Effective Networking Through Professional Associations

Written by Kate Kaeli.

The way people search for jobs, explore a career change, and build a business has evolved but one thing has remained the same: it’s who you know (or who knows who). Networking has become a key driver for success. But networking isn’t a one size fits all solution – depending on your goals, you’ll want to make sure you are active in the right group(s).  Joining a professional association can really pay off when you are trying to expand your connections.

Associations tend to offer a variety of options to help members achieve networking goals at almost every career level.

  • Want to build strong contact networks? Look for groups that meet often with the sole purpose of building professional relationships. Associations with lead sharing groups, discussion forums and mentoring programs are a good place to start.
  • Hoping to gain or share industry knowledge? Organizations that offer consistent programming, topical symposia and conferences that include opportunities for continuing education are excellent options.
  • Pressed for time? Online networking is the new standard for any organized group. Be a participant! Share articles (authored or sourced), update your profile frequently, add relevant comments to other posts and look for ways to offer encouragement to other members through their posts, updates and requests for help.
  • Need to have a little fun? Nowadays it’s common for associations to offer low-key events at a restaurant, brewery or sports venue. These alternative events are great for getting to know people in a more casual setting. Sometimes taking people out of their “element” is all that’s needed to begin new conversations.

So you have found an event that suits your needs, what now? Start by seeing who else is registered. From there you can create a target list of people to connect with. You may also find people you already know, which can ease anxiety. Work on an “elevator pitch” that aligns with your objectives. When crafting, be clear and concise. Include an easy to understand description of what you do – leave out the jargon! You may want to provide some accomplishments, and don’t forget to share why you are there. Are you looking for business connections, hoping to expand career opportunities, searching for a mentor? Let your intentions be known. People genuinely want to help, especially when they know the end goal.

Effective networking is an ongoing process. Be sure to allow time in your schedule to follow up with your new connections. Your network requires maintenance. Use your free moments to write or call someone. Keep diversity in mind as you continue to grow your network. Identify “connectors” – people who can put you in touch with others who you never would have met otherwise. You never know where a new connection will lead! Return favors, how can you help your contacts? Remember to give back when you see opportunities.

Active participation in professional associations allows you to benefit by learning from the experiences of others, continue your education through participation in seminars or workshops, and keep abreast of developments or trends in your industry. It allows you to meet new people, learn of new opportunities and grow and learn about yourself.

Remember that a little bit of preparation is worth the effort. Give some thought to your objectives and how to achieve them. Investigate your industry’s associations, chances are you’ll find what you are looking for.

One last networking event “do” — remember to smile. It’s a simple way to get conversations going, and instantly warms other people because they’ll smile back at you.


 

Sources:

The Lost Art of Face-to-Face Communication

Written by Sheila Favuzza.

What did we do before email when talking to our co-workers about an upcoming or ongoing project?  We would schedule a meeting, get up off of our butt, and walk down the hallway.  Thanks to email, the face-to-face communication has gone by the wayside.

What do we lose when we make communicating via email?  More than you would imagine.

One thing that we lose from the lack of face-to-face interaction is the release of oxytocin, also known as the “Cuddle Chemical.” When you have physical interaction with an individual such as a handshake, fist pump, or a simple pat on the back, oxytocin is released.  Oxytocin makes us feel a sense of attachment and trust and gain a greater collaboration with co-workers/team members.  The project becomes a part of you.

If you find yourself sick more than usual, it has also been shown that physical connectivity has health benefits.  Individuals with active social lives tend to recover from sickness faster.

Digital communication is proven to be cheaper and more convenient but it doesn’t contribute to employees’ happiness and satisfaction.  A challenge with digital communication is that you have to make sure you are conveying the right mood and tone.  Are you able to get everything that is racing in your head down on that white screen in front of your face?

Companies that encourage more face-to-face time are reporting higher productivity and collaboration among employees. Google has encouraged their employees to socialize more and it’s brought on a new synergy in the workplace.  It allows you the freedom to bounce ideas off of each other.  You share and build on ideas which are a win-win situation for all involved.

So the next time you want to be creative, don’t open up a new email message. Instead, get up off your butt, walk down the hallway to your co-workers office, and engage in a face-to-face conversation.   You may be amazed at what your co-worker has to offer.


