Category Archive: Events

The One Resolution Every Association Should Make

Avatar photo January 13th, 2021 by

As we close 2020 and move into 2021, association leaders may be looking for ways to increase their organizational efficiencies – a kind of new year’s resolution. Association leaders should resolve to review how technology supports the organization’s processes. Unfortunately, many organizations delay examining their use of technology, taking an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, not recognizing that their current processes may be costing them money. Money, in terms of time and inefficient staff processes. Money in the form of missed opportunities to improve the customer experience, resulting in loss of sales. It can also mean money in terms of loss of members due to bad customer service.

This task may seem daunting, so here are three suggestions for how to go about tackling this initiative:

Review Processes

Many associations have processes that have been in place for 10+ years and have never taken the time to examine how they could become more efficient. Particularly, associations that are leveraging SaaS solutions should note that those vendors regularly release new features. If they’ve not taken the time to review and consider how best to leverage those features, the added value of having a SaaS solution is lost. Taking the time to think through why a specific process is in place and if any steps could be skipped to make the process more efficient could help start your review. Ideally, during the review the organization will identify processes that are no longer necessary or redundant steps by multiple people. Tightening up those processes will provide instant value. Identifying new processes that may further provide value by better leveraging the existing technology will improve overall efficiency for the organization.

Light Bulb Ideas Creative Diagram Concept

Opportunities for Automation

After reviewing processes, consider opportunities for automation by identifying repeatable tasks within those processes. Many AMS’ include workflow automation tools that offer staff ways to run bulk processes instead of requiring staff to take manual steps each time. For example, if your organization is manually renewing memberships, look into your membership system’s ability to run bulk renewals – most association management systems (AMS) offer some form of bulk renewal. If you are manually moving data between two systems (AMS and LMS) – look into the ability to integrate via an API. If staff is sending individual welcome emails to new members, explore the power of your tools to trigger emails to members with individualized content. Most SaaS tools provide a range of features that are not being leveraged by most organizations – taking the time to understand those features can be valuable. It’s like buying a Swiss Army Knife and only using the knife – take the time to explore the other features your tools offer, and you may realize you’re able to do much more.

Automation Software Technology Process System Business concept

Identify New Tools

In reviewing your processes, you may find an array of new tools that may benefit the organization’s growth and efficiency. A few examples include:

Centralized Business Intelligence (BI) Tool

Organizations often struggle to have data dispersed across multiple systems. Having a centralized BI tool will allow numerous different data sources to generate a more holistic view of your organization’s information. Having centralized reporting can make the process of generating annual reports, like those often required by the board of directors, a much less arduous task. It can also allow leadership to gather information to make strategic decisions quickly. Ideally, the BI tool will automatically pull data, again to automate processes.

Centralized Business Intelligence (BI) Tool


Instead of requiring staff to answer the same email questions over and over, chatbots are a great way to get quick answers to customers. These tools are getting easier to implement, as they combine automation with artificial intelligence to deliver a great user experience. With recent advancements around Salesforce’s Einstein AI, the effort for associations to add a chatbot that can truly enhance the customer experience has significantly decreased.


Integration Platforms

A lot of organizations will do point-to-point integrations, which work well when set-up initially. However, if an organization wants to scale or switch to a new system in the long term, the organization will likely have to rebuild integrations from scratch. An integration platform allows you to be more strategic around your data. An integration platform can ensure data is moving as expected, and if something breaks, you will know before your customers. It also allows organizations to have continuity among their systems.

Additionally, it will take less effort to switch out systems within an integration as the existing connections can be reused to build a new integration. fusionSpan’s fusionConnect is a product that can do just that for associations. fusionConnect is a fully managed cloud-based product with existing connections to most popular systems that today’s associations use. fusionConnect can be deployed rapidly with scalable integration solutions.

Group of People Network Circuit Board Link Connection Technology

The more understanding staff have of their association’s technology, and how that technology fits into their processes, the more efficient the association will be as a whole. Depending on the organization’s size and the number of different technology platforms used, the effort required could make this resolution a bit of a project but a project well worth the effort.

Designing, coding, implementing, and ensuring organizational efficiencies is what fusionSpan specializes in. We’ve helped hundreds of businesses meet their technology goals. We invite you to discover how together, we can leverage intelligent data-driven solutions for your business.

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fusionSpan by the Numbers: 2018 Year in Review

Christi Liongson January 24th, 2019 by

2018 has come and gone, and we have a lot to celebrate! Over the past year at fusionSpan, we’ve continued to grow as a company.  From mobile apps to Salesforce applications, we are proud to partner with some amazing associations and non-profits to build better ways for organizations to connect with their members.  Below are our highlights and celebrations from 2018.


200+ Projects

In 2018, we completed 200+ projects for over 70 associations as well as 15 website, AMS and Salesforce implementations! From a simultaneous website/AMS implementation to robust member workflows using custom Salesforce applications, we are proud to showcase our work with these organizations.

In addition to our major implementation projects, we provided ongoing support for over 25 organizations in maintaining, evaluating, and improving their AMSs, websites, and Salesforce instances.

6 Salesforce and netFORUM Enterprise Plugins and Applications

6 Salesforce and netFORUM Enterprise Plugins and Applications

We receive frequent requests on how to add new customizations and functionalities to enterprise-level AMSes. That’s why this year, we debuted six new plugins for netFORUM Enterprise and Salesforce Applications!

For netFORUM Enterprise, we released four free plugins that enable customer impersonation, CAPTCHA, typeahead, and open dialogue. The Salesforce Association Power Pack (APP) and Member Power Pack (MPP) includes powerful features for your Salesforce AMS.

The Salesforce Association Power Pack (APP) and Member Power Pack (MPP) includes powerful features for your Salesforce AMS.

Member Power Pack

Association Power Pack

4 Exhibit Booths at User Group Meetings and Conferences

4 Exhibit Booths at User Group Meetings and Conferences

Did you spot any of the fusionSpan staff in the wild?  This year, we attended four user group meetings and conferences: Community Brands’ inaugural Xperience18 Conference, netFORUM Avectra Users Group (AUG) – Developers Deep Dive,  Fonteva Users Network Conference (FUNCon), and the ASAE Technology Conference.   You may have seen us at our booth or sharing valuable best practices managing your data in your AMS and website.

