Dispatches from Great Ideas: Tips to Try Today

So you couldn’t make it to Colorado Springs for the 2013 ASAE Great Ideas Conference? No worries. Here a few highlights from Monday’s Idea Labs, with key takeaways you can put on your to-do list right now.

Presenters at this year’s Great Ideas Conference, which wraps up today, had lots of practical wisdom to share. Here’s a sampling of what attendees learned about young-member engagement, content marketing, and a new way to do strategic planning:

Get your Gen Y members engaged. When you’re launching a big initiative, your best chance at success is to involve the diverse groups that make up your membership, including your younger members, said Lenora Billings-Harris, CSP, president of Ubuntu Global, and Chris Clarke-Epstein, CSP, principal of Change 101. In a wide-ranging session on being inclusive in managing change, they offered a few tips for switching up your face-to-face meetings to appeal to Gen Y.

We know that members of Generation Y actually learn better with multiple activities going on at once.

Billings-Harris recalled a lesson from her time as an association volunteer leader, when the group decided a Twitter feed at a live meeting would be distracting. “That’s thinking from 20 years ago,” she said. “We know that members of Generation Y actually learn better with multiple activities going on at once.” Younger members responded to that meeting with a yawn, and the association didn’t make the same mistake twice. When a Twitter feed was added at the next meeting, “that deepened the learning,” Billings-Harris said. “We could tell by the comments they were making and the questions they were asking.”  Is your 1990s thinking turning your young members off?

Break through the content gridlock. For association content creators, information overload is one of those irritating, deal-with-it facts of life, like bad commutes or long lines at airport security. But you can cut through the gridlock with content that takes the fast lane to the part of the brain that pays attention. Bryan Kelly, marketing director at Aptify, offered four characteristics of content that gets noticed: it’s not generic (don’t say what everyone else is saying), it gives the reader more than competing content does, it entertains and engages, and it has personality and punch. Attendees talked about challenges like making the mundane interesting, getting writers to loosen up and let their personality into their writing, and finding the balance between too much email communication and too little. We bet those sound familiar. What are your solutions?

SOAR, don’t SWOT. That was the catchy title of a session by Leadership Outfitters cofounders Jill McCrory and Steve Swafford on the strategic planning method that focuses on strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results—avoiding the weaknesses and threats of the traditional SWOT analysis. SWOT “revolves around [the idea that] something’s wrong that we have to fix,” said McCrory. It leads to a “downward spiral of negativity” that demoralizes everyone involved.

But SOAR, said Swafford, “is a shift to looking forward, not looking on the failures of the past but looking forward to what we can be rather than just dwelling on our weaknesses.”

The pair shared lots of theory and research behind the SOAR-SWOT comparison, but the real-world experience of groups that have used SOAR is that “physically and emotionally, it’s a whole different ballgame,” McCrory said.

What were the takeaways? A list of SOAR-inspired questions to pose to your board, volunteers, and staff: What does your association do well? What are the opportunities presented by external developments or trends that may not be within your control? What does your association aspire to become or do? What measurable results do you seek to achieve?

Whether or not you made it to Colorado, you can keep the conversation going in the comments below.

(Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Thinkstock)

Julie Shoop

By Julie Shoop

Julie Shoop is the Editor-in-Chief of Associations Now. MORE

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