Sector and AuSAE News

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  • 24 Sep 2021 5:18 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Thinking like a chief executive and other C-suite staff isn’t only for CEO and CAE aspirants. Applying an expansive view to the work you do now is a great way to add value and realize professional fulfillment.

     The helicopter view, cultural cultivation, and digital-inclusive decision making are three key threads among the many woven through the newest edition of ASAE Professional Practices in Association Management, a handbook for the field and critical CAE candidate reading. The book’s narrative assumes an executive lens, which isn’t a bad way to think about the work you do now and could be critically important to the roles you want in the future.

    As in other fields, the association management body of knowledge is codified through a regularly recurring job task analysis, which underpins the CAE content outline, updated literature, learning programs, and other resources. Professional Practices in Association Management is a key installment in the field’s literature. ASAE published the fourth edition in February 2021.

    Edited by Susan S. Radwan, CAE, Professional Practices covers topics ranging from boards and governance to digital communication strategy to membership and engagement. All the while, the 65 contributing authors reinforce executive responsibilities as mission stewards, risk managers, idea brokers, and myriad other roles. Here are three executive-mindset messages from the book, among many.

    Take the Helicopter View

    A systems-thinking perspective is necessary both for successfully navigating the CAE exam and for executive management. As Radwan writes early in the book, “systems thinking can be likened to holding a ‘helicopter view’ of a situation or decision”—that is, high enough to comprehend what is at ground level, understand interrelationships, and see the destination, but not so high as to lose touch with reality. Chief staff executives ask questions such as these:

    • How does this moment affect our strategic positioning, our branding, our alignment with mission, and our alignment with the strategic plan?
    • How does our response to this moment align with the desired culture of the organization?
    • What unintended consequences will occur in reaction to this decision?

    Likewise, taking a helicopter view encompasses foresight, or the discipline of learning about and preparing for alternative futures and their implications. Writes Jeff De Cagna, FRSA, FASAE, “By building future literacy through the duty of foresight (and the intentional learning it requires), [chief staff executives] can minimize the fear of the future that might otherwise leave their boards in paralysis.”

    The 'helicopter view' is high enough to comprehend what is at ground level, understand interrelationships, and see the destination, but not so high as to lose touch with reality.

    Cultivate Healthy Culture

    Winning culture starts at the top, because good governance is crucial to organizational health and performance, as documented in ASAE Research Foundation studies. As Beth Gazley, Ph.D., a principal researcher on those studies, writes, “Good board structure supports good board culture, but only with a healthy culture does the right structure emerge.”

    Similarly, a clearly envisioned and embraced culture is vital at every level. Authors encourage zeroing in on the cultural elements that drive desired performance. As Trevor Mitchell, MBA, CDP, CAE, writes, “Culture and performance need one another to be successful. You could have the best vision and strategy for the organization, along with clearly articulated milestones and measurements. Yet if you don’t have the culture to support this direction and demand the desired performance, you will most likely stall out. At best, you will have incremental success.”

    As other authors emphasize, organizational culture must be strategically aligned and pivot-ready, and the talent you hire also must be culturally aligned. Further, in 2021, organizations cannot be their best if they do not embrace and engage diverse perspectives and inclusivity—not merely as tasks but as part of their very fabric.

    Make Digital-Inclusive Decisions

    “Digital first” is hardly a foreign concept today, but it bears emphasis, because technology, digital approaches, and business strategy and decisions are inseparable. Writes Prabhash Shrestha, MS, PMP, CAE, “The association’s long-term sustainable value to customers, members, and nonmembers alike will be created only by unifying business, operation, and technology strategies to cocreate exponential value. As such, technology must be part of every association’s business strategy.”

    Originally posted here

  • 24 Sep 2021 5:12 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    All associations want exhibitors to have a good experience and generate leads at their virtual events. So what can organizers do to help? After reviewing 461 virtual conferences, virtual and hybrid events platform Swapcard offered 10 data-backed recommendations in “The Business of Virtual Events: How to Close Business Deals at a Virtual Event, According to Data.” Here’s a look at five of them.

    Encourage interactions before the event. Swapcard data reveals that in the days leading up to a virtual tradeshow, up to 28 percent of the time attendees spend exploring the platform is devoted to browsing exhibitors. That means exhibitors can capitalize on attendee interest before the show opens. Because of this, organizers should open the platform ahead of time and implement an effective communication strategy that urges exhibitors and attendees to use the platform in advance of an event.

