Friday, September 22, 2017

Pick me! Pick me!

Do you remember recess and lunch time on the playground of your elementary school? There were usually some organized games like kick ball, relay races, or four square, or heaven forbid, dodge ball. (Am I dating myself?) My teacher would, on a rotating basis, identify team captains from amongst the students. Then the captains would set about selecting their teams from their anxious classmates all huddled together. Of course the group didn’t stand idly by waiting to be picked. We all jumped up and down with our hands high in the air shouting ‘Pick me! Pick me!’ Hoping that jumping the highest and shouting the loudest would deem us the ‘best player’ and thus be picked first. Or at least not last.

Now, fast forward from the playground to my role and responsibilities with OTAC, one of which is to participate in and help guide continuing education offerings to the members and the profession, as well as to do the promotion. With so many options for the OT profession to earn continuing education, I sometimes feel like I am back on the playground trying to jump the highest and shout the loudest so that you will pick OTAC continuing education options.

Why should you pick OTAC first for your continuing education options? When you pick OTAC, you get a team on your side that you can hold in trust. Here’s why:
  • Governance. OTAC is an association governed by a volunteer Board of Directors made up of occupational therapy professionals who are elected by their peers. These volunteers earn no remuneration for their service. They serve out of passion for the sustainability, progression, and integrity of the profession. They are the highest authority of the association and take their roles seriously; committees report to them.  
  • Mission. OTAC’s governing body works to support OTAC’s mission – OTAC is the collective voice that serves, promotes, and supports the profession of occupational therapy and its practitioners.
  • Core Value. OTAC’s core value number 5 – Professional Development to provide quality education and resources to advance the knowledge, skills, and continued competence of occupational therapy practitioners.
  • Committee. OTAC has a standing committee, Professional Development and Leadership, that serves to provide support for continuing education for OTs and OTAs by assessing, identifying, and monitoring the profession’s needs for continuing education.
  • OTAC U. The Professional Development and Leadership Committee brands its continuing education under OTAC U … inspiring your learning journey. They uphold that continuing education is not just about the mandatory units needed every two years. But that the profession should embrace the learning journey for a lifetime of exemplary service to its clients so that they may optimize their life experience. It also provides periodic presenting and instructing tools and tips for its presenters. The most recent was about the unique needs of teaching adults. OTAC highly values its continuing education presenters and works hard to ensure they are appreciated. We hope that you appreciate them as well.
  • Peer Reviewed Courses. OTAC conducts a call for proposals for the Annual Conference and Spring Symposium to the entire profession in California and beyond. Submitted proposals are peer reviewed, preferably by up to three professionals with expertise in the appropriate area of practice. Courses must meet a minimum score to be considered with some borderline courses receiving mentoring for improvement. ALL presenters of selected courses receive the reviewers’ feedback for improvement.
  • Evaluation. OTAC asks for evaluations on ALL of its sessions. These evaluations are tallied and along with the comments are shared with the presenters and the Professional Development and Leadership Committee.
  • Topic/Presenter Recruitment and Selection. OTAC selects courses and presenters from the call for proposals submitted; feedback, requests, and recommendations received from the profession throughout the year; and the evaluations from Conference and Spring Symposium. The feedback on the evaluations is summarized and shared with the OTAC Board of Directors, committee chairs, Professional Development and Leadership Committee, and the Practice, Ethics, and Reimbursement Committee. Recommendations are gathered from these groups of OTAC leaders who have pledged to serve you.
  • Supporting a Breadth of Interests. You might notice that some of our sessions may only have a handful of attendees. OTAC doesn’t just select sessions that are of highest demand, would draw the largest group. They work to ensure that as many different interests are served within the confines of our resources at our events, and sometimes that means a few sessions with a handful of attendees.
  • Association Management Support. OTAC’s executive director (that’s me) has more than 20 years’ experience working with the professional development component of associations and is thus well versed in successful programming and implementation.
  • Nonprofit. OTAC is a nonprofit organization that operates under California corporate law. Being a nonprofit doesn’t mean that we can’t make a profit. It means that that profit must inure to the benefit of the greater good of those we serve – the occupational therapy profession.

While I will continue to jump up and down and shout ‘pick me’ (OTAC continuing education), the next time you are considering a course, consider where you will most likely get the greatest value and highest quality in an environment dedicated to serve and support you.

