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Those Tricky LinkedIn Endorsements

LinkedIn endorsements trouble me.

The first time I received a notice that “X has endorsed you for..” I thought “what the hell is that?”. I actually received two in as many days and it freaked it me out so much that I contacted both people to ask how it happened that they endorsed me. I was mortified to think that they might think that I was asking them to endorse me. One seemed to understand that it was some kind of automatically generated thing that just happened with LinkedIn, however the other person, did, in fact, think it was a request I had sent them. I felt powerless, confused. I even sent LinkedIn an email questioning the practice, in response to which I received some standard, unhelpful reply.

All of that was some time ago now and, although I only rarely actually log-in to LinkedIn these days, it would appear that endorsements, for better or worse, have become common-place. An article last month in the ABA Journal reignited my train wreck-like attraction to the topic by asking “do LinkedIn endorsements violate legal ethics rules?” The article, together with some poll results about whether lawyers hide their endorsements on LinkedIn taught me some things I didn’t know about Linked In and also offered the following closing advice for lawyers: remove endorsements you believe are false or misleading.

Hmmm… one more thing for my summer to do list. And I smell a CLE topic.

Strategies for Engaging Younger Members

Youth may be wasted on the young but associations aren’t. Unfortunately, many associations struggle with how to engage younger members. The solution is more intuitive than you think – engage them on their terms. Here are three suggestions to help you get started:

1. Use current technology to meet young members where they live

Generation Y doesn’t know life without the internet.  Everything electronic is second nature to them, and they expect hyper-speed information. Move quarterly print publications to the back seat. Make your website your flagship communication vehicle. Digital publications, online event registration, membership sign-up and renewal – it should all happen here. Use your website to link to an expanded social media presence (but remember to target your specific audience – older and younger Millenials, for example, have different social networking site preferences). Show younger members your value by making things easy for them, and by being the first to provide information that affects them.

2. Tap into younger members’ preferences for interactive learning and meaningful networking

You don’t have to reinvent your education program – just create value for all generations. Make learning relevant to the interests and needs of younger members, for example in a junior counsel or new practitioner track , and deliver it in a way that allows them to contribute, for example in small discussion groups or sharing forums. When it comes to networking, avoid creating purely social events with their peers – they can do this themselves. Instead, use the old to draw the young, and focus on creating opportunities for connecting with more experienced members so young members can enhance core competencies, ask real-world mentoring questions, and develop their careers. Millenials change firms more frequently than their predecessors – meeting someone who can offer you a job some day is always of interest.

3. Demonstrate personal impact and reward

Millenials are like the Geminis of generational astrology – narcissistic and entitled on one hand, but collaborative and cause-driven on the other. They are the fundraiser who raises the most money, so others will know they raised the most money. Yes, they’re complicated but they’re also good for associations. They want to know their work matters, and they are interested in giving back. Not all Millenials are the same, and if you believe the literature, no Millenial is the same every day, so flexible and fluid are the new rules of engagement. Co-create the value of membership with them – ask them what they want, and be responsive with a multi-faceted approach. Provide opportunities to volunteer through one-time events and ad hoc committees, and also offer official status within the larger organization. Give them as much responsibility as they want, let them self-organize and communicate how they want, and then let them run with it.

The median age of association members is on the rise. As yesteryear’s supporters retire and disappear, the question is not “should associations engage Millenials?” but rather “how should associations engage Millenials?” Allowing your young members to give and take on their own terms says you value them for who they are now. Play your cards right and you’ll find value in who they are later too.

Making an Impression: Holograms in CPD?

Recently I attended a client brainstorming session for an anniversary event when someone asked “wouldn’t it be great if we had an avatar of x person to greet people at the door?”  Since it was an open question to the group, I weighed in. “Well, we can probably arrange it if you have enough money, but would it actually be great?”

The use of holograms or more accurately computer generated two dimensional renderings to raise the dead attracted headlines this past April when the late rapper Tupac Shakur performed at the Coachella Music Festival. While the technology wasn’t entirely new – similar visual magic has been used for several living musicians and to resurrect dead CEOs – the performance generated an amazing range of reactions on the web and in print media. Some commentators described it in remembrance and homage-paying terms while others derided it as empty imagery and manipulation at the hands of parasites. Pretty polarizing stuff.

And although the company that created Tupac’s hologram is now bankrupt, there is clearly still a huge appetite for holographic performances by deceased icons – Michael Jackson’s brothers have apparently said that he may join them on tour in holographic form, the estate of Marilyn Monroe is threatening legal action of a potential holographic performance, and reputable media sources have confirmed that Ronald Reagan was scheduled to appear as a hologram outside the GOP Convention this past August but was cancelled at the last minute. It is, as more than one writer has noted, just a matter of time before Elvis returns to Las Vegas.

So what’s that got to do with PD, you ask? Dead celebrities are a far cry from late leaders of the bar and deceased association bigwigs. Maybe, maybe not. As technology advances, digital projections of the living, dead, and fictional may become more common. This year, University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust started using ‘holographic nurses’ to promote hand hygiene in the UK. And a hologram of a female customer service agent was interacting with passengers at LaGuardia, Newark Liberty and JFK International airports this past summer. So where does it stop? I’m guessing it doesn’t, so sooner or later, more PD professionals may be asking “wouldn’t it be great…?” Which brings me back to my client’s anniversary event. Would they be providing an opportunity for members to witness a legacy “first hand” or would they be tarnishing a legacy? I don’t know.

What I do know is that I’m at least as innovative as the next PD professional, but for right now there’s a significant creepy factor to holograms for me. Seriously, they’re weird, right?  On a less personal level, I worry allowing holograms – particularly of the departed – into association culture could seriously undermine day to day member recruitment efforts. In most cases, the elite is already a pretty crowed club. Resurrecting the dead could leave little to no room for all those new folks we’re trying to attract. Is there any good news, you ask? I think so. At least for today, holograms are probably out of most associations’ price range – even for a blowout anniversary event.  Estimated cost of the technology is in the US $100,000 to $400,000 range. Try projecting that.

Video Chat Round-up

While it’s true that when it comes to collaboration, nothing can replace an in person meeting, it’s also true that people can’t always physically get together. Fortunately, teleconferencing and video chat services make it easy for colleagues to connect regardless of where they are. In my office, our preferred chat service is Skype. Not because we’re big into online chatting necessarily but because it’s free long distance. In addition to being right for our budget, the sound quality is consistently good. That having been said, we don’t use the video option and most chats are limited to two people, or more accurately, two laptops. Usually we have two or three people together in one location, and two or three people together in another location, and we use Skype to bring all four to six together.

For those looking for better quality, paid options, there’s a good compare and contrast of four services – Cisco WebEx meeting, Cisco Telepresence EX60, Skype Premium and Biscotti – in Inc. Magazine’s July/August 2012 issue. The article, Face Time, Any Time compares the pros, cons and costs of these four video chat tools. Truly savvy technology providers may also be interested in the Shiny Objects section of the August 2012 issue of Entrepreneur. See What I’m Saying showcases a dream list of digital devices to make your next video chat even more life-like. From webcams to microphones to swivels that keep things steady, these moderately priced to very expensive items will help even the most photogenic PD professional improve her remote presence. See What I’m Saying also offers its own comments on Skype, the “hangouts” feature in the Google social network, and Apple’s Face Time as ways to connect. Neither of these articles mentioned Go to Meeting but we’ve looked at in my office – not for meetings – but as a training platform. I’d be interested in any experiences anyone has had with it.