Customer Connect: Ginger Phillips

Ginger Phillips

This time of year we are especially thankful for our users. In an effort to get to know them better, we recently caught up with one of our most loyal call admins, Dr. Ginger Phillips (right).  Ginger is President of association-management company Arden Solutions in Belleair Bluffs, Florida.

PS: Tell us a little about yourself and how you first discovered ProposalSpace.

GP: The short answer is I help professional associations get organized. One of the many services I offer is helping an association manage its annual conference, including selecting session speakers. After searching for a quality, secure, and affordable abstract management system, I found ProposalSpace when I used it to submit my own proposal to an association to which I belonged, and have been using the site ever since with my clients. As a matter of fact, I like it so much I spent some time in the ProposalSpace booth at an ASAE conference a few years ago telling people what a great product it is. I’m a big fan.

PS: How long have you been using ProposalSpace?

GP: I’ve used ProposalSpace for over six years. In that time I’ve managed about 25 calls for six different associations. I keep coming back because Dan keeps making the site better, which in turn makes my job easier. I love being able to pull forward calls from previous years, easily make changes, and quickly publish without getting a headache.

PS: Is there any specific feature you like?

GP: There are so many! I like the copy feature because, while every conference is slightly different from year to year, a majority of the details remain the same. It’s convenient to just click a button and have all of the settings copied over so I don’t have to enter them again. I also like how easy it is to use the Advanced Scheduling Module. I just drag and drop sessions and it automatically checks for conflicts to keep me from scheduling someone in two places at the same time. The Publishing Module is great because it allows the entire program to be displayed on a client’s website without having to download and upload files every time there’s a change. It also lets speakers upload session materials, which are then immediately available for download. No more collecting and distributing handouts! More generally, I like that I can manage multiple calls from one place and have complete control over everything. If I need to make a change, I just pull up the call and it’s done. There’s no need to go back and forth with someone and then wait for the change to work its way through their system.

PS: You mentioned that you work with several associations. Tell us a little more about your business.

GP: Arden Solutions provides a number of organizations with integrated expertise in association management, professional development, and the business of meetings. Some of our clients include the Academy of Financial Services, the American Council on Consumer Interests, and the University of South Florida Office of Research. Our team has formal education combined with over 60 years of experience in association management, continuing professional education and professional meeting planning. We help with the numerous needs an association might have, from hiring paid staff for the first time to selecting proven vendors, like ProposalSpace.

PS: Anything else you’d like to share?

GP: ProposalSpace is a great find for anyone who manages a call for abstracts or proposals. In my opinion, it’s the best option out there. Trust me, I’ve looked!


Special thanks to Dr. Ginger Phillips for taking time out of her busy schedule to chat with us. For more about Ginger and Arden Solutions, check out the Arden Solutions website at www.ardensolutions.com.

Facebook Algorithm Change Can Benefit Associations

This week, Facebook changed their algorithm for users’ News Feeds, making it more difficult for “fake news” and click-bait links to gain traction on the social-media platform. According to an article on TechCrunch, Facebook will now detect and downrank links and headlines that include any of the following:

  • Exaggerative & sensational headlines
  • Headlines that withhold information
  • Misleading content

One key element of the change is that Facebook will no longer rely on the source of the offending content, instead evaluating each post individually. The update will be available to identify fake news in the top 10 languages that Facebook accounts use.

So what does this mean for your association? When writing headlines, especially for content that might be shared on Facebook, make sure they are clear and honest. By doing so you may drastically increase your page’s organic reach.

This change may also be a great advantage for associations advertising on Facebook to boost their own posts, links, or page. One of the primary reasons why the social media giant is making this change is to re-establish consumer trust in their News Feeds, which is prime real estate for paid ads. By withholding click bait or fake content from users, Facebook will build trust with its base and advertisers can count on more ad clicks and legitimate referral traffic.

Session Titles That Shine

An abstract’s title, description, and learning objectives are the core of every presenter’s “sales pitch” to both reviewers and attendees. However, very few presenters have an understanding of how to sell their presentation using even the most basic marketing techniques. Perhaps as a result, 95% of meeting organizers report having to rewrite speakers’ submissions1.

ProposalSpace allows admins and review chairs to edit submissions directly or return them for editing and resubmission.

While organizers may have the best intentions when adding a little shine to a session, they also run the risk of overdoing it and promising more than a presenter can deliver, which in turn can disappoint the audience. So ideally, presenters would submit proposals that need little or no editing at all.