Sources:

https://www.fastcompany.com/3036935/the-future-of-work/why-you-need-to-actually-talk-to-your-coworkers-face-to-face

Association Volunteers – What Motivates and Keeps Them Coming Back

 

Written by Renee Schneider.

Working onsite at client meetings and large events, we have the fortunate opportunity to work with many great association volunteers who “raise their hand.”  Volunteers are an essential part of these events and it is important that we find and retain them.  The “old days” brought volunteers who had spare time, people looking for something to do.  Decades ago, many women were not yet working outside the home and looked to volunteering for “something to do.”  Even though women still volunteer more than men, times have changed and spare-time is a precious commodity. To be successful in attracting and retaining volunteers, we need to know what makes people volunteer in the first place. 2

People are motivated to give of their time and talent for various reasons.  Their reason may be a way of giving back, or personal, but always for a purpose.  Most volunteers respond to three main levels:  Basic – self-serving drive, Secondary – relational drive, and Highest – belief drive. 1

Self-serving volunteers are there for networking opportunities, business as well as personal.  It may meet their need for friendship, belonging, or growing their customer base. Volunteering may be their route to new employment, or making new friends. These volunteers are there for their needs, but also may have a lot to offer – making it a win/win situation for both.

Relational drive often comes from not being able to say “no” to a friend or colleague. Investing in relationships is one of the strongest stimulators for our inner motivations, making this one of the most effective recruiting tools.

Belief is the strongest level of commitment and this volunteer is highly motivated.  These people volunteer because they believe the cause is right.  It involves a person’s passion and they are more willing to commit.

Pamela Saunders, a volunteer for TH Mgmt’s client the North Carolina Medical Group Management Association (NCMGMA), continues to be a dependable and a frequent volunteer – both with the organization’s committees and onsite at events.  She stated she volunteers to support the organization that she has been a member of for many years.   She likes meeting the many people that she otherwise would not have met (healthcare, conference management, hotel management, speakers, etc.), and has had the opportunity to learn more about other areas of healthcare outside her specific area.  Pam enjoys spending quality time with other volunteers and has a chance to learn more about them (business and personal).  “By having a relationship, you can reach out to them for advice, questions, etc.”  Over the years, she has established and enjoyed long lasting friendships.  “It’s rewarding to see goals achieved!  For those on the fence, give it a try!  It’s fun and you will definitely gain something from the experience.” 4

It’s imperative to remember that the benefits of volunteering go both ways, to the organization as well as the volunteer.  Keeping our volunteers happy is vital to the organization retaining them.  Understanding why our volunteers have “stepped up” and recognizing their contributions, as well as their needs, is essential to making it a good experience for both the volunteer and the organization.


 

Resources:

  1. http://www.volunteerpower.com/articles/why.asp
  2. http://volunteermaine.org/blog/why-do-people-volunteer
  3. https://www.ncvo.org.uk/ncvo-volunteering/why-volunteer
  4. Pamela Saunders, CMPE
    Director of Information Systems and Managed Care
    Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Association, PA

Are You Going to Eat That?

Deliciously written by Lori Mason.

We have lots of foodies in our office. It is not uncommon for our staff meetings to start out discussing new recipes or trying new Bundt cakes or pies. On the same token, our office is also full of picky eaters. Some people can’t handle having their entrees stuffed or smothered, and some can’t even fathom having their side items touching on their plate. Transform this into a lunch meeting for 200 people and you have a meeting planners nightmare. How do you satisfy so many dietary needs to ensure all attendees are well fed and can enjoy their meeting experience? These days there are all sorts of preferences – low fat, gluten free, nut free, no shellfish, lactose free, etc. The list goes on and on. So how can you satisfy all of these needs? Here are a few ways to help deal with the ever-changing attendee pallet.

Don’t be afraid to ask

Who can keep up? Meeting planners have 1,001 things to keep track of. Let the professionals do their job – ask the facility chef to create creative meals that can accommodate even the pickiest pallet. Chefs know their product and can provide unique ideas, that likely won’t be found on standard catering menus.

Go local

Work with your catering manager to source food that is local. Local food is fresher and usually travels less distance from the farm to your plate. Additionally, local food is seasonal so you may get better bang for your buck by selecting local vegetables that are at their peak in the region. And finally, going local helps support the community and local economy. You can show off the region by sampling their local crops.

