President's Handbook - Part Three
Student Leader Meetings
You are dealing with real money
Plan ahead, set a budget, and stick to it. Find out exactly how much each item costs and make reasonable estimates based on past records. If you do not have past records, talk to other clubs to develop an estimate. Don't pluck a number out of thin air.
Identify what organizations your members are most likely to be involved with and keep those presidents informed. Email other student leaders of your meetings and events to avoid reserving the same room on the same day. Or more frequently, having meetings on the same day and students who are members of multiple organizations are forced into choice.
The situation can be prevented by simply emailing the other President. If there is a problem, work toward a compromise. An even better plan, although one that requires more preparation, is to host a joint meeting with another club.
You may want to team up for a charity or social gathering. For example, “Dear Fellow Business Leaders, I would like to reserve Tuesday, September 15th, Business and Science Building Room 106 for Marketing Association's meeting.” The message was only sent out to business related student organizations. Keep all relevant organizations informed of your plans to minimize confusion.
It is common for clubs to ask to co-sponsor events to spread the word. Co-sponsorship is entirely up to you and your officers to decide. Sometimes clubs just want help promoting their event. If co-sponsoring involves money, obtain the expected and actual costs in writing. Share this information with your officers and faculty adviser.
Once an amount is agreed upon, your next objective is to make life easier on the money handlers. Speak to someone in the student organization accounting office to establish a sub-account to transfer the money into.
Be sure to check on the funds for the project. The worst case is to find out shortly before the day of the scheduled event that there is not enough money to pay for it. If the other party is not contributing, inform your faculty adviser immediately. Be aware that the other president(s) may not have had time to transfer the funds. However, they may also be reneging on their promise.
- Summary for Co-Sponsoring
- Determine the event - theme, day, time, location.
- Research the costs involved.
- Establish a budget with the accounting office.
- Funnel money into the account.
- Check on the balance at minimum, once a week until the day of the event.
- Report any problems.
Types of Meetings and What to Do
Meet and Greet
I recommend hosting a meet and greet for the first event of each semester. What's great about this is no guest speaker is needed. This is allows you time to present an overview of what the semester is going to be like.
More importantly, this is your best time to meet your members. As President, you should take the time to talk to each person individually. This sends a very powerful message - you care about them as a person, and you should! Help them get to know the other students at the meeting. Encourage your officers to do the same. This is where you build connections that last a life time.
Guest Speaker Meetings
Emphasize the importance of dressing appropriately for guest speakers. Encourage people to ask questions. If no one has anything to say, make sure you ask a question. Nothing is more awkward than staring out at a silent crowd.
Everyone knows someone! Ask your school's faculty or staff.
You can even ask the faculty to be guest speakers. Though I advise asking a professor whose class you are not currently enrolled in. This would constitute a conflict of interest.
Talk to alumni. You're almost guaranteed someone will be glad to stop in at their old alma mater.
Trade organizations such as Chambers of Commerce and professional associations.
So how do I contact them?
Be polite and ask. Give as much relevant information as you can. Speakers do not like surprises. As much as this should go without saying, use proper English. "Wud u lyk 2 b a spkr?" is a blatant lack of professionalism. If English is your second language or you are not proficient in it, find someone to help you write your request before hitting send.
Allow guest speakers more time to respond
The higher that person is in the hierarchy, the more time you should allow them to respond. Your cutoff should be a full seven (7) days. If you have not heard from that person in seven days, it is time to move on and ask someone else. Caution! It is entirely legal and possible for a speaker to charge a fee for their time. Unless it is a high profile speaker, find someone else.
How a Request is Expressed
State how you acquired their contact information. Where applicable, give locations and dates.
- "I was referred to you by..."
Whenever possible, request someone to refer you a potential speaker.
Obtain permission from your referral before contacting your potential speaker. This has the highest rate of success.
- "I saw your name in the alumni database..."
- "I saw the article you wrote on LinkedIn."
"We met briefly at Any Place Restaurant on Friday."
Clearly state your request. "I would like to invite you to be a guest speaker at our next meeting."
Clearly state your topic of interest, "We would like you to discuss how to start and manage a business."
Provide dates, times and location.
Ask them if they're interested, "Would this be of interest to you?"
Always thank them.
Sample Referral Guest Speaker Request
Hello Dr. Smith,
My name is Kathy Johnson. I was referred to you by Dr. Jones. I am President of University of Anywhere's Pre-Med Society and I would like to invite you to be a guest speaker at our next meeting. We would like you to discuss what your experience with med school was like. Our next scheduled meeting is Tuesday, April 12th 2011 from 12 to 1:30 PM at the College of Medicine, Room 101. Would this be of interest to you?
Sample "Cold Call" Guest Speaker Request
Hello Miss Williams,
My name is Bob Anderson. We met briefly at Somewhere Restaurant. I am President of Generic University's Business Association and I would like to invite you to be a guest speaker at our next meeting. We would like you to discuss the outlook of the U.S.-China trade relations for this coming year. Our scheduled date is Monday, March 19th 2012 from 12 to 1:30 PM at the School of Business, Room 101. Would this be of interest to you?
