I remember the time, when you had a slowdown in your workload. I remember times around the summer and Christmas holidays, when the amount of emails and urgent actions required was minimal. You could catch up on things, you usually never have time for, i.e. filing (when we had still all mainly as a hardcopy), reading a few choice articles in in trade magazines, clean out your desk, see what is in your “To Think About” folder and much more.

In today’s fast paced world with no place to hide from your emails and a different business etiquette of what is the acceptable response time (24 hours have changed to 24 seconds it seems), I think it is especially important to re-evaluate your approach to who you approach, how you approach them and how often!

If I look at the amount of communication I had to send out over the past few weeks, from follow up messages, newsletters, tradeshow invitations (yes multiple), to invitations to join the ICCA Congress, updates on our AMP in Fukuoka and finally the Statistics report which is coming out this week. The volume of this amount of information is just tremendous, and ICCA messages are just one tiny drop in the avalanche of messages associations executives receive daily, and what is worse, that part is not even connected to their core business.

So, you can only imagine the frustrations of association executives when they get useless, generic millions of emails! We all are guilty of trying to cast a wider net in the hope to catch a few flies, me included and sometimes we even manage to catch some, but the question is: Is it worth it; Are you productive or counter-productive; How many people have you alienated by catching that one fly? My health coach always says: “Work smarter, not harder!”

So, here it goes, for all those members taking the trouble to read this, here are some basic, common-sense (by no means groundbreaking) tips:

  • Stop mass emails to attract any kind of business, just stop! If you have a newsletter and something generic to share, you do not mind people deleting before it hits their Inbox, then fine, but for anything meaningful, do NOT send out mass-emails.

  • Use the ICCA database and network do find out as much as possible and tailor your message. Don’t cast a wide net, but try to narrow it down to a manageable amount!

  • When you are contacting the association watch out, when you approach them! Be mindful of the time-zone they are in, the country they are in (nothing worse than having a public holiday and coming to the office to an exploding Inbox) and whether it is the time of one of their events, when they are surely not in the office waiting for your email.

  • If anyhow possible use the most possible personal approach, if you know that another ICCA member has dealt with this association before, ask them to make the introduction or at least find out the associations specific requirements and preferred method of communication.

  • When composing your messages, try to be concise and to the point of what you want to achieve, ideally your subject-line should already convey what the main reason for your contact is, certainly your 1st sentence. All the rest is background-noise and detracting from your request.

  • Sometimes it is even worthwhile to send a handwritten card to convey a brief message.

  • Finally, do not be afraid to lift the phone (no text messages will not do it) and call, but please do not use computers to call for you, there is nothing worse than hearing a computer voice telling you all about things you don’t need or want. In today’s world of “safe” anonymity, people hardly ever use phones as a method of communication. I know my teenage kids and their friends shy away from the phone as if it were the plague. In the absence of face-to-face contact the phone is the next best thing.

To be able to do such a very tailored approach ICCA members need to make sure to narrow down the amount of potential business, only then will you be able to dedicate the amount of attention and care to each and every one.

Looking at all those tips, although I wrote this with ICCA members in mind, I would say they can equally be applied to the association world when contacting their members. Not each member is interested in everything and to engage meaningful with your community you need to understand what makes them tick. To achieve this, you need to ask questions and listen, but above all keep in mind – Less is More!

Ksenija Polla, CMP