To help accomplish that, here are some tips for presenters (and organizers) when crafting session titles. (We’ve decided to focus on the title because it serves as the “hook” for drawing in a reader’s interest and leading them to the description and objectives.)

  • Keep it short. Attendees often skim over session titles to see if anything grabs their attention. A shorter title is simply more eye-catching. To check your title length, consider how easily you could use it to invite someone in passing to attend your session. If you cannot get it all out in a few seconds, then continue editing.
  • Target it to a specific audience. When writing your title, you should have a specific audience in mind. Craft your title in such a way as to convey what that group can expect to get from the session.
  • Employ intrigue. Spark the reader’s curiosity by teasing a short list, privileged knowledge, or a personal story.

Tell us what you think! If you ‘ve had particular success with title writing/editing, then share with us in the comment section below or on twitter (@proposalspace).

1Cobb, Jeff, Jeff Hurt, Dave Lutz, Sarah Michel, and Celisa Steele. “The Speaker Report: The Use of Professional and Industry Speakers in the Meetings Market.” Velvet Chainsaw. http://velvetchainsaw.com/pdf/Velvet-Chainsaw-Tagoras-2013-Speaker-Report_v2.pdf.

Snapchat Pro Tips

Snapchat has changed the way we think about video content on social media but has been challenging for many associations to understand and use for their audiences, while also being worth their time, energy, and resources invested into the app. Even still, it’s an important platform for associations to utilize as more people use Snapchat than Twitter, in terms of daily use. Disappearing content and unedited video are extremely popular with millennials, and Facebook, the most popular social media platform, predicts video content is the future of online engagement.

Here are the best practices we’ve found to work for associations:

  • Make A Story. While sending individual snaps would be an excellent way to engage users, creating snaps specifically for your story is a much more effective use of your time and energy. Your Snap story could feature a keynote speaker, poster presentations, networking event, or even lunch! Just make sure your story has an attention-grabbing start, solid narrative, and concise conclusion that drives your overall content strategy. In short, create a story with a beginning, middle, and end. It is also important to note that quality is more important than quantity.
  • Let Someone Else Take Over. A Snapchat takeover is when you give your account information to someone else and they promote your brand or product in a new, unique way. Oftentimes, you are able to reach a much larger audience than you might otherwise reach by having an “influencer” involved. If you can identify a popular social media influencer, with commonality to your brand/industry, then you should consider having them promote your conference or event. Many influencers will work in exchange for free conference registration or their annual membership. Of course, they are also willing to market your function for a paycheck! If unable to identify a popular media influencer or pay one, then consider having different association staff/interns, members, or volunteers do a platform take over. (And don’t forget to change your account password after each takeover is complete.)
  • Create Geofilters. Geofilters are an excellent way to get your business in front of people and create brand engagement on Snapchat. They allow a great opportunity for users to engage with your brand who would otherwise not do so!

Snapchatps_snapchat_asae-01To the left is an example of a Geofilter ProposalSpace created and ran during the 2016 ASAE Annual Conference in Salt Lake City.

Is your association on Snapchat? Comment with a great snap you’ve saved and any additional ideas you have!

Conference Live Streaming

Posting pictures after an event can engage your attendees once they return home, but what about engaging a larger audience—both present and remote—during your event? Here are some sites/apps that make it easier than ever to broadcast events, like major announcements, keynotes, breakout sessions, and panel discussions.

Periscope (Twitter)

Periscope LogoIf you’re on Twitter then you might have seen or heard of Periscope, an app that connects with Twitter to broadcast live video from from a smartphone, GoPro, or even a drone. Named the Apple App Store’s Best App of 2015, Periscope reinvigorated social platforms to focus on live content and even classify it higher in their algorithms. According to their website, Periscope is “the closest thing to teleportation” available.

Audience feedback can be sent to the content creator in real time via comments and heart images, which disappear after a few moments after appearing in the lower, right-hand corner of the video. Moderation of chat spam and abuse is managed by the audience watching each broadcast. Videos can either be saved indefinitely (now the default) or automatically deleted 24 hours hours after broadcast.

How to use Periscope for a speaker session:

  • Send out a tweet letting people know that you are broadcasting live. (Be sure to use the conference/session topic or location in the title of your broadcast).
  • Respond to in-app audience questions as they are asked, or write them down and have the speaker answer them at the end of the session.