We hope to see you at future meetings and conferences!  Check out our News page to read our latest conference announcements.

2x Staff Size

2x Staff Size

In a year, we’ve seen our fusionSpan family double in size.  With new teams of project managers, business analysts, designers, and developers, we can support even more implementation projects and ongoing support customers!

We’re continuing to grow our team — if you have a passion for technology and supporting associations and non-profits, we invite you to check out our careers page to see available positions.

We have many more exciting things planned for 2019. Subscribe to our blog and stay up-to-date on our latest announcements!

fusionSpan at #ASAETech18

justin fusionSpan Team December 14th, 2018 by

fusionSpan kicked off last week at the Annual ASAE Technology Conference. As our team has continued to grow we have looked for more ways to engage and give back to the association community, and ASAE Tech is a great example. Not only did we have lots of great conversations with attendees at our booth in the exhibit hall, we also co-presented two sessions as part of the learning opportunities of the conference.

Are You Ready for Data Economy?

Are You Ready for Data Economy?

Gayathri Kher, fusionSpan’s President, co-presented along with three other association veterans on the latest examples of organizations leveraging data, and how associations should be thinking about their data. With examples like Amazon Go and DNA mapping tools, more and more organizations are looking to gather information about individuals, and the questions associations need to be asking is what value are they offering their members for that data? If the data serves a purpose that makes the experience more convenient, then customers may be willing to part with their information. But as that information becomes more and more valuable, associations will likely need to offer more and more benefit to gain access.

Enhancing the value of your AMS

Enhancing the value of your AMSIn partnership with ULI – the Urban Land Institute, fusionSpan’s Justin Burniske; Director, Enterprise Solutions; shared the work that has been done over the past two years to create a robust member ecosystem. During that time ULI has made a commitment to netFORUM Enterprise as their system of record for all customer data, and has built out a range of tools around netFORUM to enhance the member experience. As part of that process, they have ensured that data consistently travels between new systems and netFORUM, allowing netFORUM to both maintain the most up-to-date member information, as well as provide ULI with a 360 view on how members are engaging with their organization.

Engaging in the exhibit hall

Engaging in the exhibit hall

Beyond the sessions, ASAE Tech is a great place to network and get help addressing an association’s specific challenges. fusionSpan had two of our top business analysts  – Jessica Sansaet; Implementation Manager, Salesforce; and Christi Liongson; Senior Digital Strategist – in the hall talking with folks about the challenges they are encountering and how they might go about solving the problem. Additionally, it’s a great place to catch up with all our current clients in person. In this digital world, there’s nothing that can replace an in-person handshake!

New Years Resolution: Update your SOPs

justin fusionSpan Team March 7th, 2017 by

You know what’s no fun? Chores. They are what you might call a, “necessary evil.” One of the hardest transitions in life is when you first leave home, and you suddenly realize A) just how many chores your parent(s) or guardian did that you took for granted and B) that you have no idea how to complete most of them. Fortunately, most of us are able to pick up the phone and get instructions on how to sort laundry (don’t mix colors with whites) and if popcorn kernels can go down the garbage disposal (probably not a good idea). If we’re smart, we take notes, in essence creating our first set of standard operating procedures (SOPs). 

Now you’re in a work environment, and everyone has a bunch of tasks you could call their, “chores.” Tasks that are not particularly exciting, but important to your organization’s success. The difference with the work example is that you don’t move out, instead your parents (Read: critical employee) decide to move to Hawaii*, leaving you to watch the house, feed the dog and maintain the yard. Now you’re wishing you’d documented your processes because no matter how much you call, lets face it your parents are to busy soaking up the rays to answer the phone. So before all your processes walk out the door to go wear a grass skirt on the beach, make your New Year’s Resolution to document your SOPs. Here are a few steps to get you started. 

Audit Current Documentation 

Many organizations actually assume they have more documentation than they really do. But when they start actually looking closely, they realize current documentation is outdated, sparse, or just missing. Auditing means that someone goes in and does a close read of existing documentation. Ideally it’s someone who didn’t create the documentation but also knows enough about the process to know if something doesn’t make sense. 

Outline a Timeline…and Check In On It!

Once an audit is complete, set up a timeline of when the documentation will be updated. Don’t just say, “All SOPs updated by X date.” Break it up into manageable chunks. Ideally more than one person can be involved in the process, in which case have a weekly 10-minute check in to “celebrate” the small victories. That being said, there should also be a larger celebration when it’s all done. 

The End is Just the Beginning

Now that your SOPs are up to date, setting up a SOP that regularly updates the SOPs is critical. Just as the business is constantly changing, so should the SOPs document be a living document that is updated and revised on a regular basis. The easiest way to accomplish this is by incorporating the SOPs into the organization instead of writing them and forgetting them. SOPs should be used as part of the new staff training. When staff have questions about how to do things, you could refer them to the section of the SOPs that addresses their question. Creating a culture where people reference your SOPs does several thing:

  • Ensures processes are consistent across the organization. 
  • Reduces the amount of time staff, particularly for IT, spent addressing mundane issues like, “Where do I submit my expenses?” or, “How do I reset my password?” freeing them up to take on bigger challenges. 
  • Ensures the SOPs stay up to date, since as soon as they become out of date, someone will notice because they will be referencing the SOPs to do their job. 

Getting Creative with Your SOPs

If you’ve finished updating your SOPs, but what to take it a step further, here are a few options:

  • Build them as a wiki – SOPs are prime for a wiki. The wiki allows for collaboration and it allows for sections to get reused. In any set of SOPs, there are baseline parts of every process (See: Step 1 – Login to the system). A wiki will allow you to link to those details, for anyone who is new to the process, while more advanced users can focus on only the big picture steps.
  • Add graphics/screenshots – While step by step directions are great, breaking them up with screen shots helps, especially with arrows pointing to buttons. And, there are plenty of great screenshot tools out there.
  • Tell people why – One of the biggest challenges when trying to implement new technology based on your current SOPs is understanding why current SOPs exist. In some cases, current SOPs exist because of an issue with the current technology, but if no one remembers that, the current process will be moved to the new technology. So  be sure to note why SOPs exist (ie required by bi-laws; system limitation; marketing director indicated this was a must), that way when the time comes to update, not only will processes be documented, you will have the underlying assumptions to go with them.