A la carte everything

Not sure if anyone likes tomatoes, or if people can eat chicken marsala? Ask for items to be separated on a buffet so people can add what they like and leave what they don’t. Dressings and sauces work best on the side so people can pour their own. For salads, try to arrange for two dressings – one cream based like ranch or blue cheese, and one vinegar based like Italian or oil and vinegar. This way, people can pour their own and put as little, or as much as they’d like.

Be sure to label

In a world where restaurants and grocery stores are being required to list ingredients in their products, meeting facilities should be doing the same thing. It is important to maintain transparency so attendees can be sure what to expect. Was the chicken fried in vegetable oil or peanut oil? You can bet people with peanut allergies will need to know this. It is in the company’s best interest to provide this information to avoid medical concerns which could lead to costly lawsuits.

Overall, people are trying to stay healthier in a fast-food driven world. The clean label movement is the latest in people wanting to lead healthier lives. Whether you are preparing cupcakes for your child’s birthday party at school, or arranging to feed attendees at a three day trade show, it is important to make sure food options cover everyone’s special preferences.


Sources:

http://onf.coop/go-local/why-buy-local/

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/meeting-consumer-demand-cleaner-food-labels-sarah-hand

Create the WOW Factor in Event Customer Service

Written by Kimberly Davis-Parker.

One of our goals at TH Mgmt, Inc. is to always create a wonderful experience for all event attendees. As the Program Management Coordinator for TH Mgmt, Inc., my job includes managing onsite registration. This is a terrific opportunity for me to meet and engage our client members, guests, and sponsors face to face. Great customer service is essential to the success of every event.

Here are a few tips to ensure your attendees are happy and have an enjoyable event experience:

  1. Offer a genuine smile. The person sitting at the registration table is likely the first and last person to make contact with attendees as they arrive and leave an event. A smile offers a fantastic first and last impression. You want to make sure to look your best, wear your name tag, and remember your manners. This is also a great way to make first-time guests feel welcome. If you’re successful, they’ll look for ways to join or become more involved in your association. You want people to feel good when they walk in and walk out.
  2. Be attentive. It can get incredibly busy at the registration table, but if a client has a question, take a moment and give them your undivided attention. Be fast and courteous when registering a new attendee onsite. Acknowledge as many clients (and speakers) as you can by name and grab their name badge and hand it to them personally, if possible. My clients really like that!
  3. Try to anticipate every need. There will be questions before an event and onsite, but you want to make it as easy as possible for clients and often times, it’s the simplest things that really go a long way. For instance, it may be helpful to send parking information or any special instructions to clients via email ahead of the event, so attendees can plan accordingly. Always use directional signs onsite to help them navigate where to go. Know where the restrooms are at every venue – I get that question a lot.
  4. Know your team. When you arrive onsite to set up, make a point to get to know the venue host and staff by name. They’re a part of your team during the event. This is crucial for any last minute additions or changes you may need for your client that the venue’s staff will have to facilitate. Using their actual name is simply polite and goes a long way to making things happen quickly for your clients.
  5. Create a lasting impression. There are a ton of things to manage post-event, but it’s important to assist clients promptly once you get back to the office. For instance, if clients expect a copy of a presentation from the event or a copy of their continuing education certificate, send it to them in a timely manner. Never ignore your clients. Always return phone calls and respond to emails.

Remember, a happy attendee is often a repeating attendee. Be passionate, thorough, and helpful. Clients appreciate your efforts and it will make you feel good that they had an enjoyable time.

Most of this article derives from my own work experience, but additional resources include: http://www.eventmanagerblog.com/event-customer-service

Following Policy is the Best Policy

Written by Scott Williams.

I found myself locked out of our company storage closet at 5:00 PM on a Friday, needing to get into it to secure a projector for an early morning meeting the upcoming Monday.  Earlier in the day I mistakenly checked the projector off my to-do list, thinking I had already placed it with my meeting materials.  However, it was now after business hours, everyone had gone home and I was in a tight spot. I promised our speakers a projector on Monday and it was safely sitting on a shelf behind a thick, heavy door with a shiny, and quite sturdy, lock.

