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The Will to Perform

The Will to Perform-Association Volunteer Leaders (539 words)

The will to perform among volunteer leaders is crucial to a non-profit's success

The Will to Perform

Oh how things have changed, where has the will to perform gone?

The association world was once filled with members that pretty much did everything…and if they were lucky, they could afford an executive secretary…mostly to keep the clerical in order. Today, that executive secretary, in many associations enjoys the CEO title. This is because they really do act as the CEO of the association. The chief staff executive runs the HQ office and directs the staff to achieve what members (volunteer leaders) once did themselves.

But, what about the members, are they still doing their share? In too many circles, an observer would have to answer with, no they are not. Today everyone’s world is compressed—we are all trying to do too much in too little time. It is common to hear among the volunteer leaders, “The staff will do it; it’s their job. “ This sentiment is heard across the association-sphere, regardless of how full the staff members’ plates are.

Let’s bring this discussion to membership. While we all “mouth” that membership is important and it is the life-blood of an association…our actions do not always demonstrate this. In too many associations, and let’s be honest, membership is an afterthought or the department gets far less than necessary resources, attention, and prestige.

While the above can also be said for other departments in associations, membership in my experience is the most egregious.

What can we do? First, we must embrace that in today’s world of associations—there must be a partnership between staff and volunteer leaders in each silo/department of the organization. This is where the Will to Perform is most crucial. If either side of the partnership does not perform, trust is lost and the partnership is ineffective. Staff has to abandon the, “I have a life” as well as volunteer leaders must abandon the, “I’m just a volunteer; I have a job or a company to run.” Neither of these excuses for lack of performance is acceptable.

While this idea can be extrapolated throughout the organization into all silos/departments, specific to membership, we must communicate to our volunteer leaders and staff alike that, Membership is Everybody’s Business. We are all in this together and together we will resolve all issues. Members of today, unfortunately, have been trained by staff to expect everything to be done by staff. Moving forward, this must be changed.

Give your members a precious jewel. All volunteer leaders need a reason to perform before they can muster up within themselves the Will to Perform. What is the core value to them and the organization for them to desire to perform well? In the membership silo/department it is this—membership is a good business, financial, and career decision. If the association’s CEO can broadcast this message in a way that staff and volunteer leaders accept as a precious jewel that membership is a good business decision and held close to the heart—then it can and will be shared with others—the uninitiated.

If you are an association CEO, Executive Director, Executive Vice President—the chief staff executive, your job is to demonstrate in deed, more than in word, that Membership is Everybody’s Business and that membership in your organization is a Good Business, Financial and/or Career Decision. (c) 2017

The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.

Business Partnering

A conversation with Maurice “Moe” Desmarais

Business PartneringA conversation about hiring professional speakers with Maurice “Moe” Desmarais, Executive Vice President, SmithBucklin Association Management, Chicago, IL

Interviewed by Ed Rigsbee, CSP, CAE.

ER: Moe, how was it that you got into the association management industry?

MD: In the early 1970s I was a part-time instructor for the Professional Insurance Agents Association and they ended up offering me a job, Director of Education and Convention Services. After that I held the position of executive director for the American Supply Association and later President of Association Management Services, an association management company located in Massachusetts . For the last 10 years I’ve been with SmithBucklin, an association management company with 220 client associations.

ER: At SmithBucklin, what do you currently do?

MD: I’m the Executive VP for three associations; (contracting) Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI), (distribution) the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD), and (manufacturing) Battery Council International (BCI) and a senior director at SmithBucklin.

ER: What drives you crazy about working with professional speakers?

MD: When a speaker walks into the meeting room and has a fit that things are not set up how he or she wants them. This even happened right in front of me several years ago when I gave a presentation to the New England NSA Chapter. The other speaker had an “emotional breakdown” about the room. Sometimes for a variety of reasons, the meeting room might have to be a bit different from what one desires. A professional should be flexible enough to adjust. 

Second, when a speaker is not timely in getting program descriptions, photos, and other requested information we request to us when needed. Third is when a speaker that does not take the time to learn about his or her audience. As an example, the Battery Council audience members are manufacturers of large lead acid batteries, not the batteries that go in your watch or flashlight. It makes for a better presentation when the speaker knows that, and doesn’t provide examples that don’t fit the audience. A speaker loses credibility when he/she is not properly prepared to address his audience.

ER: Currently, what is your process for selecting professional speakers?