We hope you have a productive 2017!

*Note: Just in case you think the author is being overly hyperbolic he wanted to point out that his parents did in fact move to Hawaii and leave him in the house his freshman year of college. 

AMSFest – Up close with an AMS

justin fusionSpan Team September 22nd, 2016 by

img_3461fusionSpan was at AMSFest, put on by Teri Carden, founder of It’s an intimate event where association professionals can get an up-close look at a bunch of different AMS (association management systems) vendors all in one place. They also can talk with industry partners (like fusionSpan) about what the trends are and what they should have on their radar. Very informative for both organizations beginning the process of moving to a new AMS as well as organizations just looking to stay abreast of the latest news related to association technology. Highlights included:

AMS Implementation

Heard from Rene Shonerd who is currently implementing 5 AMS systems at once. A little crazy, but sometimes you just got to do what you got to do. She pointed out that before making a move, associations should always reassess their current system – new feature come out all the time, and those new features may solve your current issues. If you do decide to move, make sure to rank the importance of different feature BEFORE looking at systems – don’t want to make a decision based on some shiny object that isn’t business critical.


Featuring fusionSpan’s very own Gayathri Kher, this panel dived into the nitty-gritty of SSO (single sign-on) and API (application programming interface). While all AMS vendors can check a box that their system does have an API, not all APIs are built the same. As you are getting ready to make a purchase, ask them to demonstrate the capabilities of their API, budget money to maintain your integrations, and understand that, as the name suggests, you will need a programmer to do some programming. There was also an interesting conversation around Middleware that can serve as a cog to connect multiple systems, but can also be costly.

Investors Discover

Lots of AMS vendors are buying and being bought. A vendor being purchased could be a good thing – the panel noted that generally only good companies get acquired. It could also mean trouble – an acquisition likely means a change in culture. Key takeaway for associations? Ask questions – reach out to your favorite employees at that organization and see if they are sticking around. If they are leaving it may be a red flag of things to come.

Was a very informative event with lots of very knowledgeable speakers donating their time to put on a great event. Plus, if you’re about to begin the search for a new AMS, may as well do it at a location with a rooftop networking event. We had a great view of the Capitol, Union Station and the rest of the DC skyline.


Geek Pride Day! Today!

Mary Glavin May 25th, 2016 by

Here at fusionSpan geek is a term of endearment; it’s not simply a noun, but a title of pride among our band of IT employees. In the age of endless days dedicated to the slightly obscure, Be An Angel Day August 22 naturally, or the beloved, national hot dog day this year falling on July 23, comes Geek Pride Day on May 25. Why today of all days grants such an honorable title?

Geek Pride Day! Today!

The anniversary of the first Star Wars film, Episode IV: A New Hope was released on May 25, 1977; So do yourself a favor on this historical day and celebrate in whatever capacity suits you and your workplace policies. Comic-con outfit too over the top for the office? Opt for a subdued cape. Left your Star Wars collection at home? Stream the family guy Star Wars episode via Netflix from your phone or on a projector for all to cherish. None of the above? Crack open a butterbeer, recipe here, from the comfort of your desk and muse over the fusionSpan team geek offerings as a small escape far far away from your inbox.

Jason Cook

Jason Cook

What is your favorite geek show/movie/video game?: Star Trek

Favorite Star Wars/LOTR character? Yoda

Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings? Harry Potter

Superman or Batman: Batman

Mary Glavin

Mary Glavin

Geek show: Modern Marvels

Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings? Harry Potter

Superman or Batman: Batman

Are we in the matrix? For sure. Or our world is inside a snowflake re: The Grinch

Linh Hoang

Linh Hoang

What is your favorite geek show/movie/video game? Big Bang Theory

Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings? LOTR

Superman or Batman? Superman

Big Bang Theory

Gayathri Kher

What is your favorite geek show/movie/video game? Big Bang Theory

Favorite Star Wars/LOTR character? Aragon

Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings? LOTR

Superman or Batman? Batman

Are we in the matrix? Is that really a question?


Manav Kher

What is your favorite geek show/movie/video game? Matrix, Office Space, Back to the future

Favorite Star Wars/LOTR character? Samwise Gamge

Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings? LOTR

Superman or Batman? Superman

Are we in the matrix? It’s Possible

Brain Games

Jess Sansaet

What is your favorite geek show/movie/video game? Brain Games

Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings?LOTR!

Superman or Batman: Batman

Are we in the matrix? ….. maybe? Which pill should I take? :-O

Show – The IT Crowd;

Ojus Wagh

What is your favorite geek show/movie/video game?Show – The IT Crowd;

Movie – LOTR; Game – Skyrim

Favorite Star Wars/LOTR character? – Elrond

Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings – LOTR

Superman or Batman – Batman

Are we in the matrix? Only after a couple drinks

Justin Burniske

Justin Burniske:

Is currently out on leave, we will have to follow up when he’s back!

Take a survey of your co-workers, for this holiday or any seemingly random national days found online that speaks to an aspect of your company culture. These possibly insignificant days (yesterday was national escargot day! How dare I say insignificant) can be a great source of camaraderie and entertainment. As noted in the movie Elf, the code of elves’ first rule is to “treat every day as Christmas” or Geek Pride Day. Share your answers to the questionnaire or let us know a random holiday your office is looking to embrace in the comment section below. Just have yourself a day!

Take a survey of your co-workers

AMS Fest Midwest!

Mary Glavin May 5th, 2016 by
images-3May 10th, just 5 days post Cinco de Mayo is another day for celebration in this month of budding optimism; AMS Fest Midwest in Chicago is the place to be and it’s cause for small associations to cheer. Those interested in examining AMS options, communicating their concerns or praises, and networking with like-minded and like-sized organizations will be in awe of such an invaluable event.


fusionSpan Holiday Party 2015

justin fusionSpan Team January 5th, 2016 by

At fusionSpan, 2015 was an exciting year with a lot of growth, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have time to take a break and celebrate the year. We took an afternoon to have ourselves a little celebration before the holidays. Hope everyone had a Happy New Year – here’s to a great 2016!

Gifts under the tree
All the white elephant gifts sitting patiently under the tree, waiting for a cut-throat exchange.

(Almost) All home-made goods – Yum!