Now, I have a key to our office but I do not have a key to our storage closet.  As part of our office policy and company accreditation, employees do not have access to all items and areas of our company.  This policy checks-and-balances employee power, making sure that no one employee has too much reach. If, for example, one unhappy representative decided to go rogue, so to speak, he or she could not leave the company, and our clients, penniless and void of all equipment and resources.  A smart policy, in my opinion, but one that was not playing in my favor at the moment.

I knew our office manager had a key so I sent a text to her but she was out-of-pocket for the weekend.  Our president had a key but she was across the country at another client’s meeting.  As my panic level steadily rose, my mind raced for viable options. In my desperation, I remembered that the building manager would have a key: she generally stayed late so I could slip down there, get her to open the door and all would be good.  Yes!  All would be good.

As I walked towards her office, though, I felt an uneasy feeling rising in me.  I asked myself, are you doing the right thing here?  Yes, you need the projector for company and client business but are you operating within the boundaries of your company’s access policy?  The building manager can open the closet but should she? Would this action be in line with company policy and the guidelines set forth by your company accreditation?

It is important, at this point, to review what exactly a policy is and what it means.  According to the American Society of Association Executives, policy is defined as what an organization will or will not do1.  Policies can be looked at as a company’s laws.  The Business Dictionary states, “A set of policies are principles, rules, and guidelines formulated or adopted by an organization to reach its long-term goals and typically published in a booklet or other form that is widely accessible.2” Our access policy is clearly stated in our employee handbook, which is publicized and distributed to all company employees.  We take policy seriously and we expect all employees to do the same.

In fact, respect for policy is so important to our organization that we have earned association management accreditation from AMC Institute (AMCI).  AMCI explains accreditation as “The accreditation process improves management practices by providing firms with a defined set of ‘best practices’ around establishing internal quality service systems while developing and improving important company policies and procedures.3” We are proud of our accreditation: we worked hard to secure it, it is a selling feature to prospective clients and we constantly remind our current clients we have earned it.  At that moment, though, on that particular Friday evening, I was pretty certain that finding a loop hole in policies set forth in our accreditation regarding access to information did not constitute a “best practice” in my book.

As I reached for the handle of our building manager’s door, a simple and clear thought came to me: our policy is that those employees who hold the key will open the closet, those who do not will not; and by asking someone else to open it, especially someone outside of our organization, I was currently breaking policy.  I was not permitted to open the closet.  To do so would be a violation of company policy, an undermining of our company accreditation and a violation of our client’s trust.  I removed my hand from the handle, turned-toe and headed back upstairs.

As I returned to our office, I calmed down and looked closer at my situation.  I looked up our president’s travel schedule in our company calendar and saw that she was returning late this very same night.  I texted her and asked if she could open the closet for me over the weekend.  I received a quick reply of “Yes” and my anxiety was quickly replaced with relief.  I was going to obtain the materials I needed and I would not be guilty of violating company policy.  Our company accreditation served its purpose and best practices were performed.

It is important to remember that company policies are laws.  They are put in place to govern the operations of your company, give your employees guidelines for acceptable job performance and to help ensure your and your client’s success: both now and in the future.  In fact, according to Michael Griffin in his book How to Write a Policy Manual, “With good policies in place, staff is able to execute their duties; they are free to act within the limits set by policy; without constant managerial oversight. In that way, policies empower staff to do the right thing.4

No one within a company and no action is above company policy governance.  Your company policies are in place to protect your organization, your employees and your clients.  If you do not have an official office policy manual in place, or do not have it published where all employees have clear access to it, now is the time to take action.

Below are some resources to help you develop your office policies and to create a sound company manual:

http://realtormag.realtor.org/for-brokers/feature/article/2006/07/how-create-office-policy-manual

http://www.templatezone.com/download-free-ebook/office-policy-manual-reference-guide.pdf

Citations

  • 1 American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Essentials of the Professional Learning System (2002): 1-125. Print.
  • 2 polices and procedures. BusinessDictionary.com. WebFinance, Inc. October 25, 2016.http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/policies-and-procedures.html
  • 3 “Accreditation – AMC Institute (AMCI).” Accreditation – AMC Institute (AMCI). AMC Institute, 27 Oct. 2016. Web. 27 Oct. 2016.
  • 4 Griffin, Michael. How to Write a Policy Manual. N.p.: TemplateZone, n.d. Print.

