Shed the Blue Blazer
By Stephanie Czuhajewski, Chief Executive Officer , Agentis Management

As I travel for client and industry events, one thing stands out in this post-business-casual world—the blue blazer. This longstanding staple of a professional’s business wardrobe has in many ways come to represent the stodgy, archaic ‘good ole boy’ conventions of years gone by—and is today often associated with outdated ideas, technologies and models of learning.

The blue blazer is safe. It can be worn with everything from a button-down oxford to a polo, to a t-shirt. It can be worn with jeans or khakis—and with—or without a tie. However, there is nothing unique or inventive about a blue blazer. Today’s trailblazers are increasingly shedding the blue blazer and the blue blazer mindset.

Innovators across industries are not only making radically different fashion statements, but equally drastic changes to the way knowledge is transferred at live and virtual events. In this age of rapid change and disruption, the last thing people seem to want to epitomize is adequate and ubiquitous.

Today’s business gurus and TED Talk pioneers all preach the message to push revolution in thinking, embrace change and face fear for the purpose of disruption and innovation. If organizations and individuals don’t take risks to evolve and differentiate to meet modern needs, they will slowly dissolve and disappear.

To be clear, I am not advocating judging one’s ability to innovate by his/her choice of attire. After all Steve Jobs was pretty creative and he wore the same outfit almost every day (though, it should be noted that he did not wear blue blazers). I am merely suggesting that the blue blazer symbolizes complacency and paradigms that are no longer relevant in today’s society.

I am excited about the opportunities for future meetings and events, which are built on new platforms and engagement channels. I hope that all meeting professionals will relegate blue blazer thinking to the back of the closet, in favor of more modern ideas. Let’s make every convention unconventional and create opportunities for learning and networking that are truly meaningful for the professions and industries we serve.

What Matters Most to Members?
When a busy professional takes the time to join an association of like-minded members, she wants to feel valued – and to know that her membership is worthwhile. From the day a new member is welcomed to the association, he will work with various staff members to accomplish his goals of membership.

Customer service is the key to making the member feel welcome as soon as they ‘walk through the door.’ It’s a similar concept to hosting a successful dinner party. When your guests arrive, you make them feel welcome by taking their coats, offering refreshments, and immediately engaging them in conversation. With great food, company, and care that lasts throughout the evening, you can be sure that your guests will be coming back to your parties – and that they are always memorable.

Every association member deserves the utmost in care from its staff. The welcome letter sets the tone for the membership and encourages communication. Throughout each year, the member may contact headquarters — with a quick question, to make a donation, or to register for an event. A warm and efficient response from the staff member will ensure that the member will feel free to contact headquarters with any questions or concerns. Whether the members are strategizing with the President, working on advocacy issues with Government Relations staff members, or renewing their membership with the Member Services Manager, they appreciate the staff members who go the extra mile for them.

Building these relationships fosters an extra element of trust between the member and his chosen association. This trust results in continued memberships, recruitment of new members, larger donations, innovative strategy – the possibilities are endless. A great relationship between the member and her association staff often starts with the smallest gesture of service.

At Agentis, we are proud to maintain the highest level of customer service. We recognize the value of continued membership to each association, and we are ready to help all members accomplish their professional goals.

Why Is Web Design Important to Your Association's Success?
Your website is often the first thing a potential member sees when they discover your association. Potential sponsors, contributors, or other collaborators will also be visiting your website. It goes without saying that a professional, technologically up-to-date website is crucial to attract new members and potential partners.

The design of your website will often determine how long a potential visitor will stay on the site exploring your content. If your website is poorly designed, looks 10 years out-of-date, and perhaps most importantly, is not smartphone compatible (i.e. "responsive"), new visitors may not take your association seriously, and move on. You may have well-written, relevant content, but a poorly designed website may send visitors the wrong message, that your association is not forward-thinking or professional enough to be taken seriously.

It is a sad truth that for many associations, a high-quality website may be at the bottom of their to-do list, whether it be due to lack of time or lack of funds to redesign an existing site. Agentis Management typically offers new clients a low-cost website upgrade as part of its client transition. Make sure that your AMC is taking your website design seriously, and encourage them to stay up-to-date with design and usability trends.

Visit the Agentis web design portfolio for a look at some of our professionally-designed client websites.

How Do I Boost My Association Website’s Page Ranking?
In the last few years, search engine optimization (SEO) has become a big business. Site owners are eager to have their sites show up near the top of a user's Google search results, and there are hundreds of tutorials, how-to guides, and technology companies that aim to achieve this goal. Costs can range from several hundred dollars to price tags in the tens of thousands. While all websites can benefit from SEO, most associations don't budget for the practice, and may balk at making the investment. However, there are some simple modifications you can perform that will aid in SEO without breaking the bank.

One of the most effective things you can do to increase your association website's prominence on the 'Net is to encourage other sites to link to you. The more sites that are linking to you, the greater chance that Google and the other search engines will rank your site higher. Search engines use algorithms to determine which sites are more 'relevant' than others, and the number of direct links from neighboring sites is ranked highly in the mix.

Other no-brainer site upgrades that can raise your site's search engine visibility is to utilize keywords strategically. Keywords are the words that you think most prospective visitors will be using to search for your site, or for information about your association's specialty. Placing these keywords in your headings and page titles will further increase their relevance in the eyes of Google.

Finally, a sitemap can help the search engines index your site. A sitemap is simply a page that contains links to all the content that your site has to offer. This can increase the number of your site's individual pages that are indexed by Google, and have an effect on page ranking.