MD: First, I’d like to differentiate between professional societies and trade associations. Professional societies tend to be more volunteer-driven when selecting speakers as they are looking for specific technical information and trade associations more staff driven in speaker selection. For BSCAI, we generally hire keynoters that are inspirational or customer service driven and breakout speakers that are content driven and professionals within their industry. There is a volunteer committee that will suggest topics. The paid staff then implements their recommendations.

At SmithBucklin we have the luxury of a substantial experienced convention services department that maintains an in depth speaker list so finding the right speaker(s) is not terribly difficult. Since I administer a manufacturing and distribution association, I participate in both “NAW” National Association of Wholesale-distributors and “ NAM ” National Association of Manufacturers. They both maintain list serves where I can put out a question about a specific speaker or inquire about a speaker on a specific topic. I find it very helpful to receive speaker information from my colleagues from other associations.

ER: Tell me more about the trade associations.

MD: In the past with trade associations, we’d usually start on the following year’s meeting just after the current year’s event. The economy has caused us to have shorter lead times in selecting venues and shrinking meeting length. This reality has caused shorten lead times in selecting speakers. Today, we are dealing with fewer attendees at meetings so meeting cost is such a huge issue and I expect budgets to remain challenging through 2010.

ER: Any specific industry trends that you have noticed?

MD: Trade associations are currently focused on economy, cost reduction, and green topics. Motivational speakers are currently taking a beating, unless they are specifically tied to a particular industry. Software user group meetings have just recently started to see an attendance drop-off. On the bright side, healthcare groups seem to remain solid in attendance numbers.

ER: What changes have you seen recently in professional speaker fees with the groups you manage?

MD: Huge changes. From 2006-2008, budgets for keynote speakers ranged from $10,000 to $35,000 and now for 2009-2010, the budgets are basically being cut in half. We are trying to ease the pain for speakers a bit by trying to add additional value to the contracts by offering expo booths, book sales and signings, and article placement in our magazines.

ER: What about speakers that are presenting break out and concurrent sessions?

MD: The same pattern follows, from 2006-2008, we’d generally pay $5,000 to $15,000 for those sessions. For the 2009-2010, are budgets are half. All of the SmithBucklin account executives have been instructed to ask speakers to work within our budgets. Some speakers agree and some do not.

ER: Tell me about the type of professional speakers you are currently hiring.

MD: As I stated earlier, unless a motivational speaker has very specific content or positioned him or herself in an industry, they are not getting hired. Also less of the entertainment type speakers are being considered because the volunteer leadership and attendees are thinking about survival in this economy. Meeting attendees want specific answers to their problems and challenges. In 2009 & 2010, it is content, content, content!

ER: How can a professional speaker start to build a speaker relationship with SmithBucklin?

MD: There are four avenues to building relationships with us: first, connect with our “CTS” Convention Tradeshow Services who in some cases are responsible for speaker coordination. Second, is our “EPS” Education Program Services staff who handles a large volume of our speaker contracts.  And third is to connect directly with the account executive, the executive director, of our smaller client associations. The fourth is to visit us. While knocking on doors might be time consuming, the benefits are amazing. We receive so much direct mail and cold calling, you need to differentiate yourself from the masses.

ER: Moe, what are your thoughts about working with speakers directly verses through bureaus?

MD: I’m not booking many speakers through bureaus these days. I’d prefer to work directly with a speaker, eliminating that third party filter. The third party filter tends to slow things down a bit and we want our speakers to have direct contact with the leadership so that they understand who they are delivering their message to.

ER: How important is a professional speaker’s web site today?

MD: I’ll generally take a look at their site, and perhaps the video clips, testimonials, etc but their web site is only part of the criteria for selection and definitely not the final determination.

ER: When you have narrowed your speaker selection down to the final two or three, what’s the determining factor?

MD: In the past there was more of an even weighing of content and price. However, today the weight leans more toward price. The speaker that offers more value added gets pushed up in consideration.

ER: Since value added is important, are you asking speakers to do more at your events?

MD: Yes we are. With an across the board 50% budget cut, if a speaker can fill more slots in the program (keynote and breakout) that is very helpful. That reduces our total travel, AV, and lodging costs as well.

ER: What makes a professional desirable to you?

MD: Here’s my partial List:

  • Rich content
  • Easy to work with
  • Accountability in getting materials to us on time
  • Learning about the industry
  • Stays a while after the talk rather than running for the door
  • Minimal travel cost
  • Minimal AV requests
  • Multi-day presentations at my meetings; having the ability to do more than an hour and the skills to be interactive enough to hold an audiences attention for several hours

ER: Moe, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with the members of the National Speakers Association.