Database Integration and Why You Should be Using it

Written by Nicole Niemann.

We have evolved into a world of advanced technology. Many people in all different aspects of business, medicine, education and many other fields have made the decision to make their jobs more effective and efficient. Database integration is the latest innovation to make filing of significant data easier. Integration is a multistep process of finding similar entities in multiple databases to create a unified view of all databases. The concept of database integration suggests the database software has the ability to access related and non-related data from one application to another.

About Database Integration

With the use of database integration, users can transfer information from one application to another more efficiently. In a database management system, data is accessed in the form of queries, but by using database integration, users can store data from multiple applications as well as combine information across databases. Because of database integration, users will not have to put in extra effort and time to access various different applications. This integration allows users to instantly share files because all the data is synchronized.

Un-integrated Software

If your employees are bogged down with inefficient processes, it increases errors and takes valuable time away from their more important core duties. When software systems are un-integrated, you have multiple overlapping databases which need to be manually manipulated to get a good view of business performance. Such manual tasks reduce the productivity and efficiency that your company needs to grow. With many different applications, IT wastes an enormous amount of time and effort on integrating and acquiring new versions of the applications. This can also cause problems with customer acquisition and growth. When customers are unable to quickly access their information and can’t get issues resolved quickly, they will be less satisfied and less likely to continue doing business with you.

Benefits of Data Integration

An integrated software system ensures that customers have correct information and a better customer experience and that employees have instantaneous access to all customer information instantly. By using an integrated application system, you can build in the security tools necessary to prevent access by unauthorized users or intruders. Real-time visibility is also very important for making timely informed decisions. Information can be accessed instantly, without wasting resources on pulling reports and tying together data from different sources. Employees are better informed and can make more accurate, decisions more quickly. Because changes are implemented much more quickly, everyday business users are able to apply their functional skills to the processes in a way that helps improve performance.

Today, companies in virtually all industries are using more sophisticated software to fuel growth but still struggle to keep up and manage costs effectively. With so many various disconnected functional systems, employees are not able to continue optimal productivity. Integrated business software is transforming how companies run and enabling them to take their business to the next level of profitable growth.

 


Sources:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/5-key-benefits-business-integration-rolustech-dynamic-it-solutions

http://www.netsuite.com/portal/resource/articles/software-system.shtml

http://thevarguy.com/blog/top-five-benefits-integrated-application-systems-big-data-and-analytics

6 Website Mistakes You Might be Making that Drive Users Away

Written by Alyssa Hamilton.

First impressions are a big deal. In any new interaction, the first few moments are critical in forming an opinion. The same is true for your website. A user’s first impression of your organization is typically your website, which plays a huge role in what they think about your brand. The average time a user spends on a website is less than 15 seconds.11 In that 15 seconds, users quickly scan your website and form an opinion about your company and brand. Below are six mistakes you could be making that might have your users leaving them with a bad impression.

  1. Your content is hard to read and/or skim. Don’t assume that your readers will read anything word-for-word. They’re more likely to jump from one piece of content to another and start reading whatever pops out at them first.5 Make it easier for them to find what they’re looking for by using headings, sub-headings, paragraphs and bullets.10 Keep your content as short, concise, and easy to digest as possible.
  2. Your website is not easy to navigate. Your website’s navigation should be user-friendly and intuitive. If visitors can’t find what they are looking for in three or less clicks, they will likely leave your site.4 Find someone who has never been to your website and ask them to sign up for a membership. How many clicks does it take them? Do they have trouble finding it? You should have a navigation bar easily visible on each page3 that includes all crucial information with clear page titles.8
  3. Your content and design is out-of-date and stale. When was the last time you updated the look and feel of your website? If it’s been years since you’ve changed the design of your site, you might want to consider freshening it up. If your website looks old and outdated, chances are that your visitors will think your content is too.1 An easy bad habit to fall into is simply adding more content without going through and removing outdated or unnecessary items. Make it a priority to go through your web pages and make sure only up-to-date and relevant information is posted.3
  4. Your website isn’t mobile-friendly. More people look at websites on their phones than on their computers1 and nothing is more frustrating than having to swipe and pinch at your phone screen to try to view a website. Having a responsive website that is functional across phones, tablets, and computer is absolutely vital for your users.9
  5. You don’t have a search box. Search boxes are essential. Imagine you remember seeing an awesome product or reading a really insightful article a while ago and go to the website to find it again. Chances are you’re not going to want to sift through menus and pages trying to find it. You’ll want a way to narrow down the content based on topics or keywords. More than half of all users are search-dominant and come to your website knowing exactly what they’re looking for.5 Providing users with a search box will give them the opportunity to quickly find exactly what they want without having to get to know your navigational structure.
  6. There’s no way to contact you. If users can’t find how to contact you, you might be missing out on an opportunity to answer questions and potentially gain business. Add any contact information you have, including a phone number, email address, and business address so that users can contact you in a way that’s convenient for them.7 This information should be obvious and visible on every page.

