The Fun and Challenges of a FMI Chapter
Running a Financial Management Institute (FMI) chapter, like running most volunteer organizations, is a combination of lots of fun and lots of terror. The fun is in seeing a great idea mature into an event and be pulled off without a hitch. The terror is in coming up with a great idea, finding the speakers, the volunteers and the venue, and dealing with things that go wrong.
While this article can’t find volunteers for you, book your venue or locate your lost projector, it gives you a way to find and share event ideas and a methodology to make organizing your event easier. This article also starts a conversation within FMI through an idea locker and a resource locker. These tools are web spaces that hold nuggets of information on how to deliver a quality product to our members or how to reduce the burden of volunteering by sharing ideas, material, and methods.
To start the sharing, the Edmonton FMI Chapter has put forward its ideas and methodology in this article. We hope that in turn, your chapter can help Edmonton create even better programming by contributing your good work, ideas and methods to the FMI pool of resources. Before the sharing starts though, let’s establish the factors that make for a good event.
What Makes for a Good Event?
An engaging speaker, a flawless production, good food (perhaps) and a topic of relevance—surely it is not that difficult! Unfortunately, it is hard because there are so many things that can go wrong and too few volunteers to do the work. Here are seven factors for a great FMI event:
- 1. Topic 2. Topic 3.Topic: (with apologies to real estate agents and their maximum of ‘location, location, location‘). FMI topics fall into three categories: government/public service, financial management/professional interest, and local/personal interest. See the idea locker for more than seventeen ideas your chapter might use. Also check if other local organizations (IPAC, CPA, etc.) are already covering your chosen topic; if so, consider collaborating with them!
- 4. Speaker-Presenter: No matter how good the topic is, a droning speaker will quickly kill it. Fortunately, many people are adequate speakers and are keen to share their stories freely. The key is to ask people to speak—and ask and ask and ask. If one person says yes after nine people have said no, you are doing pretty good.
- 5. Venue: A great venue 1) is centrally located, 2) has good parking/public transit, 3) has good food for a reasonable price.
- 6. Organization: Seeing volunteers running around at the last moment while the start-time slips away is a killer for repeat sales. Good organization will not sell out the next event, but bad organization will turn people away from future events. See the resource locker for methodologies that can make the event go smoothly!
- 7. Promotion: The best topic-speaker-venue combination is for naught without an audience. Each market is a bit different and our members are constantly being bombarded with demands on their time and attention. A list of promotional ideas is available in the resource locker.
We Are Not Alone
FMI chapters are not alone in their struggle to find volunteers and put on good programming at a reasonable price. The Edmonton chapter has had some success incollaborating with other professional and industry organizations. The lesson we have learned is to make one organization the senior partner, to clearly define the roles and responsibilities, and to develop a cost sharing agreement with the partner organizations early on.
Accessing the Lockers
When you click on the links to the lockers below, you will be prompted for a password, which is “EXCELLENCE” (no quotes, all caps). If you forget the password later, simply click on the “remind-me” link, and if you are registered as an FMI member under your email address, we will send you the current password. Why do we need a password? Sadly, lots of spammers and bad people out there can creatively destroy this site. The password is a pretty light defense but it keeps away the casual bad person.
What is an Idea Locker?
>>> Enter the IDEA Locker <<<
An idea locker is a bit of a junk drawer. Each of the entries is a germ of an idea upon which you can build ideas for your specific FMI chapter circumstances. The idea locker includes untested ideas and ideas used in past events held by FMI chapters. Where possible, former chapter presentation decks, etc. has been included to help you convert an idea into a FMI event.
This is not an exhaustive list; please use the comments field to contribute your own ideas. Be sure to include a descriptive title, a short paragraph summarizing the event, whether the idea is new or was used before in an event, your contact information in case we have questions, and which of the following broad themes the idea falls into:
- Government/Public Service Theme: focuses on the public sector and the professionals who work in it. Partners for these types of programs include government entities, the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC), universities, public sector pension organizations and unions.
- Financial Management Theme: focuses on the financial aspects of the FMI organization and accounting and finance professionals. Partners for these types of programs include accounting associations (really just the CPA now), accounting firms and banks.
- Local or Personal Interest Theme: includes everything else. Local interest events are specific to each chapter. Nevertheless, while your chapter may not deal with oil and gas exploration, maritime law or managing governments in two official languages, the ideas in the locker may lead to other more relevant ideas for your chapter. The Edmonton chapter tries to have a least one fun or personal development-focused event per year.
Execution and Some Handy Tools in the Resource Locker
>>> Enter the Resource Locker <<<
Ideas are great but only hard work delivers results. Fortunately, some simple tools and methods make the hard work easier. The tools are organized according to the stages when they are used:
- Idea Generation: establishing the program for the year
- Event Idea Refinement: taking a possibility and turning it into a plan of action
- Pre-event Organization: executing the plan of action
- Event: running the all- day session, lunch hour, breakfast meeting, etc.
- Post-event: continuing the learning after the audience has gone home.
The Edmonton chapter uses the following model for its typical event format, which is a half-day program including breakfast. A brief summary of steps and tools used in each stage is provided below. More details can be found in the resource locker.
