An Executive Director's point of view


November 09, 2015: Bad infographics

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
When creating an infographic, keep it simple - limited words and pics, uncluttered, easy to view.

A busy infographic is as bad as a busy slide or a densely written report that spits out long sentences and offers few paragraph breaks.

Pictures can be worse than text.

July 14, 2015: Write for your audience

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
A legal article, written for a non-legal audience, included the following sentence:

"The...Circuit in this opinion basically upheld the District Court's ruling that denied the appellant's motion for summary judgment."

The problem? Most non-lawyers don't know what a summary judgment is. And they don't need to know whether a motion (whatever that is) was upheld or denied, or at what judicial level the action was taken.

They just need to know who won, who lost, what was the penalty, and if the case is finished or if it was sent on to another court.

When talking to people outside of your industry or profession (and, maybe, to some of your colleagues, too), use lay language. It will not make you sound less professional or less intelligent.

But it will make it more possible for you to successfully communicate with your audience(s).

July 13, 2015: What is collaboration?

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
Association professionals often use keywords in meetings, publications, job interviews, and other venues, but they don't always say exactly what they mean.

One of the keywords they frequently utter is "collaboration."

Does collaboration mean involving a lot of people in the decision-making process? Does it mean discussing things within a group and arriving at a consensus? Does it mean a group votes on everything?

Does it mean providing input to the leader? Does it mean that the leader should invite and welcome input? Does it mean that everybody in a work setting should be equal and there should be no leaders?

Does it mean the creation of a culture where everybody talks about stuff before a decision is made?

If you want to ensure that lots of people have input, then say that. Words like "collaboration" don't mean the same thing to everybody.

July 08, 2015: How to report success

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
When your organization raises more money than was anticipated don't brag about that to your audiences.

They don't care. They are members and/or customers and/or supporters, not shareholders. They will not benefit financially.

Instead, tell them what new and better services the organization will provide. That's what they care about.

Tell them about new educational programs, improved online registration, better industry alerts, more thorough data analyses, upgraded advocacy efforts, or whatever it is they value from your group.

Tout news about financial growth to your Board, so it will be proud of the organization's ability to deliver more to its audiences (and so it can credit you with helping make that possible).

Not-for-profit organizations exist to deliver more and better services, not to make money. They have to make money to deliver those services, but their success is measured by the services, not by the money.

So, tell everybody about the services, not about the money.

July 14, 2014: Be specific

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
Really specific.

Many problems occur in associations because people think they've understood what others have said. But many people define words, actions, and situations differently. They may not interpret information in the same way nor be able to read others' signs.

So, be sure you and those with whom you interact understand each other. Clarify terms, restate goals and work directives, repeat discussion summaries, and confirm final decisions - even in writing, if necessary.

Don't be afraid of appearing slow or dumb or unable to remember things. Misunderstandings today can lead to monumental conflicts tomorrow.

January 03, 2014: Ditch the elevator pitch?

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
A memory dart may be better.

July 09, 2013: The tone of your email

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
"Don't read too much into it in terms of tone," suggests CPP, Inc., explaining to Associations Now the survey findings about ways people communicate through email.

Folks post messages in all sorts of ways, and they're usually just trying to get their messages across quickly in whatever way they feel most comfortable.

(I guess you shouldn't be overly concerned about grammar or spelling, either).

June 27, 2013: Bad instructions

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
An explanation for printing mailing labels began with the directive, "define your label."

But it didn't explain what that meant - nor how to do it.

When offering instructions about anything, don't assume people know what you are saying. Explain things in language users will understand.

June 16, 2013: No more technospeak

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
When writing, give your words the "conversational test."

Would you hand somebody a document and say, "enclosed, as per your request, please find documents pertaining to the new project?"

Not likely.

It would be better to say, "here are the new project documents you asked about."

Remember, technospeak does not impress people. And industry lingo is gibberish - even to many people in the industry.

May 31, 2013: Just plain dumb

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
An organization hired a consultant (not me) to deliver a presentation at its office. It provided the street address and directions.

1. It did not tell the consultant that the street name had been changed and now had a different name.

2. It did not tell the consultant that the highway exit ramp listed in the directions had been closed for some time.

3. The consultant called for different directions and was given alternatives - but those had also been closed for some time (the organization admitted that it knew that).

4. When the consultant called again, the switchboard had been closed (during normal business hours) and nobody answered the phone nor returned voicemail messages.

The organization was angry when the consultant arrived late.
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