Facebook Live

facebook-live-logo-vector-download-400x400Leave it to Facebook to quickly adopt a social trend and work incredibly hard to outdo other platforms. With Facebook Live, you can broadcast from your phone and your friends can comment and react using Facebook Reactions that slide across your video. Once you go live on Facebook, the platform’s algorithm places your video at the top of your friends’ news feeds, which can be huge for your live content and page. Once you end your live streaming session the video will be available for playback on the profile page of the account you used to film. You can even “boost” the video after it has been posted to increase views, likes, and comments.

How to get the most out of Facebook Live:

  • Thank users as they join and try to answer as many comments as possible.
  • Include as many social-media influencers into your stream as possible (with interviews, Q&A with live viewers, networking session footage, etc.) and tag them.
  • Use your conference hashtag in the title of the broadcast.
  • Keep it shorter. Facebook prioritizes live video higher in their news-feed algorithm, so unlike Periscope, many of your viewers probably were not expecting to see your content when they signed on. Keep it short to keep their attention.

Youtube Connect (Google)

YouTubeYouTube has been the internet’s video giant for years. Owned by Google, it makes sense for them to get in on all the live-broadcasting action. Live broadcasting is definitely not new on YouTube (it’s been available to certain users since 2011), but Google has been working to build out increased live streaming functionality for its app to compete with Periscope and others. This app update has not yet been released, but many are counting on it to up the ante for other live streaming apps.

How to increase engagement using YouTube:

  • Classify your videos into public playlists per conference/event.
  • You can record for longer periods of time on YouTube and still maintain viewership (unlike Facebook).
  • Embed the video into your own website.

We’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to live-streaming products, focusing on the ones we think will get you the highest engagement for your time and energy. There are plenty of other apps out there, though, many of which might be a better fit. Leave a comment and share with us if you use something else that has brought you great results or have additional questions about live streaming.

Making the Best of a PR Disaster

We all hope to avoid PR issues when planning a large conference or event. Although we hate to admit it, some things are out of our control and even the best-laid plans can go awry. We might find ourselves having worked on an event for years, only to get blindsided by a controversy, like union strikes or North Carolina’s recent HB2 legislation, which forbids LGBT anti-discrimination protections. Amid all the uproar, meeting organizers can suddenly find themselves having to choose between moving a meeting or taking a hit on attendance.

It is understandable that organizers are worried about attendance. In response to HB2, a handful of states and localities have announced bans on non-essential travel for employees to North Carolina. Such bans probably won’t affect most types of events, but for events that rely heavily on public-sector attendees, like the Bus & Paratransit Conference of the American Public Transit Association (APTA), the effects could be huge.

Official travel bans may not be an organizer’s only worry. High Point Market, the state’s largest annual economic event, stated in a press release that the law meant “hundreds and perhaps thousands of our customers will not attend Market this April”, causing “significant economic damage to High Point Market and the North Carolina economy.”

Neither APTA nor High Point Market can relocate their meeting—APTA for contractual reasons and High Point Market for geographical reasons. Other groups, however, have decided to take that route. The Charlotte News & Observer reported that as of April 21, over 20 groups had dropped plans for holding meetings in the city. (One group, B Lab, has provided an insightful accounting of the process they used to come to their decision.)

Whether deciding to move your event or stay put, here are some Pro Tips to help you handle a PR disaster that threatens to affect attendance:

  • Acknowledge the issue. It is unprofessional to bury your head in the sand and pretend nothing is wrong. Make a public statement acknowledging the situation, apologizing when necessary, and explaining what actions have been and will be taken in response.
  • Clarify your position. If your business or organization has an official position on the issue—even if that position is neutrality—state it clearly. If the issue is important enough to your organization or attendees, consider taking a more active role supporting allied organizations and/or encouraging attendees to do the same.
  • Focus on what change you can control. If possible, work with the event venue to get around the controversy—for example, by making bathrooms gender-neutral—even if just for your event.
  • Support those who can’t attend. If the purpose of your event is information distribution or creative exchange, then consider how you can do so via the internet. Consider bolstering your online content by live streaming, live blogging, and live tweeting sessions and keynotes. Webinars and podcasts are also good options. (Note that podcasts can be offered for free or for a download fee.) All these options allow for information distribution to still occur even if your physical attendance is lower than originally anticipated. If membership is a focus, offer it and benefits at a promotional rate during the conference and for a short time before/after online to incentivize new memberships. You could also offer additional online content throughout the event in a “member only” section of your website for those who cannot participate in person.