    Extend the event lifecycle. Inbound messages and requests from attendees to exhibitors peak after a tradeshow, meaning crucial business opportunities fall into their laps once the event is over. Organizers should consider creating year-round communities where networking opportunities remain available outside the confines of the live event.

    Offer sponsored session opportunities to exhibitors. During a one-day virtual conference, more than 40 percent of exhibitor leads came from attendees who watched a sponsored session; for a two-day conference, it was 50 percent, according to the report. Associations should review their sponsorship packages and offer exhibitors the option to sponsor sessions. “Speaking at a sponsored session will position exhibitors as experts on a particular topic, making them more credible to attendees,” the report states.

    Emphasize the power of virtual booths. The research shows that, of all business closed during virtual tradeshows, 30 to 45 percent happens at the virtual booth. Exhibitors should make their virtual booths immersive and interactive, while organizers should provide tips on creating virtual booths that are appealing and customized.

    Promote subtle networking. Although there are many different sales styles, exhibitor messages in virtual platforms that are too pushy or “sales-y” don’t work. For example, according to the report, 64.8 percent of meeting requests that were accompanied by generic sales messages were not accepted. Organizers should stress to exhibitors the importance of subtle outreach and make them aware of the features on the event platform that will help them connect with attendees in this way.

    Originally posted here

  • 24 Sep 2021 5:06 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Sparking better member engagement is all about talking like real people do in everyday life. Conversations are not one-sided—they are a give and take—a concept that is often absent in member communications. Here’s how to do better.

    Communicating with members like we do with people in the real world sounds easy. But something gets lost in translation when we write emails, even when we try to make them more personal by using a person’s first name in the salutation.

    You can personalize emails in any system, but “it’s not personal, it’s a mail merge,” says Dave Will, cofounder and CEO of PropFuel, a conversational engagement platform. “The way you make something personal is by creating a way for somebody to interact with you.”

    HOW DOES IT WORK?

    When you ask a question, listen to what the person says, and then take action. You won’t know what kind of action to take unless you hear what they have to say. “That’s how humans interact,” he says. “But we don’t treat our members like that.” The idea is to spark a conversation.

    The way to engage members is to start with a question—not a rhetorical question—but something like: “Your membership expired 30 days ago. Are you planning to renew?” If the answer is no, find out why not. If the answer is yes, then find out why they haven’t renewed yet and give them the link to renew.

    WHY IS IT EFFECTIVE?

    “You’re talking to members with a human approach to conversation and engagement, you’re not using a digital approach,” Will says. It’s replicating the way people talk to each other rather than having a more transactional correspondence. “If you make it more like what you would say to someone in everyday conversation, then you’re more likely to get a response,” he says. “Stop thinking like a broadcast system and start thinking like a human.”

    WHAT’S THE BENEFIT?

    Members are getting an individualized experience with the association. If you ask them a dozen questions over the course of a year, every member will take their own journey through their member experience based on how they answered questions about what’s important to them. Some might be focused on getting professional certification, while others might want to get a better job.

    Associations will double the level of engagement because members will engage more. “They’re going to sign up for more things, renew faster, and take more action because they’re actually engaged in a conversation as opposed to deleting an email,” Will says.

    Article originally posted here

  • 22 Sep 2021 10:42 AM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    The event industry has changed rapidly over the last 18 months as a result of Covid-19. Disruption has impacted event organisers, venues, and suppliers alike.

    We are seeking to better understand the event landscape over the next two years; what is on the horizon, and what do those organising events, big or small, need or want that might be different to that past?

    Participate in our survey for a chance to win one of five $200 pre-paid VISA cards.

    CLICK HERE to participate

    We would greatly appreciate your involvement in this important research project which will help shape the future of MCEC, providing the best possible experience to organisers and attendees.

    Research is being run on our behalf by TKP, an independent research agency. For more information, please contact Samantha Bell from TKP at samantha@tkp.com.au, or Florence Aimonetti from MCEC at faimonetti@mcec.com.au

    Answers will be confidential. You can find TKP’s Privacy Policy here.

    We thank you and look forward to your participation!