Proud "Big Kahuna"
We gave out a few tongue-in-cheek awards. Manav was very proud of his well deserved “Big Kahuna” award.

A few Star Wars fans checking out their new shirts.
A few Star Wars fans checking out their new shirts.

Enjoying good company in our digital fire-side setting
Enjoying good company in our digital fire-side setting.

Award for cutest guest went to this little guy!
And without a doubt, the award for cutest guest went to this little guy!

Shopping Around for the Best Deal

Jessica Sansaet November 25th, 2015 by
Black Friday It’s that time of year again: families are gathered, work is closed… Oh, and EVERYTHING IS ON SALE! The question is, when do you get the better deals? For decades, people have been running out the day after Thanksgiving to get all the lowest prices for just about anything you can imagine. Now there’s another way to get great deals without even leaving the comfort of home. Which is best for you depends on what you’re shopping for. But when it comes to finding the best deals for your company’s AMS, you don’t have to wait for a holiday to make sure you are getting the best bang for your buck! (more…)

The Quest for an Event Registration System

Avatar photo October 20th, 2015 by
The search is onI thought I had been assigned a simple task – To find an event registration system for a client that has an annual conference. The main goal of this group is to improve end user experience while still being able to incorporate their business requirements. Seemed like a day’s effort to me …. to research potential vendors, document the information, and provide feedback to the client. Little did I know! (more…)

Team building – Skip the lane and hit the links!

justin fusionSpan Team August 28th, 2015 by
fusionSpan at Top GolfLooking to do something a little different for your next team-building outing? Take a look at Topgolf, a fun group activity that feels a lot like the bowling version of golf. fusionSpan recently took a Friday afternoon off to try it out, and the reviews all came back positive (much to the chagrin of my local bowling alley attendant).


On-Site Registration with ExpoLogic

Jessica Sansaet May 7th, 2015 by
I recently worked an on-site registration for a conference for the first time. I had heard many “horror” stories about the on-site registration desk and before I left, I was informed that I would be absolutely exhausted by the end of the week. However, this was no horror story for me. If anything, it was like one of those great dreams from which you expect to be abruptly woken up. There was little to no confusion with customers, and, to be honest, I didn’t have much to do.

You may be thinking to yourself now, “well, it was probably a very small conference,” or “I must be reading that incorrectly.” I promise, you did not read it wrong – and we had approximately 1,000 attendees. How could it go so smoothly? We used Expo Logic ExpressPass™ Check-in for registrant check-in! ExpressPass™ integrates with your existing registration system (there are over a dozen that are compatible) to allow attendees to experience a quick and painless self-check-in process.  (more…)

How To Make Event Check-In A Seamless Process

Avatar photo April 17th, 2015 by
One of the burning questions that every meeting organizer wants the answer to is “What do my conference attendees want?”

Attendees are demanding more value out of in-person meetings. Now more than ever, associations need to make meetings more interactive to enhance attendees’ conference experience and keep them coming back year after year.  So how do we provide a creative experience that offers individualized attention, adds value, and provide bountiful networking opportunities?

We are not going to tackle all of these concerns in this blog post but will focus on a tool that creates a great experience at attendee check-in that will leave a lasting impression on your attendee. (more…)

In-House vs. Out-of-House Badge Printing

Jessica Sansaet February 6th, 2015 by
th Anyone who’s been involved with event registration knows that there can be many speed bumps along the path before reaching the end goal: a successful event that provides a positive experience for the customers (and staff!). Since I work with a few companies for their event registration processes, I decided to share some of my new-found insight from personal experiences. This is a learning experience for me as well, so my next several blog posts will be about the things I have learned over time. (more…)

2014 netFORUM Pro Consulting Giveaway WINNER!

Sheree Santantonio January 9th, 2015 by

Congratulations to Caroline from the South Carolina Bankers Association for winning fusionSpan’s 2014 netFORUM Pro Consulting Giveaway. We look forward to working with you in 2015!


Grow Your Association Management Career in 2015

adam thocher January 2nd, 2015 by
New Year 2015 formed from sparking digits over black backgroundWith each new year, we reflect on as many of the last 365 days we can remember while simultaneously resolving to [insert unattainable New Year’s resolution here]. For me, 2014 was a big year with more resolutions checked off the list than I had anticipated.  Topping the list are wedding plans coming together, travel adventures from Costa Rica to Iceland and a healthy number of airline miles in between, the Fiancée finishing up her MSW (I can’t take much of the credit for that, but it still makes the top 10 on my list), three days lost in Florida, no longer owning this sail boat, and – perhaps most challenging of all – attaining my CAE credential before I turned 30. (more…)

fusionSpan Holiday Party

Sheree Santantonio December 23rd, 2014 by
HolidayPartyFood Last Friday the fusionSpan team got together to celebrate the holidays. We shared great food, libations, and many laughs.

Our talented party planner, Linh, prepared a wonderful spread, with the help of our baker, Jessica, and chef, Sheree. We had a blast playing holiday themed games such as Stocking Surprise, the Present Unwrapping Challenge and Mystery Christmas Sketch with some wonderful prizes. Our newest addition to the team, Justin, won a 64 GB waterproof flash drive the size of a penny in the Present Unwrapping Challenge with special shout out to Jon for doing all the hard work! (more…)

My First Tech Conference

Jessica Sansaet December 19th, 2014 by
As I enter the large exhibit hall at the Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center, I’m immediately surrounded by hundreds of people, all here for one purpose – to see what’s “new” in the technology world. Wandering around the ASAE Technology Conference and Expo, one could stumble upon just about anything, from 3D printers to projector signs and even… a trailer?


Happy Holidays From Microstaff

Sheree Santantonio December 12th, 2014 by

The holidays are right around the corner and we wanted to take this time to say thank you to everyone who has contributed to our company’s growth.

We have had some big and exciting changes this year with our new office space located in downtown Washington D.C., and new additions to our growing staff. We could have not done it without you, and we look forward to a bright and prosperous 2015!



2015 Holiday

A Kick-Ass Community Manager Round Table

Avatar photo November 4th, 2014 by
higherlogic     OCR

Higher Logic, the leading cloud-based community platform, is proud to announce the 2014 Higher Logic Learning Series session: A Kick-Ass Community Manager Round Table on Thursday, November 6 at 2:00PM Eastern. (more…)

10 Strategies for Finding a Powerful Voice Through Events

Avatar photo July 7th, 2014 by

Aaron WolowiecCheck out Aaron Wolowiec’s recent blog post featuring “10 strategies your association can immediately implement to boost the reputation of its signature events and, in turn, its bottom line.”