First impressions happen quickly and can last long after a user has interacted with your site. They want to find what they are looking for quickly and easily. If your website meets their expectations, they will keep visiting it to seek more information. It’s important to test often and focus on design and content that will give your user a positive experience and a good, lasting first impression.


 

Sources

1 – http://www.wildapricot.com/blogs/newsblog/2016/07/20/4-common-website-problems-that-cost-you-members-and-revenue

2 – https://generalassemb.ly/blog/six-ux-strategies-make-site-user-friendly/

3 – http://www.webbrightservices.com/the-association-blog/5-key-ingredients-of-a-friendly-membership-website

4 – http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/11-common-mistakes-blunders-in-web-design/

5 – https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/02/9-common-usability-blunders/

6 – https://blog.kissmetrics.com/common-website-navigation-mistakes/

7 – http://www.sageworld.com/blog/index.php/2015/07/02/9-ways-to-instantly-make-your-website-more-user-friendly/

8 – http://www.jeffbullas.com/2016/02/04/3-key-tips-make-website-user-friendly/

9 – http://www.commonplaces.com/blog/10-tips-for-building-a-user-friendly-website/

10 – http://www.websitemagazine.com/content/blogs/posts/archive/2014/02/06/3-tips-to-make-your-website-more-user-friendly.aspx

11 – http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/chartbeat-website-engagement-data-nj#sm.0000uz1yhvbl8frrsj120lhj1gm2m

Four Tips to Protect Your Data from Ransomware

Written by Teri Milner.

If you haven’t experienced ransomware either personally or professionally, there has been enough press in recent months regarding major institutions getting hacked (think Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center) that it should be top of mind. Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents users from accessing files and data on their system, and forces users to pay a ransom in order to regain access. The insidious nature of these attacks is that you often don’t know you are being exposed to them: ads filled with malicious JavaScript-based software can be plugged into ad networks used by major news websites[1], so simply reading your electronic daily paper can make your system vulnerable.

What can make these attacks even worse is that cyber criminals can also hack into your local backups and ransom that data along with server data. Simply backing up local files is not enough to protect your data. So, what can be done to protect yourself from this newest cyber threat?  Here are some recommendations:

  1. Backup your data frequently, and be sure the files are saved elsewhere (preferably on an external hard drive) so that cyber criminals can’t easily access them. An IT company had a client who refused to do daily, offsite backups (too expensive in their opinion) so when the client was hacked, both their network and their local onsite backup was held for ransom. There was nothing they could do but pony up the cash, and then fix the holes in their systems the IT professionals had recommended plugging up in the first place.
  2. Do not pay the ransom. According to Symantec a leader in cyber security, if you do get encrypted by a cyber-attack, you should not pay the ransom. Instead, remove the impacted system from the network and remove the threat. Then, restore from a known good backup[2] (see #1 above!).
  3. Keep your staff, colleagues and friends mindful of the risks: clicking on an invoice you weren’t expecting, an ad pop-up or some other seemingly innocuous thing, can be the back door into your systems that the cyber criminals are looking for.
  4. Perform regular software updates, use antivirus software and firewalls. While some claim that antivirus software is obsolete because malware changes too rapidly, for every new malware item, there are hundreds of old malware still active.[3] The FBI claims that Windows 10 has the best security, so if you haven’t updated your systems yet, think about doing so while it is still free (June 2016 is the deadline for the free Windows 10 upgrade).