  • 17 Sep 2021 5:25 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Many associations spent 2020 giving their webinars away for a free. However, a new report suggests organisations should offer a mix of both paid and free webinars to help boost nondues revenue.

    With many associations looking for additional ways to generate revenue as they try to recover from the economic turmoil of COVID-19, some are turning their attention to monetizing webinars. Tagoras, an educational consultancy that produces the Leading Learning podcast, recently surveyed associations and nonprofits about how they price webinars and the revenue they generate. The research sheds some light on what practices are working and where organizations might want to concentrate moving forward.

    “A lot of organizations worry that you can’t charge for webinars at this point,” said Jeff Cobb, Tagoras managing director and cohost of the Leading Learning Podcast. “But it’s clear that organizations are able to charge at a pretty reasonable rate, and that they can both charge for webinars and get sponsorship for webinars.”

    The survey data showed many organizations have hosted free webinars, while others charge regularly for them. The good news is that an association’s webinar pricing strategy doesn’t have to be either free or paid. They can do a mix.

    “You’re able to do the combination of charging fees for some webinars, getting sponsorship for other webinars, and having a strong portfolio of some free, more content-marketing webinars,” he said. “The key there is managing those strategically, as differently positioned offerings. You don’t want there to be confusion between your free webinars and your paid webinars.”

    So, how does an organization clearly distinguish between something members need to pay for versus something they should expect for free? Cobb says it comes down to two areas: content and branding.

    “If it’s primarily informational, it may also be primarily a form of content marketing, or a touchpoint with your audience that you get a lot more mileage out of not charging for it,” Cobb said. “You’re putting it out there as a free resource from your organization.”

    However, Cobb said when the content is something “more unique to your organization or to the subject matter experts that you have access to” or something “that really is going to give people very applicable knowledge or help them learn a new skill, that is when you start thinking, ‘Yes, we need to be charging for this.’”

    In terms of branding, anything an organization is charging for shouldn’t be called a webinar.

    “Webinar itself, at this point, is a highly generic term, and in people’s minds, they expect something called a webinar to be free,” he said. “Take those things that you might have called webinars—things that offer a higher value and you really have a strong case for charging for them—and consider calling them something else, even something as simple as an online workshop or training.”

    PRICING AND GROUP SALES

    According to the study, webinar pricing varied based on length and type of organization offering it. When Tagoras averaged it out, a one-hour webinar fell in the $40-$75 price range for participants. On the sponsorship side, pricing ranged from $2,400 to $11,000. However, Cobb said associations shouldn’t use this data as starting point for their pricing.

    “You have to consider: How does the webinar compare to other education content or events that you’re offering?” Cobb said. “Where do webinars fit into your overall portfolio? And you have to make sure that what you are charging for that webinar aligns with what you’re charging in other places for other ways that you’re delivering value to your members.”

    In terms of sponsor benefits, most were allowed to include their logo and linked text, were given an opportunity to present, and provided with a list of registrants. Cobb added that with registration lists, organizations should consider how to manage the process so they feel comfortable and participants do as well.

    One area that was surprising in the research was the practice of group registration—where businesses registered several employees for webinars. “If you don’t have a group registration strategy, I would definitely look at that,” Cobb said.

    Organizations who are doing group registration often provide conversation guides for the participants to use after the webinar. “It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can just be: Here are three points to discuss after the webinar together,” Cobb said. “It helps people remember what happened in the webinar a lot better. It helps people get more value out of it, and it helps them bond with each other and bond more as an organization.”


  • 17 Sep 2021 5:20 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    The pandemic’s impact on businesses has led to higher competition for sponsorship money. Being able to offer sponsors content placement and provide performance data can help associations win coveted sponsorship dollars, experts say.

    The pandemic’s lingering economic effects continue to have associations looking for nondues revenue in every spot possible. One area that organizations look to is sponsorship. While event sponsorship was always big, the pandemic has left that more nebulous. In order to stand out in today’s environment, two experts suggest looking at ways to provide sponsors a platform for their content and then showing them how much members engage with that content to stand out.

    Bruce Rosenthal, a corporate partnership strategic advisor, said competition for sponsor dollars is fierce in today’s environment.