- FMI – Idea Locker: The Edmonton chapter never lets a bad idea go to waste. We keep them around, re-tweaking and reconsidering them on our FMI.ca upcoming event pagehttp://fmi.ca/chapters/edmonton/upcoming-events.
- Idea Selection Night: A board meeting at a pub results in a plan for the following program year. Of course, if an event falls into the FMI chapter’s lap, we may scramble to incorporate it.
- Event Idea Document: This is a one- or two-page document detailing the idea, its value to our members, potential speakers and other details. The document helps board members, speakers and potential partners understand or contribute to the event idea.
- Assignment of Event Manager: The most important planning step is assigning a project/event manager for each event. Ideally, no one manages more than one event per year because of the time and effort commitment required.
- Excel Planning Tool: Event managers may find it helpful to use the Microsoft Excel-based event planning tool. The template has nine tabs, the most important one being the detail agenda tab. It creates a minute-by-minute program to provide a level of comfort to your speakers and volunteers.
- Event Registration and Communication Tool: Don’t go cheap on the registration or communication tool. FMI is developing their own, but in the interim Edmonton has selected Constant Contact, which it considers to be the best in class tool. Its best feature is that it enables the chapter to monitor things like registration from different government levels and to tailor our promotion accordingly.
- Conference Calls for Event Planning Meetings: Our preference is for bi-weekly 20 – 30 minute conference calls. The advantage of the conference calls is that they are very focused and time-limited. Event Planning Meetings allow the event manager to do walk-throughs.
- Presenter Conference Call: This is one of the most important meetings when organizing an event if there are two or more presenters. The meeting gives FMI a chance to set the tone of the event, and it allows the speakers to synchronize their presentation content. This helps the speakers to understand what to expect and how to prepare for the event. In addition, we try to share the presentation decks amongst the speakers so that they have a chance to minimize overlap in content.
- Pre-Conference Notes: This is a 2 – 6 page PDF document providing a summary of the program, speaker biographies, other relevant content and any FMI news (including upcoming events). This document is available 2 – 3 weeks in advance of the event on the FMI.ca event registration page.
- Promotion: There are three promotional emails: an early-bird promotion, regular promotion, and a last minute reminder. A downloadable poster allows members to get the news out to their work area. Depending upon the topic, we also co-promote with local organizations such as IPAC.
- Event Manager: Ideally the event manager is now having a relaxing breakfast (or lunch, etc.) as all of the pieces fall into place. However if projector gets lost, the speaker delayed in traffic or a fire alarm goes off – the event manager is the Go-To person to get the presentation back on track!
- Single Presentation Deck: The advantage of combining the various speakers’ decks into a single deck is that you can insert biographies, transition and break slides. Post the file to the FMI.ca event registration page the night before so that audience members can follow along on their tablets.
- Time Cards: A Toastmasters technique, time cards keep the program on track. These are preferred over the red “STOP” card, which everyone dreads.
- Record the Event: If you are planning to produce post-conference notes, or you are hosting a webinar, consider recording the event. We plug a voice recorded into the soundboard.
- Enable Text a Question: Audience members who are a bit shy can text their questions in. Questions are edited as required.
- Post-Conference Notes: After the event, we may produce post-conference notes. These notes are a summary of the speaking points of each presentation and any discussions or questions. Because of the editing and layout effort, our authors consider the post-conference notes to be a writing credit.
- Event-Debrief: finally, no event goes un-debriefed.
You can contribute your resources to the FMI by using the comment box of the resource locker and placing them in the categories of idea generation, planning tools, and communication and promotion.
Planning a la Carte
The above resources should be seen as a menu of tools, not a prescription of activities to follow. Many of the tools can be ignored or simplified for a simple single-speaker event. A larger or more complex event may require an online project plan and possibly a collaboration site to share documents and communications.
Can I Share the Ideas and Resources Outside of FMI?
Absolutely! The resources and methods listed below can be re-purposed to run a hockey team awards night, a CPA luncheon or a company picnic. Please use and re-purpose the ideas and resources, as this demonstrates the value and the leadership of the FMI in our communities. All that the FMI asks is that whoever is using the ideas and resources include a note such as the following:
This idea originated with the Financial Management Institute of Canada and is used with permission under the creative-commons. We thank the FMI for sharing the ideas and will let them know how their idea worked out for us.
Organization of this event was partially (fully) based on an event organization methodology developed by the volunteers of the Financial Management Institute of Canada and is used with permission under the creative-commons. We thank the FMI for sharing their methods and will let them know how it worked out for us.
Locker or a Tomb?
The problem with online resources is that they can become stale, get spammed or get buried in the graveyard of good intentions. Hopefully, the idea and resource lockers will not succumb to this and will instead be seen as valuable resources for all chapters. To ensure this, events that are listed in Chapter News will be copied to the idea locker on behalf of the chapter. Future newsletters will include a small feature called “The Open Locker,” in which new, highly rated or popular resources are listed. In conclusion, if you have a great event, idea or tool, please save it in the locker!