Has your association conducted a communication audit within the last three years? More specifically, are your meetings and publications teams working together to ensure your association’s events are effectively marketed?

If your events suffer from stagnant or declining attendance, sponsors or exhibitors – or if you have difficulty securing quality speakers – the answer lies not in a silo, but rather in your team.

See Aaron’s post as he elaborates on the ten strategies: Branding, Differentiation, Value Proposition, Voice, Brevity, Channels, Testimonials, Images, Sample Content, and Volunteers.

Live Streaming – Partnering for Success (Part 1)

Avatar photo June 13th, 2014 by
BlogNGS The National Genealogical Society (NGS) based in Arlington, Virginia, is always looking to add new and exciting elements to their Annual Family History Conference. After the 2013 conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, the discussion to offer live streaming began. With only 10% of the their membership attending the annual conferences, the general consensus from staff and board was that having a hybrid event would be a great offering. So it was decided that the #NGS2014GEN Annual Family History Conference, held in Richmond, Virginia, would be NGS’s first hybrid event!


Smart Marketing for Associations on Valentine’s Day

Avatar photo February 14th, 2014 by

Happy Valentines Day!

Associations that represent greeting cards, flowers and chocolates are having a great day but you can get in on the action too! According to the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, the average consumer spends $116.21 on Valentines Day and here’s what they’re spending it on:

Gifts Most Often Given on Valentines Day (Allowing for multiple gifts given)

Candy 47.5 %
Flowers 34.3 %
Cards 52.1 %
Jewelry 17.3 %
Dining / Eating Out 34.6 %
Clothing 14.4 %
Gift Cards 12.6 %
Other Gifts 11.2 %

Why not partner with one of these companies to help you get the word out about your association? Start small with a local company and see if it would be worth it to go bigger.

How to make an infograph

Avatar photo February 7th, 2014 by

First, what on earth is an infograph?Source: Wikipedia

Infographs (aka information graphics) are visual representations of information. You have probably encountered an infographic without realizing it. Examples include metro or mass transit maps, weather charts, site plans, and graphs. A good infograph will:

1. Show (large) amounts of data in a clear and concise way
2. Encourage the eye to compare different sets of data and the mind to think about the content rather than the design
3. Have a clear purpose
4. Have meaningful stats

Tips on Selecting an Event Hashtag

Avatar photo January 20th, 2014 by
Twitter_logo_blueYou can find the usage of hashtags on every social network now a days, and more than likely, your attendees and members are already using them in some way or another. Hashtags play an important role in social media marketing, but in this post we will focus just on how best to select a hashtag for your events.

Short and Sweet

Remember Twitter’s 140-character limit includes hashtags. So be sure to choose a tag that is short and sweet. Use acronyms and year references to keep the hashtag relevant and easy to remember. (more…)

Integrating Cvent with Avectra netForum Pro

Avatar photo January 6th, 2014 by

One of our clients, a small-staff association, wanted to improve user experience during the annual conference registration . In the past they just used their AMS, netForum Pro to register attendees but increased customer service calls forced them to look for an alternate solution. This time around they wanted to simplify the registration process and reduce the work that their staff will need to do in managing registrations.

Our recommendation was to use a dedicated web based Event Management software. Some advantages of using an online event management software to manage your events and registration are

  1.  Provides online access and a dedicated branded event website.
  2.  Automate the entire event registration. Users could manage their own registrations. Optionally they are allowed to modify their registrations and even initiate refunds.
  3.  Process credit card payments.
  4.  All event and registration data is secure.
  5. Affordable for a small staff organization
  6.  Can integrate with the current membership database.

The first 4 features are pretty much universally supported by most good quality event management software.

Its the last feature that we were most interested in. Reducing staff overhead by letting attendees key in information does reduce your staffs overhead, but this information already exists in your membership database, why enter it again at all? Wouldn’t it be better if most of the registration information is already filled in for your members?

Most of the registration information including attendee name, address and contact information is already in your membership database (substitute with your CRM or AMS). Since the organization we were doing this for already used netForum Pro and Abila provides a comprehensive set of web services that provide secure access to your member data, all we needed was an event management software that would support this integration.

This helped us in selecting Cvent since it provides this exact capability we were looking for. They call it Single Sing On (SSO), but it is a little more than just single sign on. In effect they allow externalizing user authentication and also allow for pre-populating user information.


When a user goes to our dedicate event website and try to register, Cvent redirects them to the Organizations homepage. Here they see the familiar login page. Once we authenticate the user with their netForum credentials (username and password), we redirect the user back to Cvent and also send details about the user which includes

  •  Full name
  •  Address
  •  Phone number
  •  Email address
  • Membership Information

The interaction is a little more complicated than shown in the previous figure. The following diagram shows some of the HTTP redirection that takes place when performing the SSO –


Since Cvent recognizes the organization as a trust identity provider, it just accepts all the information regarding the user and creates one in their own system. The user now sees most of their registration information already pre-filled and can make changes if something has changed or enter their payment details.

What is cool is that we can even recognize different category of users (in our case just Active Members and Non-members). This allows us to offer different registration fees to different users.

One minor caveat – Cvent did recommend using their SAML based SSO solution. After several tries and working with their support it simply did not work. It was either not installed on their end or their were some configuration errors. Either way it still seems experimental with minimal documentation. We ended up using HTTP FORM based SSO which also uses SSL (and a slight work around for mutual authentication), so it was just as secure if non-standards based. If you are looking at SSO with Cvent, please use this method first and if time permits try the SAML based approach.

netFORUM Pro Consulting Giveaway

Avatar photo December 19th, 2013 by
In the spirit of giving (and with your tight budgets in mind!), this holiday season fusionSpan would like to help a small-staff association by giving away 8 hours of free netFORUM Pro consulting. fusionSpan is proud to be a Certified Implementation Partner with Avectra, an Abila Company and provides implementation assistance, training, consulting, and has develop customized software solutions for multiple small-staff clients.