    “When we look at any trade or profession, there are numerous associations in that space, so companies have numerous choices—both national and the state affiliates,” Rosenthal said. “There are so many associations competing for the same sponsorship dollars.”

    Rosenthal noted that sponsors also are using social media and their own webinars to reach potential customers, meaning associations are competing with internal marketing for dollars as well. Rosenthal and Jeff Schottland, CEO of digital content solutions firm Lead Marvels, contend that associations can stand out as good sponsorship candidates by highlighting sponsor-written content and thought leadership.

    “One way the association can rise above is to think more about how to offer digital content marketing and thought leadership strategies that corporate sponsors and advertisers are demanding,” Schottland said. “[Sponsors and advertisers] want to be the thought leader, and they want to receive leads. It would benefit associations to think: How can we develop these solutions to remain competitive?”

    KNOWLEDGE HUB CAN SHARE CONTENT

    Rosenthal and Schottland point to the launch of the American Public Transportation Association’s Knowledge Hub, as an example of a way a site can feature sponsored content on a variety of topics.

    When it comes to allowing sponsors to include content, associations sometimes worry the content won’t be appropriate for their members or will be useless sales pitches. While that is a valid concern, Schottland and Rosenthal note that there should be multiple layers and filters to make sure content is vetted. When that’s the case, sponsored content can provide valuable insight for members that they wouldn’t otherwise get.

    “There is so much going on now with COVID, with globalization, with diversity and equity issues, it is difficult for associations to provide all the content,” Rosenthal said. “A lot of what we’re talking about is not just to meet the needs of sponsor companies, but to meet the needs of members. [Associations] need more information on more topics, and [they] often don’t have the bandwidth, the staff, or the money to produce all that content.”

    Schottland notes that including a content hub on an association’s website not only has an advantage for the sponsor but also for the organization. “[Members] are not going to another website to find that information they need,” he said. “They are turning to the association as the one-stop shop.”

    If an organization isn’t keen on content from sponsors, Schottland said corporate partners can also sponsor research or other thought leadership produced by association staff.

    “Do it in a collaborative approach,” he said. “Here is the association white paper, e-book, report, or survey results in partnership or sponsored by ABC vendor. They can position themselves, the association, as the thought leader but also generate some sponsorship dollars.”

    DATA MATTERS

    In addition to allowing partners to sponsor content, it is key to provide metrics about how that content is performing. Schottland said metrics to include are time spent on site, page views, leads, and conversion rate. The conversion rate is how many people who visit the page where the content is download the content. So, if a 100 people visit the page and 50 download the content, that’s a 50 percent conversion rate.

    Data helps the sponsor know if their content is connecting well with members or if they need to do something different. The overall picture of content performance is useful to the association. “They are seeing what content is resonating, what the topic of that content is, and can use that market intelligence to shape their next event or next product,” Schottland said.

    Rosenthal noted these metrics are what companies typically get when they sponsor for-profit endeavors, and associations can compete better if they offer that same info. “If the association provided all the metrics as well as for-profits, I think these companies would go to the association,” Rosenthal said. “They really value the affinity with the association.”


  • 16 Sep 2021 3:25 PM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Let's imagine it is December 31, 2029. What did your association do throughout the rest of this decade to shape a different and better future for stakeholders and successors?


    Last month, I posted the backcasting prompt pictured above to LinkedIn following my late June session at the Virginia Society of Association Executives Annual Conference in Virginia Beach. My sincere thanks to everyone who liked the original post. What I noticed, however, is that no one accepted my invitation to offer a response to the prompt.


    To assist association boards and staff with sparking new conversations through this thought experiment, I have created four example responses to this prompt based on the four major forces of turbulence I see shaping this decade. After the four responses, I share some questions you can use to frame a conversation inside your association.

    Four example prompt responses to spark new thinking

    Addressing AI/automation

    "In the early years of the 2020s, our association's concerns about the detrimental impact of AI and automation technologies on our profession led us to refocus our education. Instead of concentrating entirely on developing our learners' technical skills, i.e., what they need to know to work in our field, we created new professional credentials that helped build their digital and human skills as well. By the end of the decade, research showed that our credential holders were in demand, especially among employers who initially implemented AI and automation technologies to handle routine tasks and activities. Those companies now needed human workers who could effectively collaborate with machine intelligence and other human workers to facilitate the work of innovation."