While there are many more precautions you can take for your personal or professional cyber security, these four tips rank the highest of all the information I have found. Invest in an IT service that can monitor your systems and security, helping to keep your information safe and secure. Some ransoms can demand as much as tens of thousands of dollars, making the monthly fee of a trusted IT service seem minimal. What is your data worth?

Sources

[1] Article by Ernie Smith (03/22/2016) in the Associations Now Illustration weekly newsletter by ASAE: “How to Prevent Ransomware: Follow These Four Tips” http://associationsnow.com/2016/03/how-to-prevent-ransomware-follow-four-tips/

[2] Symantec Official Blog: “Ransomware Do’s and Don’ts: Protecting Critical Data” by Matt Sherman. Created 02/18/2015 http://www.symantec.com/connect/blogs/ransomware-dos-and-donts-protecting-critical-data

[3] Computerworld, “Ransomware: 7 tips for recovery and prevention” by Robert C Covington. January 21, 2016 http://www.computerworld.com/article/3023543/malware-vulnerabilities/ransomware-7-tips-for-recovery-and-prevention.html

Three Simple and Practical Design Tips You Should Be Using

By Ryan Tarbell, TH Mgmt., Inc. Communications Associate

As a communications associate at TH Mgmt., Inc. my greatest responsibility is to get a clear and engaging message out to our clients and members. My goal is to deliver a straightforward message, which provides our clients with the select information they need without it vanishing into the white noise of mass mailings cluttering up their inboxes. Given the variety of design platforms in use, and the inevitable emergence of new technologies, it is important to have a sound understanding of design fundamentals.

Practical design tips I like to keep in mind include:

  1. Traditional fonts. Legibility in type/text is crucial in user engagement. With thousands of fonts out there, it’s good to know a few time proven mainstay traditional fonts. Some of my “go to” fonts are the Univers, Helvetica, Frutiger and Garamond families. These font families have the benefit of being tried and tested over time, and hold up for their legibility and aesthetic value. I have found that working within constraints can actually enable creativity. While I will use non-traditional fonts on occasion (usually if I am trying to draw the eye to one area of the composition) I find that the traditional fonts lend themselves to the support role nicely. The body copy of a design acts as the skeleton the rest of the composition is hung upon. Tested fonts will help the structure of the image be successful. Designing like this will also force you to improve your working knowledge of typography, understanding the dynamic relationship between characters and character blocks. Remember, you have to walk before you can run.
  2. Consistent style. The sooner you can establish a consistent visual language for your promotions the better. Once established, don’t stray from the mark too far. It will help to keep you clients focused on the message you are trying to get across, without distracting them by offering something unfamiliar. A successful visual language can also find use on multiple design projects. If something is working, let it continue to work. When you are ready to roll out something knew, and you want your audience to recognize it as such, that is the time to make noticeable changes, while still remaining faithful to your overall vernacular. An adjustment to your style will help your audience recognized you are rolling out a new idea or concept. It will help engage them. Remember, successful interactive design comes from you doing the thinking for them. Attention spans are alarmingly short these days so getting the viewer to notice something is an accomplishment; it should not then be ruined by a difficult interactive experience. This leads us to our next design tip, simplicity.
  3. Simplicity. Understanding basic rules of composition is critical for a designer. Be careful not to over design your composition.  Often, the most basic design ideas lead to the most sophisticated pieces. This is where the fundamentals of design come into play. Understanding where the eye of your audience is likely to settle and move through the piece is essential. Again, there are rules and structure to any composition: following these rules and working with them, rather than at cross purposes, will compel you to push yourself. An example of this could be to limit the color palette you are using, or working in grayscale altogether until you have got the composition down, and only then adding color. Be familiar with the current trends in design, as well as past trends. An awareness as to what is happening now in the design world will keep your work fresh and relevant.Continuing education is important for any creative professional. In that spirit, here are some book recommendations:  Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang which gives some great insights on how to organize a composition with a visually pleasing aesthetic. Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland which gives tips on how to get over your hesitation and start working. And finally, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, a must read for anyone, regardless of vocation, to learn how to overcome the struggle against daily resistance.