To be entered into this give away, simply fill in the form below. Open to new fusionSpan clients only. The deadline to apply is 2 January 2014 and winners will be announced 3 January 2014.

Happy Holidays!

fusionSpan Logo                            Abila Avectra certified

Answering Your Members’ Holiday Wishes

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I love Sarah Hill’s recent post for the MemberClicks blog on Answering your Members’ Holiday Wishes. It comes at the perfect time as we are all juggling end of year plans and projects while keeping our members in mind. Check it out:

Have you ever REALLY listened to “Santa Baby?” If you haven’t, take a listen. The amount of stuff she asks for is absurd. Now granted in the spirit of catchy holiday music the song is supposed to have a Betty Boop-esque satirical charm, but it makes me think of the articles that come out every year detailing an approximate cost of the 12 Days of Christmas in modern times.

And that, of course, led me to be concerned about the budgets of my Small Staff Association leader readers. All of your members have a “Santa Baby” list, just jam packed with hugely expensive desires of your association that are just funny in their grandness.

But wait! There’s good news!

Source: Memberclicks

Designating Staff for Social Media

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urlCommunication skills are important to all aspects of life, including work. It doesn’t matter if your expertise is in political science, economics or journalism – everyone needs to be able to communicate. This means anyone within your organization can be tapped to work on your organization’s social media campaign.

How do you find the right person within your organization?

First, get to know your staff’s social media skills. If you already have a staff member who has a personal Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or blog, chances are they enjoy social media and may take an interest in handling it for your organization. They will also have the experience to hit the ground running, rather than requiring training.

Second, get a sense of your staff’s workload. Can this person take on another task in addition to their current commitments? You want to be fair and not overwhelm one person, while someone else may be looking for additional responsibilities.

Third, does this task fit in with your staff’s duties? If you have a marketing department, social media would fit perfectly into their bucket of projects. Alternatively, it may make sense for your organization to assign the writing task to a membership coordinator or assistant and have an IT person actually post the message. Maybe you have a staff who attends a lot of meetings and conferences where their involvement in social media would give your organization more exposure, for example through live tweets.

Finally, the most important quality to look for is the “want.” This person should want to do this or at least want to learn how. If the desire is not there, this project will not succeed in the long term. If the person who has the knowledge is unavailable because of a crazy workload, for instance, assign the expert as a backup to support someone less knowledgeable but with the desire to learn. This will create a collaborative team that will bring lots to the table, as well as get the job done!


Dear Betty: Why don’t our chapter members join?

November 20th, 2013 by

Dear Betty,US

We have a lot of non-members at our conference. I mean A LOT: 43% of our annual conference attendees are non-members. The thing is, the majority of them are active members of their regional chapters (we know because we asked). Why don’t they want to join us, too? What can we do to entice them to become members of the national association?

Name and association withheld upon request

Gentle Reader,

Are you sure you want them to join? Looking at your registration and membership rates, it appears that, at least for most of your membership categories, the cost of non-member registration is actually higher than member registration plus an individual membership. If all those non-member registrants were to join, it appears you’ll experience a revenue decline.

Are they sure they want to join? As I wrote recently in the Spark blog, we tend to give priority to the member relationship, but it’s not the only relationship we can have with our audiences. Stakeholders can be attendees, presenters, subscribers, authors, book purchasers, volunteers, etc. without being members. Perhaps these non-member attendees prefer one of those other roles for reasons that have nothing to do with your association or its membership offerings.

But maybe you do want them to join and don’t mind about the revenue loss, and they would want to join if only they knew. Now what?

I assume some chapter members are national members. You need to find out what’s different about them relative to the chapter members who aren’t national members. What makes that group of chapter members unique? If you can mine your data and identify that, you will know which chapter members are good prospects for national membership, because not all of them are. One initial clue: what will their employers pay for? Many employers who will pay for professional development related registrations and travel will not pay for professional memberships. If that’s frequently the case, you’ll need to try to find a creative way around that.

Also, how easy is it for people to figure out what’s the best deal? If I’m a chapter member who’s decided to attend your annual conference, and I’m on the registration page of your website, I might think, “Hmm. That’s a pretty big price difference between the member and non-member rates. I wonder what membership costs?” But if I have to go hunting around the site to find the rates, figure out which of your rather lengthy list of options is the appropriate membership for me, figure out how to do two transactions, and wonder how long I’ll have to wait to qualify for the member rate, I might just skip it, again, particularly if my employer is paying.

A better approach would be something like:

Someone selects the non-member rate, so the registration form dynamically populates or creates a pop-over with something to the effect of: “Did you know that you can join our association right now for $XXX and register for the annual conference at the same time at the member rate of $YYY, saving you $ZZZ off the non-member rate? Click here to find out more….” Clicking would send her to a combined join and registration form, where she could do the whole thing in one simple transaction

Of course, once you’ve gotten that new member to join in order to qualify for the discounted conference rate, the question becomes: how do you keep her if she decides not to attend your conference again next year? But that’s a topic for another post.

Have a question for our membership and marketing expert, Betty? Leave a comment below or email .

Engage Your First Time Attendees to Maximize Benefit

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LostYour repeat attendees are wonderful — they love you and you love them.  But, that familiarity can create a bubble that seems impenetrable to outsiders. Don’t let this happen to your event. Embrace your newcomers — make them feel special and welcomed.

Track Attendance Records

Make sure you keep good track of attendance. Use this information to tailor your message for different attendee groups — regular attendees, occasional attendees, and first timers.

Market to Potential Newcomers

Show potential first timers that you’re interested in them by devoting resources to them on your website’s registration page and in your outreach materials. You want newcomers to know that you’re ready to help them navigate your event for their best benefit.

Welcome Newcomers Right Away

As soon as you identify first time attendees, welcome them into the fold with some tips for how to get the most out of your event. If you can do this before the event – even better! Let them know the flow of the meeting, from where to pick up their badge, where the main socializing areas are, and where to find out about any ancillary networking events.

Give Newcomers Recognition

Offer to identify newcomers on their badges, but don’t pressure them, since not everyone wants to be called out. Appeal to repeat attendees to greet newcomers, and let them know how to find them. If you have the space in your program, host a reception that can help newcomers mingle with the most active participants of your group, which will help them to become more engaged participants themselves.