    Addressing the climate crisis

    "To be completely honest, we struggled with shifting our association's thinking and action toward the future. Our board initially resisted even having the conversation, but once they did, it didn't take long for them to see the COVID-19 pandemic as a fast-moving version of the global climate crisis. Working with that shared understanding, our board refocused its stewardship on a foundational question: how can the association work to reduce our field's carbon impact by 50% or more within ten years? We reached out to other organizations in our space, and everyone agreed to put everything on the table. The group identified specific outcomes we would strive to achieve together, and while we are not yet where we want to be, but we are making consistent positive progress."

    Addressing human inequality

    "The COVID-19 pandemic revealed (and exacerbated) a depth of human inequality in the United States that was intolerable to our association, our people, and our industry. We knew we couldn't simply 'return to normal' because what we thought of as normal was grounded in the discrimination, exclusion, and exploitation of millions of people over decades and centuries. Our board took a strong stance by committing the association to a newly-created ethical purpose of prioritizing the wellbeing of people over profits. As a result, the association shifted its advocacy work away from protecting the industry's traditional interests and toward creating a more equitable economy and inclusive society for all Americans. It was a huge and difficult shift, and it was the right thing to do."

    Addressing ideological extremism

    "The Capitol insurrection on 1/6/21 was horrifying, but it wasn't until we heard the same voices of ideological extremism during a board meeting the following week that we understood the threat was inside our association. It was a painful realization, and yet one we could not ignore. Ideological extremism was an existential threat to our association's commitments to expertise, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and attracting young people to work in our field. It was clear that simply "agreeing to disagree" and being civil would not be enough. We implemented an entirely new process for identifying, recruiting, and seating board members, developed a fact-based, data-infused, and learning-oriented approach to board decision-making, and said goodbye to those who would not adapt."


    Having a conversation on these prompt responses

    To be clear, I do not offer these responses because they are the only ideas worth pursuing or because they are somehow "correct." Their sole purpose is to challenge association orthodoxies and convey a sense of both possibility and urgency for new thinking and action.

    With that intention in mind, here are some questions you can use with your association's board to frame a conversation around the backcasting prompt and the example responses I have provided:

    1. What is your reaction to the prompt and the four responses? Which response most challenges you? Which response most inspires you? What questions does each response raise for you?
    2. What is the highest ambition we can pursue as an association before the end of this decade? How do the example responses challenge us to be bolder in our thinking?
    3. If the stakeholders and successors who will be most affected by our decisions were listening to our conversation, how well would it honor their highest expectations of us? What sacrifices are we prepared to make to meet their expectations and fulfill our responsibility to them?

    MY CHALLENGE TO YOU: We need to accelerate our decision-making, so I challenge you to complete your association's thought experiment process around the backcasting prompt, i.e., from first conversation to crafting your response, in 60 days or less.

    Jeff De Cagna

    Executive Advisor, Foresight First LLC

    Looking back from the last day of the decade: a thought experiment for association decision-makers - Jeff De Cagna (authory.com)


  • 16 Sep 2021 3:18 PM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Tactics for wooing sponsors for virtual and hybrid events can be very different than the techniques used for in-person meetings. Here are six steps to take to better explain the benefits of virtual and hybrid to potential sponsors.

    Creating an exhibitor and sponsorship prospectus for your virtual or hybrid meeting doesn’t have to be complicated. As a seasoned professional, you possess the tools necessary to produce a prospectus that allows your association to achieve its goals while delivering ROI to exhibitors and sponsors.

    Over the past 16 months, my staff successfully sold and managed exhibits and sponsorships for 20 virtual association expos. Each began with a thoughtfully crafted prospectus that precisely highlighted the benefits of participation to exhibitors and sponsors while reflecting the association’s culture and mission.

    As our industry transitions back to in-person meetings, including virtual elements in your prospectus will widen the size and scope of revenue opportunities. While creating the prospectus may seem daunting, this six-step plan will guide you through the process.

    Step 1: Create a New Financial Model

    Traditionally, a significant amount of the revenue from in-person events results from the sale of exhibits, with a minority from the sale of sponsorships. These budgetary assumptions are entirely different for virtual events, where sponsorships produce the majority of the revenue. You must change accordingly and plan for many more sponsorship opportunities.

