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Engaging First-Time Conference Attendees

Engaging First-Time Conference Attendees: 4 Tactics to Try

Of course you want to provide an exceptional experience for ALL of your conference attendees, but ensuring that happens for your first-time attendees is particularly important. Their decision to attend future events (and possibly even renew their membership) depends heavily on that first experience, so going the extra mile for those folks, in particular, is certainly worth it.

What does “going the extra mile” for your first-time attendees look like? Here are a few tactics worth trying:

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From #ASAE17: Why You Should Hire the Overqualified Candidate

Posted by Krissy Conant

Overqualified Candidate.jpg

Earlier this month I was thankful to attend my first ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo in Toronto, Canada. As a first timer, I was blown away with the clear organization of the show and the palpable enthusiastic from our industry community! I can see why people describe this show as recharging their association “batteries.”

I had the pleasure of sitting in on a session co-presented by Lynn Erdman and Susan Hohenhaus from the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. Their session, Take a Chance on Me: Hiring the Overqualified Candidate, discussed the benefits and challenges of hiring an overqualified candidate for your association.

What’s the issue?

Many managers will turn away overqualified candidates due to several fear factors: being replaced, finding these employee harder to control, or leaving for a better offer. However, Erdman and Hohenhaus urge the industry to instead think on where these overqualified candidates are coming from.

Typically, you’ll find these candidates are early retirees, burn-outs from the corporate world, or a result of the USA’s recession effect. More often than not, these candidates are turning to your association to make the best use of their experienced skill sets and in turn have the ability to support a personal cause from the inside.

How can you best determine if they will be a good fit for your association?

First things first, you need to make sure you and your hiring team are on the same page about what you are looking for in a candidate. Most overqualified candidates don’t even make it in for an interview due to their background, so make sure you at least give them a chance if you think they could be a strong fit for your association. The real question is what can it hurt to bring them in?

When starting the interview process, Erdman and Hohenhaus believe you can sift through your overqualified candidates by asking the right types of interview questions. You’re trying to understand their story and connect the dots on how they got to you. Asking questions like “Why did you leave your last job?” or “What motivates you to be successful?” will help you fill in some of those blanks.

In addition, you should try to bring up salary early. Yes, it might be one of the biggest factors on whether this candidate is going to make or break it with your association. You might as well get to the topic early enough to not waste anyone’s time. Remember though: These overqualified candidates will often get snatched up fast due to their experience so don’t delay too long.

What are the benefits of hiring an overqualified candidate?

Congrats! Let’s say you decided to go for it and hired an overqualified candidate. So, what can you expect? Typically, these employees are much faster with onboarding than their counterparts and will jump into their job duties quicker than you expect. As a manager, the best thing you can do for these employees is to provide room for them to grow within your association and allow them to take some ownership!

Those obvious risks we talked about could become reality if you don’t allow your new employee to take charge in some way. Maybe you could reflect back on some opportunities you have considered growing in your association, but never felt you had the time. Often times you’ll find these employees want to try something a little different from their background, so provide them the challenge by giving them the space to try out some new ideas.

Finally, one key point made by Erdman and Hohenhaus is to try and use your overqualified employee as a sounding board for your own questions and concerns. Experience is the best teacher, so don’t be afraid to seek out your new employee’s perspective on an issue they may have dealt with before.

It’s no secret that the employee turnover rate in the association space and nonprofit industry is quite high. And though there are a number of reasons for that, one of the biggest factors affecting nonprofit turnover is a poor (or nonexistent) onboarding process. To prevent that from happening in your association, take a look at our Best Practices for Onboarding New Staff!  

Best Practices for Onboarding New Staff  How to get your new staff members up to speed! Download this guide

Topics: association leadership, ASAE, Small Staff Chatter

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