Guide for Newcomers

The more practice you give to your newcomer welcoming strategy, the more it will be appreciated. Publish a guide for newcomers with all of the materials you’ve created. You can include this guide with your registration packets and in your program and mobile app, and returning attendees may even find this useful.

Have other ideas about how to engage newcomers? Let us know in the comments!

Three Tips to Getting the Media Attention You Want

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Three Tips to Getting the Media Attention You Want

Trying to get the attention of the media can seem like a daunting task, especially when you have minimal to no staff dedicated to this. But even with limited funds or staffing, it is still possible to get the media attention that you crave. Below are three ways to get started:

Hosting or attending an event

While the prospect of hosting an event might sound overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. You certainly need to dedicate time to ensure it is an event that people want to attend, but it does not need to be big or fancy. Perhaps you host a small cocktail hour at the office or a working luncheon.  This gives you the opportunity to invite and engage media and other organizations you might want to work with. This also provides a great opportunity to control your messaging.

On the flip side of this is attending events. Research what types of conferences or events are occurring in your area so you do not need to travel. This will help keep costs down, especially since conferences can be pricey to attend. Additionally, this provides another opportunity to encounter people you might want to partner with and engage media.

Work on building relationships

Relationships are important in both your personal and professional life. And while creating and maintaining relationships might seem like an obvious thing to do, it still amazes me how many people do not do this. I’m not saying you need to be best friends with everyone and call them on the phone every day, or even every week. But as long as you are making the effort to keep in touch and not only reach out when you need something, your connections will be more open to helping you.

Have a good story

As stated above, relationships are critical to getting the type of coverage you want, but even if your best friend is the managing editor of The New York Times that does not mean your story will run. If your story is not interesting or newsworthy to the general public, who your best friend is won’t matter.

I work with many different types of organizations and they all think their story is the next greatest thing. Maybe that’s true, but most of the time it’s not. Managing expectations is important, as well as using common sense.  Think about the trade outlets and journals your organization already works with or subscribes to. Those will be a good starting point for trying to get your story out there, and specifically to the people who will be most interested. After that, work on developing a good local angle and start reaching out to your hometown media.

All of these steps are interconnected and vital to getting the type of media coverage you want. And while none of this will happen over night, you can start taking steps now so that when you have a story you want to share, you will have the relationships and basic tools in place.

Send Alexi comments or questions on how to engage the media at .

AFS: Embrace the Big Picture 2

November 6th, 2013 by

Association Fundraising Success: Embrace the Big Picture 2

Basic as these tenets may seem, it is truly stunning to see how many organizations manage to lose sight of these essential elements as other pressures mount around efforts to achieve underlying specific dollar or participation goals that may or may not have been developed with the larger picture in mind.  These challenges aren’t unique to smaller organizations.  Similar challenges exist in many big and seemingly well-resourced organizations, where institutional complexities and secondary “noise” can pull precious resources in multiple directions—and away from their core goals.

DollarBut, some would say, “Aren’t dollar, market penetration, and participation measures what really count anyway?”  Indeed, they are often the hard, easily identifiable metrics for all the world (including bosses, boards, etc.) to see and quickly grasp.   They matter for these obvious reasons, but the point is that just delivering on these quantitative numbers may or may not indicate qualitative strategic mission success—or reveal an imbalance, as is more often the case.   I suggest you can find your own best way to achieve this equilibrium; if you do, many more metric and impact successes will follow.

It’s not easy to keep the big picture front and center in your organization.  In small shops, many hats are worn by few and times of big crisis (or good news) can swallow the entire team in response.  It requires great discipline, often the courage to reiterate (and sometimes alter) priorities with top leadership or your manager depending on your role.  You have to have the professional and personal confidence to step out of the trenches periodically and take larger stock of your particular association’s real state of affairs.

Here are some types of questions you can start asking:

  • Are our fundraising priorities coming out of and feeding back into our top goals as an organization?  Or are they only somewhat related (even ancillary), feeding one person or group’s pet program because it’s always existed?   Is that the highest and best use of our development team or others’ time?
  • Who are our real constituencies, their needs, and related opportunities?  Are our goals based on serving the largest (or most important mission-wise) swath of our constituencies possible?  If so, how?
  • Have we articulated clearly why we need the money or other resources, such as volunteering, contributing services, content, and so on?  Remember, resources with a little “r” all can carry value if you need them– often with great financial worth– if you stop to think about it.
  • Are we allocating our development resources optimally?  Can volunteers help leverage our small staff, ad budget and so on (priceless)?  Who can we tap into as our larger team in the field? (hint: there are so many options)

And I’m sure you can think of many more that fit with your particular association’s unique needs! (Share your questions in the comments section below.)

In a successful venture, regardless of sector, these questions and their answers are openly and repeatedly discussed across the organization, clearly articulated and understood by all stakeholders.  They’re also thoughtfully reviewed on a regular basis– not just every so many years when the next major strategic planning effort may occur.


When it comes to development, YOU own this piece—no matter what role you may play in the operation.   This includes bringing to the same table “bottom-up” key tactical efforts (which we’ll address in the future around messaging), creating opportunity, facilitating others’ efforts, ongoing stewardship, and broad engagement.

Most of all, you must drive realistic expectations that still stretch everyone (including your board and senior leadership) to think out of the box.   They must buy-in to a truly collective effort and be encouraged to “give” in all ways possible.   Once this full cycle is embraced and ingrained in your  constituents’ culture, you are more likely to have an energized, bigger team on your side— and a far better chance of achieving success.  Good luck!

Click here to see Part 1 of this article.

Next Month:  Delivering the Goods on Your Development Plan 

AFS: Embrace the Big Picture 1

October 31st, 2013 by

Association Fundraising Success: Embrace the Big Picture 1

Association Fundraising for Success: Embrace the Big Picture

It’s a delight to contribute several guest blog posts here on fundraising tips & tricks for associations, especially the many small organizations who face a myriad of support and resource challenges.

Today’s initial thoughts start at a high level, because as important as tactics and execution can be (future topics), I believe the most important factor in your success is effectively crafting, clarifying, and communicating your association’s strategic vision so that it translates to an optimal development road map.   You may not realize this is also a part of the development team’s collective job description (whatever your role), but it is absolutely key!  Everything starts (and ends) here.   It’s an iterative process, with your leveraging thought leadership at the top of the organization– as well as informing strategy from the bottom-up—based on the true realities of your market position.