    Be realistic about the exposure and revenue virtual exhibits generate. Promote the virtual booth as an online resource center rather than a significant lead-generation opportunity.

    As the industry turns to a hybrid format, you have the opportunity to use virtual opportunities to your advantage, supplementing your in-person offerings. If your exhibitors have a strong in-person presence, you might be inclined to offer them complimentary virtual booths. Conversely, if sponsored content holds the most attraction for participating companies, make it available virtually to increase their ROI.

    Step 2: Compile Marketing Language for ROI

    Clearly communicate the components of the virtual/hybrid opportunities in your prospectus. In addition, spell out any benefits of the format. These could include:

    • Increased attendance, especially international attendees
    • Useful analytics from detailed session and booth tracking
    • Ability to engage potential customers during COVID restrictions
    • Enduring exposure by making the virtual platform available for months, not days

    Be specific in explaining what your virtual or hybrid meeting looks like. Explain the schedule: live versus recorded content, engagement opportunities, and how long content will be available post-event.

    Step 3: Match Virtual Sponsorships with Typical In-Person Sponsorships

    Sponsoring companies return year after year because they value the opportunity to communicate with your attendees. However, remember that sponsors aren’t technical experts. Make them comfortable by identifying virtual sponsorships that are similar to those available at your in-person event. Make a list of each in-person sponsorship at your past events and write a closely matching virtual sponsorship next to each item. To complete this step, you must thoroughly understand your virtual platform’s capabilities and know how to use its features to your advantage.

    Step 4: Classify and Match Sponsorship Categories

    Companies recognize event ROI in four main categories of sponsorships: brand awareness, product or service promotion, access, and thought leadership.

    Categorize each in-person sponsorship into one of these categories and offer similar virtual sponsorships for each category. For instance, program guide advertisements at your in-person event belong in the product or service promotion category. The corresponding virtual sponsorship might be for advertisements on your virtual platform. Sponsorship of an invitation-only president’s reception may be a combination of brand awareness and access at your in-person meeting. Perhaps create a virtual reception the night before your event and invite your board of directors, CEO, and valued members, as well as the sponsor. The sponsor stills get exclusive access to this selective group. Also consider adding their logo to the invitation and virtual platform.

    Step 5: Create Unique Options in All Categories

    Brainstorm new ideas to fill gaps you see in each category. Rely on your association’s familiarity with attendees and participating companies to create unique sponsorships that companies will be excited to purchase, and attendees will appreciate. Examples include:

    • Brand awareness. General session speaker introductions, poster gallery, or sponsored ribbons.
    • Thought leadership. Sponsored content in different timeslots during your event, such as symposia, theatre, lightning rounds, and so forth.
    • Access. First-time virtual attendee orientation or collaborative rooms.
    • Product or service promotion. Commercials, virtual platform ads, or a “Know Before You Go” email banner.

    Step 6: Create the Structure of the Virtual Exhibit Booths

    Be realistic about the exposure and revenue virtual exhibits generate. Promote the virtual booth as an online resource center rather than a significant lead-generation opportunity. Exhibitors will appreciate the chance to share their promotional materials with attendees. Consider these tips:

    • Offer two price points—standard and premium—to allow companies who are hesitant to pay for virtual exhibit space a chance to say yes.
    • Connect the virtual booths with any sponsored educational session descriptions. Attendees can easily click from the session to the virtual booth for additional information.
    • Don’t offer additional graphics or content at a la carte prices. While tempting, this becomes unnecessarily complicated. Keep it simple, and your staff and exhibitors will thank you.\
    • Schedule time for visiting booths. Allow 30 minutes each day for exhibit hall hours. Offer incentives such as gamification to entice attendees to visit virtual booths.

    In a hybrid model, virtual booths become an online buyer’s guide. Exhibitors can have information posted online in addition to their in-person booth for maximum exposure to attendees.

    Originally posted here


  • 16 Sep 2021 3:09 PM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Some people have been eagerly anticipating the return to the office. Except the office doesn't feel the same as it did before.

    Like most people, Scottie Lantgen thought he’d be away from the office for just a couple of weeks when the pandemic began in early 2020.