- Assuming everything goes well, you now have a meeting to host. Follow these instructions to minimize the chance of any problems.
- Always provide an address and directions.
- Having visuals makes a world of a difference for someone unfamiliar with the area.
- I used screen shots from Google Earth and MS Paint to make notations. It does not have to be a work of art - I drew red arrows on screenshots leading to the building where our meeting would be held.
- Obtain a parking pass.
- If possible, scan and email the pass to the speaker.
- Keep a copy for yourself or hand it off to one of your officers to have ready on the day of the event. Your speaker may not his or her copy.
- Meet your guest speaker in person.
- If you are unable, have a representative (officer or member) meet the speaker.
- Escort the speaker to the room. It is unprofessional to leave the speaker alone.
What if they contact me after seven days?
This is rare, however, it can happen. You made an sincere attempt at communication, do not apologize if you not have done anything wrong. Be polite yet firm in your response. If it interests you ask that person if another date is feasible. Example:
Hello Mr. Rodriguez,
I originally contacted you on March 14th, 2011. Because I did not hear from you after seven days, I chose to request another speaker. Perhaps we can set up another date and time?
Running a Meeting
So you have a meeting room reserved, send out your message!
Depending upon the lead time (time before the day of the event) you should send reminders out immediately.
Incorporate meeting dates, times, locations and the name and company of the guest speaker into emails to the club. This will help generate interest.
If permissible, hang a poster the week of the meeting.
Send a reminder the day before.
Place all food as close to the front of the room as you can. This discourages freeloaders.
Be sure to have a PowerPoint prepared recapping what happened last time and what is coming up.
Remember, your guest speaker is the star of the show, so do not waste time on anything that is not relevant!
Avoid inspirational quotes. They get old very quickly.
If you are a professional organization all officers should dress in business professional at guest speaker meetings.
Be sure to inform your speaker of this dress code as you do not want to unintentionally embarrass them for being under-dressed.
Encourage members to come in business casual on guest speaker days.
A great reminder for all involved is the famous phrase, “Dress for the job that you want - not the one that you have.”
Encourage students to research the company ahead of time for Q&A. If not be sure to have questions of your own about the company.
Ask if the speaker is hiring in private. If the speaker says it is okay to announce it, it is advisable to have the speaker do it himself.
Never put the speaker on the spot with a hardball question. This will ruin the experience and could close many doors of opportunity.
Always give the speaker a handwritten thank you note and have the officers sign it ahead of time.
Your message must be:
Relevant - perhaps the most difficult question to answer is this; why should anyone pay attention to you?
Consistent - now that people are paying attention to you, is your message worth reading every time?
Timely - be respectful of others' time and availability. Plan far enough in advance to allow time for your audience to prepare. Otherwise it will appear as a last-minute cry of desperation.
Trust - does your audience believe what you say every time? Everyone knows that one club; they announce great plans but never follow through. Don't be that club!
Don’t You Know Who We Are?
Do not assume everyone on campus knows your organization's initials. For example the Marketing Association can have the same initials as the Management Association. Sending someone an email stating, "The MA needs your support!" may confuse the reader. You should specify what organization you are representing from the beginning. Your subject line in emails should include your organization. I cannot begin to tell you how many student organizations fail to mention who they are. One organization only used their initials and neglected to include their name entirely. I had to ask a friend to find out.
Get the Word Out
Never underestimate the power of friends spreading your message. I would announce our next meeting at the beginning and end of the current meeting.
Email the professor of a class and request a few minutes of his or her time to promote the organization's upcoming event. Be sure to speak in front of freshmen and sophomore classes. Attract and retain members early in the semester. This will benefit your organization is as a whole.
With today's technology, sharing information is faster and easier than ever before. Use this powerful medium wisely. You will be competing with everyone's attention and online personal space.
Call to Action
Provide incentive to show up. It can be as simple as "Free pizza! Bring your friends!" No truer words were ever spoken about college students and free food. From the cafeteria director at my school, "If you feed them, they will come...and they will come in droves."
Post Event Thank You’s
Everyone gets those generic, “Thanks for coming” emails. Those are boring. If it is feasible, send a personalized thank you email to everyone who you met. At every meeting, I would walk around and introduce myself. I made an effort to remember names, facing and one to two qualities associated with them. One technique I used is that I would repeat their own name back to them to make sure I heard them correctly the first time. This helped with recalling that information later on.
After each meeting, I would send a personalized email thanking that person by name for attending and include a brief response to what we discussed. “Thank you for attended Chrissy, I wish you the best of luck in your International Marketing class.” I can say from personal experience, this went a long way. The personalized email demonstrates to the recipient that they are not just another face in the crowd. It shows that you appreciate them.