It sounds pretty basic, right?  Well, maybe.  We’ve certainly heard some of these themes before, maybe even preached them ourselves.  But, finding the way to translate this philosophy into an integral part of your entire organization’s fundraising ethos and support system that is clearly understood, embraced—and then articulated– by all on your team can often be your biggest challenge.

And your team includes the entire “community” that makes up your organization and a host of stakeholders, often with their own interests in programs, resource needs, and so on—within and outside your association.  Many associations remain fundamentally built on a membership model, which inherently carries some level of say and ownership in how it does things.  The trick is to leverage this as a strength that helps you optimize development results to achieve ONE strategic vision that, hopefully, many constituencies have had a say in crafting.

Every organization should engage in a commitment to “disciplined development” that is first and foremost driven by its board and senior leadership.  This ensures engagement and financial goals are focused with laser clarity on:

  1. Strategic Mission.
  2. Organizational Priorities (what they are and equally what they are not).
  3. Fully aligned tactical fundraising execution road map based on concrete market assessment data.

Tune in next week to see Part 2 of this article on Association Fundraising for Success: Embrace the Big Picture and learn the important questions you need to start asking. 

Questions? Leave a comment below!

How to Win Big at Meeting Promotion

Avatar photo October 11th, 2013 by

RefYou have to get the word out about your event, and chances are you should have started your marketing campaign a few weeks ago. Don’t fret! This article will give you the inspiration to get your marketing right on track.

Identify Themes Right Away

Use your last event for guidance. What themes came up that your attendees feel need to be addressed next? Even if the themes evolve through the planning process, having something to start with will help keep the message relevant.

Identify Keynote Speakers Soon

The sooner you can identify keynote speakers and the topics of their talks, the sooner you trumpet how awesome your event will be. Market early, and market often.

Motivational Deadlines

Deadlines are necessary for proper planning to establish how many people are coming, but more attendees means more revenue. You can increase your attendance by leaps and bounds If you plan your early registration deadline as a motivational deadline. After the first deadline passes, you can announce an extension that will help you capture all of the people who were on the fence about signing up but who let the deadline slip past. This technique works especially well for events that have a submission component, such as a paper or an abstract.

Exhibitors and Sponsors

A whole article will be devoted to building exhibits and sponsorships (so stay tuned!), but in the context of promotion, you have to let your prospective attendees know who’s coming, and who’s endorsed your event. Not only can these endorsements help catalyze prospective attendees, the exposure is good for the vendors and they’ll thank you for it.

Promote, Promote, Promote

You can’t win at promotion if you don’t promote. Early and frequent outreach to your membership and potential attendees is crucial. If you’re not emailing them at least once a week, you’re not doing it enough. Make sure your subject lines carry as much information as possible, and make sure you’re not just repeating yourself. You identified your themes and your keynote speakers early. You know who your exhibitors and sponsors are. You have several deadlines to promote. There is plenty of material available to keep things fresh on a weekly basis. That said, don’t be afraid to repeat key parts of your message from time to time. Your material evolves as the event planning proceeds, so even a repeated deadline reminder can carry a paragraph about why a certain speaker is important to your industry, even if you’ve already told your audience that she’s coming.

How do YOU win at meeting promotion? Let us know in the comments section below.

Conference Site Selection Tips

Avatar photo September 20th, 2013 by

Where do you want to take your next event? This blog will give you some important things to keep in mind when you are selecting your city and venue. It will include some tips to help you ask the right questions and make the best decision for you and your organization. These tips will also help you compare several attractive proposals that may have vastly different terms.


Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB)

First and foremost, you can reach out to a city’s CVB for help with finding venues and circulating an RFP. It is their job to bring business into their city so leverage them as much as you can. I say that with a caveat. Use your CVB but do not rely completely on them. Since it is their job to sell you their city, they may embellish or exaggerate or omit a few details. Do your research and ask friends, members or board members for their advice on a certain city.


Most meeting attendees have come to expect free Wi-Fi, and will grumble if it’s not provided. Do your best to secure this in your contract with your venue, but if that’s not an option, and be sure to get price quotes up front. These costs vary widely, though you can often talk the provider down from their standard quotes.

Union Contracts

Make sure to find out when a venue’s union contracts are going to expire, and whether the venues are on good terms with their labor. The last thing you want is to be surprised by a strike. You may even consider including force majeure language in your contract that allows you to cancel without penalty in the event of a strike.

Catering Costs

Popular and well known cities offer a lot of amenities and are attractive to attendees; however, there is more competition for event space, so you often won’t have competitive hotel or meeting room rental rates. Also, cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Boston can have much higher rates for coffee, labor, and etc. For a meeting we held in New York City, coffee was $110 per gallon, plus tax and service charge (plus plus). Compare that to Los Angeles where a gallon of coffee was $68, plus plus, or Salt Lake City, where coffee was $40 per gallon plus plus.

Since catering costs vary so widely and are subject to change, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Ask to see catering menus, and ask about standard price increases. As you review proposals, you may be able to convince a venue to hold catering prices at current rates for a meeting a few years in the future, which can represent real savings. A venue with low food and beverage prices but a high minimum can pose a challenge that can have you scrambling to add service to your planned events, in order to avoid paying the difference. Make sure that your planned events will adequately cover the minimum by laying out some sample menus.


Another important factor to consider are weather patterns at the time of your meeting. You’ll most likely do a site visit at a time other than when you would be holding your event, so make sure to check historical weather patterns for the area so that your attendees are less likely to get stuck in a blizzard or washed away in a hurricane. And do your own research; don’t just take the CVB’s word for it.


When selecting your venue, it’s important to consider the ease of travel by air, train, car, public transportation, etc. When choosing between two good proposals in different cities, it can be helpful to take a look at where your attendees will come from. You might want to draw a circle on the map with a 200-500 mile radius and see how many of your potential attendees would be within a day’s drive of your proposed city and check nearby parking rates.

WiFi, Union Contracts, Catering Costs, Weather, and Travel are important factors when deciding on a venue. Though this is not a comprehensive list of all the factors to consider, you now have some tips to help you keep costs low and attendance high. Please let us know your tips and stories in the comments!