    A year on, the 36-year-old, a senior copywriter at an advertising agency in Kansas City, Missouri, US, was finding home working tough. “Every day was the same,” he says. “I’d wake up, work five feet from where I slept, and work out at home. I just wouldn’t leave my house. It was so draining, and the ability to have a difference between a work life and a home life was something I desperately wanted again.”

    So, in June, when his firm announced fully vaccinated employees could return to the office, Lantgen “jumped on it”. But after the initial excitement, he says, being back became underwhelming. “There were a lot of people who were really excited to come in, everyone was hugging and talking. But things petered off pretty quickly. Within two to three weeks we definitely learned who actually wanted to be in the office – and a lot of people really didn’t.”

    Of course, going back to the office has its perks. Chief among them is the ability to interact, in person, with colleagues and managers whom we haven’t seen face-to-face for more than a year and a half. Being back in a physical work environment could make some people more productive, and allow for creative conversations and more efficient communication. For these reasons, among others, plenty of workers are actually excited to go back.

    Yet, like it or not, the office won’t feel quite the same as when we left it. The ongoing pandemic means many workers may be uncomfortable being physically close to others, or even reluctant to return. The water-cooler conversations we’ve been missing still aren’t happening, because there are fewer people in the office, and because a shared water cooler suddenly seems unsanitary. Meetings may feel forced or uncomfortable, colleagues may avoid communal spaces and activities, and even beloved lunch spots may not have survived the pandemic.

    In short, it’s possible the office you’re returning to isn’t the place you remember. And for those who have been waiting eagerly to go back – and experience the elements that made work more enjoyable for them – adjusting to this ‘new’ office could be a stressful process.

    Once-familiar environments feel foreign

    After so long away, the office is now an unfamiliar environment. First, says Juliet Hassard, an associate professor of occupational health psychology at the UK’s University of Nottingham, there are likely to be far fewer people there, as plenty may not be ready to come back. 

    “A lot of them want to encourage people to come back, but people are going to have very varied feelings and experiences about that, ranging from ‘Oh, I’m so desperate to get back and see people and go for coffee’, to the other end where you have people who are actually really scared about it,” she says. “Workers will fall on a spectrum from ‘can’t wait’ to deeply anxious.”

    That means that those who are eager to return are likely to find themselves disappointed when the things they miss most – quick chats with colleagues, big brainstorming sessions, team solidarity and socialising – are still not happening. 

    This has been Langten’s experience; key elements of the workplace experience that he enjoyed have disappeared. “The client meetings in the office, the leftover BBQ – the beautiful thing about working at an ad agency is there’s beer fridges and stuff. On Friday afternoons it’d always be, ‘let’s have a few beers, maybe go out’. Now there’s only a handful of people there, and it’s just not the same.”

    On Friday afternoons it’d always be, ‘let’s have a few beers, maybe go out’. Now there’s only a handful of people there, and it’s just not the same – Scottie Langten

    That change may be more difficult for certain personality types – the same people, namely extroverts, who draw their energy from the buzz of being around other people. Research shows extroverts are less affected by dopamine, so they need more stimulation to feel 'on' or be productive. The major benefits those people, like Lantgen, get from being in the office are a big part of what’s driving them back, even if there’s not as much stimulation as there once was. 

    Social connections – and the boost some workers derive from them – are not the only reasons people might be anticipating returning to the office, however. Some people may be looking forward to the comparative quiet of their desk; parents seeking a kind of peace they haven’t been able to get at home, for example. Young workers, meanwhile, may be missing valuable learning time with mentors and older colleagues.

    Unfortunately, some of these people won’t find what they’re looking for either. It could be hard for young workers to access those learning experiences if more senior workers chose to work from home. And people who are in the office to work quietly could find that peaceful spots are few and far between, if companies decide to pivot their space to include different meeting spaces more suited to facilitating social interactions in the hybrid era.

    Anne-Laure Fayarda professor of Innovation, Design and Organizational Studies at New York University, returned to her office and classroom on the NYU campus in September 2020, because she wanted to be there. But she admits that it feels different now. “It’s the same old office, but it’s not the same at all, and it’s hard for people to imagine,” she says.

    Managing expectations and waiting to adapt 

    It’s perfectly normal to feel a bit unmoored if you’re returning to an office that feels like it’s changed for the worse. “For most people, the constant uncertainty and adaptation [of the pandemic] has been exhausting, and we’re not out of that yet,” says Hassard. 