I look forward to seeing you on the ‘playground’ at OTAC’s Annual Conference, Spring Symposium, and other events.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Getting the Information You Value Most

For the past decade or more, we have been hearing about ‘big data,’ which Wikipedia defines as ‘data sets that are so large or complex that traditional data processing application software is inadequate.’
Big data was recently re-defined for broader consumption in Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukie as “The ability of society to harness information in novel ways to produce useful insights or goods and services of significant value.” This new definition is not limited by size, meaning that there can be useful information in small sets of data, such as in an association’s membership system.

From targeting to customization to personalization. The use of big data eventually morphed outside of the tech world and into the marketing community wherein they used to refer to using their data to ‘target’ potential audience. Then the marketing community upped its ‘value’ game by changing the reference of targeting to ‘customization.’ Now we are hearing targeting/customization has evolved into ‘personalization.’ A prime example of this new personalization is that when you are on the internet, ads will pop-up promoting a product you were researching the day before on the internet. Or, in Amazon, you might receive pop-up messaging that recommends products based on your past searches and/or purchases.  
OTAC, similarly to other organizations collecting customer and potential customer data, wants to ensure that the information and messaging we distribute gets into the hands of our audience (occupational therapy community) who are most interested in the information.
While our targeting / customization / personalization is certainly not on the scale of mega companies like Amazon and Walmart, we do our best with the resources at hand to give you ‘useful goods or services … of value.’

How OTAC personalizes our messaging. Mostly OTAC personalizes its messaging and outreach based on the data that members enter in their customer record when they join or renew, or register for an activity. We personalize our messaging in a variety of ways. For example:
  • Region 2 (Los Angeles County) is hosting its annual Tea with a Scholar on November 12. We send an electronic alert to those individuals who are identified as residing in Region 2. (If an event is held close to the border of another region, we might distribute to that region as well.)
  •  Associated with our Annual Conference, we send personalized messaging about the various practice tracks. For example, if your record indicates that your work setting is school-based or your practice area is pediatrics you would receive an electronic alert highlighting those related sessions, and so on for all the tracks.
  • If we were advocating about a legislative bill related to hand therapy, we would send a personalized message to those in our customer system identified as working in hands or with a CHT credential about the bill.

Often we send electronic messages to our complete customer data set because while all the information may not be specifically personalized to you, we find that most of the OT community wants to know what is going on around the state in a broad sense.

Good data in our customer system also supports your professional networking. Did you know that members can access the OTAC membership customer system to search for other members? You can search by last name, organization, city, zip code, practice setting, and/or field of practice. As an example, I just conducted a dual search for members residing in Los Angeles and who practice in gerontology. Four names were listed on my screen as fitting those criteria. So now I could reach out to them with a challenging practice question, or inquire if they know of any job openings, or invite one or more to coffee to discuss issues specific to gerontology. (Please note: there is an option for members to indicate that their record is to not be published, which means other members cannot connect with them through the OTAC membership customer system.)

Get the information you most want. You can help us ensure we send the personalized information you most want by keeping the data in your record current. From your mailing address and email to your title and organization to your practice setting and field of practice, these fields all help to ensure we send you the information you most want. (Note: Any time that you update your mailing address in your OTAC membership record, be sure to notify the California Board of Occupational Therapy about your new address. It’s the law.)

How to Update Your Record.
  1. Got to our website,
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the website home page.
  3. Click on Update Your Contact Info in the Quick Connect (purple area) at the bottom of the page.
  4. Log-in with your email address and password.
  5. You will be directed to the My Information page.
  6. Click on Edit/View Information.
  7. You will be directed to the Edit My Information page.
  8. You can make all necessary contact/profile information on this page.
  9. Once you have updated your record accordingly, click Save at the bottom of the screen.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

OTAC Annual Conference FAQs

As we launch registration for OTAC’s 41st Annual Conference, I thought this would be a befitting time to share with our greater OT community some frequently asked questions about Conference.

