and finalize a plan moving forward. Although it was a spontaneous decision and a quick trip, it was time very well spent. The hotel reimbursed the cost of airfare and covered accommodations for our staff. Note that all of the “key players” I mentioned above from the hotel side were part of this meeting, including the GM. Approximately 48 hours later, we had a plan and walked away confident that the new flow of meeting space would deliver. Finally, we could wrap up the numerous tasks that had been on hold: signage, pocket program, mobile app, BEOs, AV, etc. Think about it – nearly every function of the meeting depends on having specific room locations. It was time to get down to business!

Creativity talks. The majority of the space that had been double-booked was meal space, foyer space and common areas. This posed major problems as the association placed extreme value on networking, which would typically take place in these open areas. We decided to build a wall to build a hallway down the center of the foyer space to partition the space. This also became a branding opportunity. We used this new wall space to recognize the leadership and current and past award winners and highlight the membership benefits. The morning and afternoon breaks, which were originally planned to be in the large foyer space, had been relocated to several smaller common areas that in the end worked great for more intimate professional networking. We got creative with signage and floor and wall clings to make it obvious where attendees should go and when. The hotel arranged for more elaborate décor in the meal space than we would typically do since the reassigned space was a bit drab on its own. It’s amazing how a little greenery and other simple décor can transform a space! In the end, we didn’t hear a peep from attendees questioning the flow of the meeting or the new space assignments. Just exactly as we wanted it to be!

Communication with your vendors is key. There’s no doubt that this impacted timelines and agreed-to deadlines with various contracted partners. Whether it be show management, the DMC, etc., be sure to let them know the situation and keep them informed as plans unfold. For example, we weren’t able to finalize the furniture order with our DMC for a sponsored lounge area until days before the meeting because we were uncertain of the final lounge location. They were very understanding throughout the process, but had we not kept the line of communication open with all parties involved, the meeting would not have been as successful as it truly was!

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