    Fayard says the biggest thing workers can do is temper their expectations. Even if it’s physically the same place, almost every office has undergone a major shift. Expecting it to be exactly the same as it was pre-pandemic, she says, is a recipe for disappointment.

    “It’s more stressful if you’re always comparing and spending time trying to replicate, instead of thinking, ‘OK, it’s going to be something different’,” she says. I think that will help people with managing stress and expectations. It’s really a deeper thing about embracing ambiguity, and I think that’s what’s hardest for everyone.”

    Being able to talk about what’s changed and how workers feel about those changes is important, she adds, and bosses should be facilitating those conversations with their employees. “I think we start talking,” she says, “because that’s a big piece of people being able to maybe become more comfortable. That conversation might be more open, or it might be more anonymous, depending on the culture of the organisation, but I think it cannot be ignored.”

    It’s the same old office, but it’s not the same at all, and it’s hard for people to imagine – Anne-Laure Fayard

    Lantgen says he began to feel less disappointed once he reflected a little on the new reality.   

    “There are these expectations you build up for yourself like, ‘It’s going to be everything I want it to be, everything I missed and it’s going to make everything better’,” he says. “But we’re all coming out of a collective trauma and maybe going back to an office won’t change that. You’re just not going to have the same experience in the office you did in 2019. You just realise, OK, of course it’ll be different. And you just get used to it.” 

    Lantgen says it’s also helpful to remind himself that all the things he’s still missing won’t necessarily be gone forever. “It’s a bummer, but it will all happen again eventually. I’m keeping that hope up. I try to remain optimistic.” And for him, ultimately, even a changed office is better than none at all. “It makes me feel better,” he says, “knowing that I can get up and have a place to go, as opposed to working at my kitchen table.”

    Originally posted by the BBC

  • 16 Sep 2021 9:37 AM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    The Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE), the peak professional body for individuals working in associations, is excited to announce the launch of the AuSAE Learning Hub and new course, “Association Essentials". The Learning Hub ensures association professionals can access continuing education opportunities for career advancement and manage the ability to learn without boundaries.


    Together with our partners, Pointsbuild, the AuSAE Learning platform has been designed to deliver diverse learning opportunities and innovative formats responsive to member needs and industry trends. The AuSAE Learning Hub provides an easy-to-use online learning platform that is an interactive learning experience and enables self-paced learning from anywhere, at any time.

    Toni Brearley, AuSAE CEO, says, “We’ve always given our community ways to learn and grow – both personally and professionally through our webinars, events, research and guidelines. It’s great to introduce our Learning Hub and new course so that we can create engaging learning experiences and professional opportunities for our members and community,” adds Brearley.

    AuSAE have developed the new course, “Association Essentials”, to provide association executives with some background and foundational knowledge as they start their journey in association management. The course provides practical examples of the support and activities associations provide to their members and their collective contribution to society.

    Michael Tomlinson, Pointsbuild CEO, says, “We’re delighted to be working with AuSAE to deliver a unique learning environment for association professionals. The online CPD course “Association Essentials” delivers a mixture of text, video, audio with knowledge checks throughout. The dynamic format ensures that the content suits the learning styles for a wide range of learners.”

    AuSAE will expand the development of a range of new courses through 2022. Attendees will earn Certified Professional Development (CPD) points and a certificate.

    At the heart of the AuSAE mission, the Learning Hub supports and empowers association professionals to strive for excellence and leadership. “I know the professional development of staff is important to association executives in the AuSAE community. Through improving the quality of association management practice and online learning, we can make an impact,” concludes Brearley.

    Learn more about AuSAE on our website, register for our new course “Association Essentials”, and sign up for the AuSAE’s newsletter to stay up to date with AuSAE activities and events. To find out more about Pointsbuild’s online learning platform for Associations, send an enquiry here
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The Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE)

Australian Office:
Address: Unit 6, 26 Navigator Place, Hendra QLD 4011 Australia
Free Call: +61 1300 764 576
Phone: +61 7 3268 7955
Email: info@ausae.org.au

New Zealand Office:
Address: 159 Otonga Rd, Rotorua 3015 New Zealand
Phone: +64 27 249 8677
Email: nzteam@ausae.org.au

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