Where’s the coffee? The absence of free coffee at Conference elicits some passionate inquiries from attendees and comments on the Conference evaluation forms. While the Conference Committee appreciates this global ritual, they and the OTAC Board of Directors are more committed to their mission of providing quality continuing education at cost effective rates. To compare extremes, McDonald’s sells a decent cup of black coffee for $1.00 while Starbuck’s cup of black coffee is priced at more than double. An even greater extreme comparison is the cost of coffee in hotels for event planners. The cost of a gallon of coffee in hotels for event planners ranges in general from $65 to $150 a gallon. Add to that the sales tax and the service fee (which ranges from 20% to 24%) and conferences such as OTAC’s pay from $6.00 to $12.00 for a cup of coffee. Hence, on the low side, we could very well pay more than $40,000 for coffee for providing two cups of coffee per day to each attendee. What also adds to the cost of coffee is the hotel policies/agreements with its coffee suppliers and routine habits of coffee drinkers. For example, there is a well-known coffee brand that requires that a hotel toss out any coffee that has been sitting in the urns for two hours as they feel the ‘diminished’ quality of the coffee doesn’t well represent their brand. What also adds to the amount of coffee that is served is Conference attendees that arrive with their own travel mug and pour 12 oz. or more instead of the ‘allotted’ 8 oz. in a hotel coffee cup. The basic $40,000 can increase significantly with just these two factors. Tip: OTAC staff researches outlets near our hotel/convention center that offer coffee/breakfast items and provides that information on our website and at the OTAC hospitality table.

How do Annual Conference registration fees compare? Going back to the Association’s mission to provide high quality continuing education for a good value, many in the OT community aren’t aware of how conscientious the Association has been in managing its funds as well as registration fees for attendees. Did you know that the registration fees for the core three days of Conference in 2007 was $359? And that the Board reduced the fee to $299 in 2009 in its mindfulness about how the Great Recession was impacting members? The registration fees in 2017 ($309) are 16% less than 10 years ago ($359), plus there are nearly 50% more session options (37 sessions versus 70 sessions). For additional consideration of the value of this 16% fee reduction over the course of the past 10 years is that all of the Conference related costs increase annually – meeting space, audio visual services, printing, food and beverage, presenter expenses, etc. --- and still the Association has held down the cost to attendees. In comparing value to the OT community compared to another allied health profession, one association offers a selection of just 23 sessions for $250. Tip: Register by the early bird deadline (September 7) to take advantage of these ‘rolled back’ prices.

Why don’t you hold the Annual Conference in my city? Since 2008, attendance at the Annual Conference has increased 200%. (Spring Symposium has also grown; it has greater attendance than the 2008 Annual Conference.) Consequently there aren’t many venues around the state that can accommodate our need for meeting space (to afford attendees the many session options I referred to earlier). Securing a venue with adequate meeting space in an area where there is a sizeable OT community are just two parts of the equation. Other factors that we negotiate/consider are 1) how much will the hotel reduce their sleeping room rates?, 2) how many sleeping rooms is the hotel willing to block out for our group?, 3) is there adequate exhibit hall space?, 4) what is the minimum food and beverage spending that we must guarantee?, 5) what is the availability of nearby parking and the rates?, 6) how far in advance is the hotel/center willing to sign a contract?, 7) how flexible does the hotel/venue appear to be in its willingness to serve the association and the attendees?, 8) is the city a destination that attendees would find of interest?, etc. In considering their meeting proposals, the hotels and convention centers set annual revenue goals and they review and analyze those goals against all of these factors and more (such has how much they anticipate that attendees will utilize the hotel restaurants, lounge, and gift shop) as well as against other organizations looking at the same space and what those organizations are willing to commit to/spend. Tip: Staying at the Conference hotel and visiting its restaurants support the ‘whole picture’ of the value of OTAC to the hotel/center and thus helps us to negotiate the most favorable agreements possible, which ultimately benefits Conference attendees.

Looking forward to seeing in Sacramento, October 19-22, to celebration 100 years of OT!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

FAQ: How did you come to work for OTAC? What is your background to do this kind of work?

I’ve been asked these questions enough times that I thought it would be worthwhile to share via the executive director’s blog.