We would love to hear from you about additional strategies for maintaining good face in light of a PR disaster. Has your association or business been affected by a controversy that was beyond its control? Share your experiences or ideas in the comments.

Using Emojis

If you’ve received a text message recently, chances are pretty high it included an emoji. Emojis, which evolved from the simple emoticon, have become so popular that the Oxford English Dictionary named the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji (?) its 2015 “word” of the year. (One of the main reasons they cited was a dramatic increase in the use of emojis.)

Facebook Reactions

The emoji has even taken over social-media platforms. Facebook has long had a “Like” button, allowing users to easily react to posts without having to type comments. However, users have long requested a “Dislike” button for content that they don’t feel comfortable liking. Rather than just add a “Dislike” option, Facebook chose to include the more expansive Facebook Reactions. Facebook has allowed stickers in their Messenger product for a long time, but the launch of Reactions has started a shift in the user experience.

On Twitter, branded hashtag emojis are gaining a lot of traction with both brands and users. (For those who don’t know, a branded emoji is added to a tweet by using a specific hashtag.) Twitter made these extremely popular when they automatically added #StarWarsEmojis to people’s tweets when “Starwars: The Force Awakens” was released. Twitter has also had success with branded emojis for the #AMAs. The platform saw an extreme increase in online engagement for both topics, all because they incorporated emojis.

So can emojis help an association better engage members? Absolutely! AssociationsNow has blogged about how emojis can help associations with advocacy work and having conversations about diversity. Emojis are also a perfect way to engage millennials.

Here are some tips for using emojis as part of your association’s social-media strategy:

  • Use emojis in Facebook posts and tweets, either to convey emotion (?) or to save space (like using ? instead of the word “calendar” or ❤️ in place of “love”).
  • Start associating an emoji with your organization. For example, ? could be used for the Financial Planning Association and ☕️ for the National Coffee Association.
  • Don’t overwhelm your readers with emojis. A good rule of thumb is to use three or fewer. Emojis are all about simplicity, so keep it short and sweet.
  • Sneak them into “real life” at your events—on stickers, keychains, or other “swag”, or by making them edible (think cookies, cakes, cupcakes, suckers, etc.).

One small note: Emojis can appear slightly different across platforms, so what you see on a Mac might not be exactly the same on an Android or Windows product.

Take a minute and share with us the emoji you think works best for your association. Remember to keep it short and sweet! ?

Changes to the Data-Export Tool

One of our users recently reported a problem with the way our data-export tool was handling special characters. Abstracts for his call often contain mathematical symbols, which were being displayed correctly on the ProposalSpace website, but were becoming garbled in the output file generated by the data-export tool. For example, Δ (delta) was showing up as Δ and ± (plus-minus) was showing up as ±.

We fixed the issue by changing the character encoding for the output file. Now, any character that is displayed correctly on the website is also displayed correctly in the output file.

(A special note: Some programs, like MS Word, might ask what encoding to use when opening the file. If that happens, select “Unicode” on Windows or “Unicode 6.3 (Little-Endian)” on Mac.)

Also, we’ve removed the “strip HTML” option from the data-export tool and made that the default action. If you miss having that option, just let us know and we’ll be happy to put it back!

New Option in Data Export for HTML Tags

The data-export feature now has an option for controlling how HTML-formatted text is exported. You can find it on the data-export page (Tools -> Data Export) right above the Create Report button:

screenshot

So if you’ve set up any of your forms (submission, role, or review) to include a formatted-text field, you can now tell the data-export feature whether you want that text exported as formatted text (with HTML tags) or as unformatted text (without HTML tags).

For example, let’s say you have a field in your Presenter role form for the presenter’s bio. You’ve set up the field so the user can format the text, but you don’t want any of that formatting when you export the bio. Now, all you have to do is check the box at the bottom of the data-export feature and voilà—all of the HTML code is stripped out!

Common Mistakes to Avoid with Charts & Graphs

Charts are charts, right? Wrong.

You have a lot of decisions to make when creating a chart, most of which seem benign. But some of those decisions can make a critical difference between providing insight into the underlying data and causing the reader to draw the wrong conclusions.

To illustrate just three of the ways charts can be made to be misleading, check out Ravi Parikh post on How to Lie with Data Visualization over at Heap’s Data Blog.