Anthony Trombetta

A conversation with Anthony Trombetta

Anthony TrombettaA conversation about hiring professional speakers with Anthony Trombetta, Director of Sales, ISSA, The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association.

Interviewed by Ed Rigsbee, CSP, CAE.

 

ER: For how long have you been hiring professional speakers for the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA)?

AT: About 9 years ago I took over as ISSA’s Director of Education and that is when I started. Two years ago I was promoted to Director of Sales and the education department remained under my umbrella. Currently, my Director of Education and I work together on speaker selection.

ER: I understand that ISSA hires only one keynoter for your annual educational meeting?

AT: Yes, we generally want a household name for our keynoter. We select celebrities and political figures. We want our attendees to have a memorable experience. We also hope that by having a highly recognizable keynoter, they will help draw attendance to our meeting. Recent keynoters have included Jim Collins and Rudy Giuliani.

ER: May I ask the fee range for your keynoters?

AT: Sure, the fees for our keynoter start around $50,000 and climb to $100,000.

ER: For you’re your general sessions, how many do you offer and please share with me the fee range?

AT: Every year we put on about 20 to 25 general session programs, using 15 to 20 speakers. The fees for professional speakers range from $2,500 to $7,000. For a non-professional speaker we offer a stipend of about $500. Most speakers only present one session but about 20% present twice at our meeting.

ER: How do you go about selecting your general session speakers?

AT: I belong to a number of industry groups including NAW & AEA. At these meetings the topic of speakers is always on the agenda. I get recommendations from other association Executive Directors, I am fortunate to see a number of speakers present live, and we work with speaker bureaus. When none of these avenues yield the right speaker for a topic, we go to the Internet and search.

ER: How do you like working with bureaus?

AT: When they provide really good service, I enjoy working with bureaus. We ask a little bit more of our speakers than do many other organizations. We request three articles and a video session of about half an hour outside the meeting room. The bureau folks that help us facilitate that really do offer good service.

ER: Tell me about your own professional speaker searches.

AT: We will use the typical search engines, visit bureau sites and the like. When we visit a speaker’s web site; first we want video immediately available, second we are looking for content such as program titles and descriptions, and third we look for recommendations from past clients. I’ll overlook a less pretty and easily navigation able web site if I see in the speaker’s video that they are good and engage their audience.

ER: What kinds of general session presentations wow your attendees?

AT: Since ISSA moved from being only a distributor, to an industry organization, our meeting stakeholders are much more diverse. Attending are distributors, manufacturers, contractors, agents/reps, and end users. Therefore, we offer a mix of motivational, inspirational, interactive, and high-content general sessions.

ER: If a professional speaker or one of their staff wanted to initiate building a relationship with ISSA, how would they start?

AT: The first step would be to email a short note with a link to their video. I look at the video, and if I believe there might be a fit, I’ll bookmark archive the link and go back to it in December when we start our speaker selection process.

ER: Anthony, what is it that professional speakers do that simply drive you crazy?

AT: At the pre-hire stage, sometimes speakers will spend 30-40 minutes going over the content of their program. In my mind they are already hired and I just need the two-minute overview. Then at the meeting; I’d like things to go seamlessly. When speakers do not respect our process and system and want things like their room to be moved closer to the expo, want extra chairs brought in when the room is already over-capacity, or handouts distributed a certain way, it makes my life and the lives of my staff difficult.

ER: Why do you use professional speakers?

AT: For the quality of their programs; you get what you pay for.

ER: What topics do you see emerging where there is a need for more speakers?

AT: We are in an environmental age and there are very few recognizable names beyond Al Gore specializing in this area; sustainability and green topics will be more in demand in the future.

ER: What changes have you notice in the profession of speaking over the last decade?

AT: More professional speakers are willing to truly customize their programs for my meeting. Jim Pancero is an excellent example. I can have a two-minute talk with Jim about what kind of a program I need and he gets it. I have no worries; he will show up with just what I want.

ER: Does the Certified Speaking Professional accreditation have any meaning for you?

AT: Yes it does, especially when searching and finding a speaker that I do not know. If their video proves that they are good and they have the CSP logo on their Website, it puts them higher in my level of consideration.

ER: Anthony, thanks so much for your time and insight