How did I come to work for OTAC? I was employed by Association Resource Center (ARC), which is the association management company umbrella where OTAC is housed. Soon to retire (June 2008) OTAC executive director, Chuck Strauch, negotiated to move OTAC to ARC the year before he retired in preparation of his succession planning. In April (two months before Chuck’s retirement as the executive director), he and president-elect Shawn Phipps attended a CEO / CEO (chief elected officer / chief executive officer) association governance training conducted by senior executive directors employed by ARC. I was one of the trainers, which is how I met Shawn Phipps. From that training session, Shawn started a dialogue with me about the OTAC opportunity. While I was an executive director for another association, I was interested in learning more about OTAC based on observing OTAC operations through Chuck, Shawn’s vision for the association, and an opportunity to return to again serving in health care. I was interviewed by an OTAC committee for the position along with several other candidates and was offered the position. Shawn and I took over our positions (president and executive director, respectively) just as the Great Recession of 2008 hit. Needless to say the next four years were extremely challenging and exponentially rewarding as we successfully navigated with the OTAC Board of Directors this unique time period in our country’s and OTAC’s history.. I have been serving OTAC since 2008 and it continues to be professionally challenging as well as rewarding.

What is my background to do this kind of work? I hold a BS in Business Administration with concentrations in accounting and marketing. My IOM represents a professional development program, Institute of Organizational Management, conducted by the US Chamber of Commerce for chamber and association senior staff. It’s a 128-hour program covering all nine domains of association management. I am also a long-time member of both the California and American societies for association executives. Most of my adult career has been in senior association management positions, performing or overseeing all domains – membership, professional development/conferences, governance and leadership, administration, government affairs, marketing/communications/public relations, strategic management, and products/programs . My background also includes working with several mental health focused associations as well as at Sutter Health in its marketing/public relations/patient relations department, and the second largest chamber of commerce on the west coast as director of communications/events/leadership. My for profit management background includes: director of operations for an international certified public accounting firm, director of finance and administration for a publishing company, and co-director of a commercial construction company. As I mentioned before, I am an ARC trainer for association leaders. In addition I serve on two nonprofit charitable organizations (one since 2009) in the role of elected vice president.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Executive Director’s Blog: What to Expect

Greetings all! Welcome to the first OTAC Executive Director Message blog posting in collaboration with the 100 Stories of OT blog. While the OTAC office team doesn’t provide OT client services, we want to share with you our own 100 stories about the OTAC headquarters and staff; OTAC activities, operations, and policies; and other information to address frequently asked questions (or maybe frequently un-asked questions). You will also read on occasion about the world of associations in relation to OTAC. You are welcomed to submit topics that you would like hear more about as well.

A Day in the Life of Your OTAC Professional Association Management Team
I am kicking off the first blog with a bird’s eye view of our ‘typical’ day serving OTAC members. Typical is in quotes because we don’t have a typical day. While every day is different (and we love that!), we do have one constant. We come to work every day with a mantra ‘make every day count on behalf of the members.’ When I was recruited in 2008 as the OTAC executive director, following in the very big shoes of Chuck Strauch, my inauguration presentation at the Annual Conference was about this very mantra. I am proud to say that we are as dedicated to it today as we were nine years ago.

So, here are a few highlights from today, in no particular order: attended the CBOT special board meeting on CBOT’s sunset review / provided an overview to the OTAC president and comments to the advocacy committee, set up a template for a survey going out next week on behalf of the OTAC subcommittee on OT school credentialing, collected more letters from members opposing AB 1510 (athletic trainers’ bill), created an OTAC NEWS about the 100 Stories of OT blog, updated the website, interacted with a few potential presenters for the Annual Conference, communicated with the Annual Conference and Professional Development and Leadership Committee, checked on status of CFPs for the Annual Conference, mailed more than 400 dues renewals notices, created dues stuffers: a ‘save the date’ for Annual Conference and Vision/Mission/Core Values leave behind, reached out to several new vendors for the Annual Conference exhibit hall, created administrative instructions for OTAC Region events, updated the OT Centennial Float donor roster and website thermometer, added a check button in the customer management database to track members interested in the OT school credentialing initiative, provided assistance to various Board members, answered a nonmember question on how to obtain advanced practice for a course they are sponsoring, directed several callers to the CBOT website for answers to their questions, processed registrations for OTAC Advocacy Day and other OTAC activities, and processed dues renewals and responded to various related communications from members.

Warm regards,

Karen C. Polastri, IOM

OTAC Executive Director

Pick me! Pick me!

Do you remember recess and lunch time on the playground of your elementary school? There were usually some organized games like kick ba...