Velvet Chainsaw Consulting…New Year, Expanded Strategy

Jeff Hurt + Dave Lutz = Associations with improved annual meetings & education.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may have noticed some changes recently. There’s a new logo, a couple additional pages, another photo on the About page, an additional writer and more frequent posts. You can expect further changes in the next couple months.

Wondering what this is all about? Here’s the scoop from my new boss, Dave Lutz.

From Dave Lutz
Three weeks ago today was Jeff Hurt’s first day as Director, Education & Engagement with Velvet Chainsaw Consulting (VCC). Other than a few tweets and an email, we haven’t really communicated what the change is about and what the heck we plan on doing. So if you are interested, here’s our game plan and answers to FAQs.

The Opportunity
2009 was one of the most difficult years many associations have ever experienced. New technologies, social media, free online communities and education offerings, decreased annual meeting attendance, attracting and engaging younger members, improving member loyalty, and membership retention are just some of the threats associations face. Associations need a good strategy…and they can’t afford to be wrong.

How we plan to help
We’re big believers and advocates for the value of face-to-face meetings. We also believe that the format and strategy of meetings and education needs to change significantly to remain viable products. We plan to help in two primary ways:

  1. Providing quality, thought provoking and beneficial content through our blog
    This is our DIY strategy. Our goal is to average one post per work day. It’s more about quality and being helpful to you than meeting numbers. It’s also our way of giving back to the industry that both Jeff and I care about deeply.
  2. Consulting projects
    This is the “Do it with Us” strategy. We believe that many associations need help with their initial strategy and prioritization for annual meeting improvement. Often, it’s difficult for associations to make the needed changes as good ideas are often met with internal roadblocks. Outside expert opinions help associations move off their dime and make the necessary changes that benefit their events and ultimately their members.

Who else is VCC consulting?
VCC started nearly four years ago working with technology and service providers for major meetings and events. We’ve also worked with a few CVB’s and hotels. Most of our clients want to increase their market share for servicing large face-to-face meetings. We help them do that. Consulting with these clients is what pays the bills and we don’t plan on cutting back. With the addition of Jeff’s writing and social media skills, we will be delivering even more value to our clients in these segments.

Will you speak or write for us?
Those of you that have read a few posts here or my monthly column in Convene know that we are putting out some pretty thought provoking content. When you do that, you get asked to write and speak a lot. Unfortunately, speaking and writing for associations, magazines or newsletters doesn’t put food on the table. Consulting does. Don’t get upset if we say no. We’re giving lots away for free on our blog.

Can I pay you a commission to recommend our product or service?
Nope! That’s not our business model. We charge by the hour, day or project. We recommend companies or solutions because we believe in them and don’t take any kind of referral fees. If you think an association is tough to sell, we’re tougher. So if you want to show us your great technology, you better come with your A-game.

How’s it going so far?
To be honest, we’ve had quite a few ups and downs the first few weeks. Being what others consider to be two pretty hi-tech guys, we’ve had our share of challenges in setting up a new company email solution. We’re also trying to get into a groove of collaborating on both blog posts and consulting gigs. Both of us are pretty opinionated and hard headed, so we have our share of disagreements. (Good thing!)

Jeff and I have high expectations, so would love to be a little further along. PCMA in Dallas was a great show for us! From a networking perspective, there is no better. We have a few new irons in the fire and are more sure of the opportunity that we see with each passing day.

How you can help us
The fact that you are here and read this far means a ton to both Jeff and me! We’d be no where without our professional networks; especially our clients, past co-workers and of course the #eventprofs. We could use any and all of the following:

  • Subscribe to this blog.
    For those that don’t do RSS (like me), easiest way to do subscribe is via email on the top left of this page. If we don’t put out the kind of content that’s helpful for your job, you can either unsubscribe or call us to up our game.
  • Join the conversation.
    Bottom line, our blog attracts some of the best and brightest minds in the industry. If you want to hang out with the “cool kids,” be viewed as a thought leader, ask some tough questions, or share your experiences, please add to the conversation by leaving your comments. We need you to help push us and other subscribers to new heights.
  • Share the good news.
    If we write a post that you like, forward it to your clients, co-workers or suppliers (easy to do via email). We also could use more sharing on LinkedIn groups or Facebook. We’re getting lots of eyeballs through Twitter and re-tweets. Thanks a million!
  • Challenge us.
    Our client base and thirst for learning put us near the cutting edge, but we’re only two guys. We love hearing about your challenges and ideas. If you have a problem that needs solved or a solution that may help other meeting or education professionals, we’d love to help spread the word. As they said in the Blues Brothers, “We’re On A Mission From God.” Are you with us?
  • Axe to Grind? Kudos To Give.
    One of the cool things about being a small company is that we can move real fast and we really don’t care if we tick someone off. It helps to have a company name like Velvet Chainsaw too. We’re here to make an industry better. If we say that ASAE, IAEE, MPI or PCMA need to do something better, it’s not because we don’t love or appreciate the good work they’re doing. These associations are often trying new things. Some work, some don’t. It’s our job to help everyone find the solutions that work best. Fair?

While I’ve done some interesting projects and research on Annual Meeting improvement, I see a substantial opportunity out there. As we help more associations with their individual strategy, it will help us learn new tricks to share with everyone here at our blog.

We hope you’ll join us for the ride. It should be fun!

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  1. Christina says:

    Glad to hear this update! One small request, please add HCEA ( to your list of industry associations. Medical meetings are their own animal and I’d love to see more conversations and resources concerning them.

    Keep up the good work, Jeff and Dave! Congratulations and I can’t wait to see you both have an awesome 2010!

  2. Mel Aclaro says:

    Congratulations Jeff–and, nice to meetcha, Dave.

    This sounds like an exciting venture for you both. I’m looking forward to reading more about your successes –and learnings– in 2010. (Wishing many more successess for you.) 🙂

  3. Hugh Easley says:

    Dave/Jeff, good luck with your new venture! It looks like you have some great information here. I’ll come back and visit when I have some more time to browse.

  4. Greg Ruby says:

    Glad to hear what the strategy is going to be for you guys. I was lucky enough to get the scoop about Jeff joining VCC from Dave back at IAEE and feel even stronger about this partnership now.

    I have the tendency to go tilting at windmills (aka fighting futile battles), but with the industry clout the two of you carry, that should never be an issue for you.

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff Hurt, Jessica Levin, CMP, SmartBrief/AR team, Dave Lutz, Mel Aclaro and others. Mel Aclaro said: @jeffhurt congrats on the new venture!➜ Velvet Chainsaw Consulting…New Year, Expanded Strategy […]

  6. Swan says:

    Congrats guys. I can’t imagine a better person to have consulting for associations than Jeff. He understands the trials of association professionals, he is forward thinking, and he has well-formed ideas. What a combo!

    The one thing that did not come through to me on this post is why should people hire you other than that you are going to be giving out daily points of view on the blog. Differentiator!

  7. davelutz says:

    ‘@Christina, thanks for the HCEA recommendation. I’m familiar with the show and have a good friend at Kellen (Assoc. Mgmt Co for HCEA). Large medical annual meetings are definitely a target for us and we’ll be sure to do some specific posts that speak to the unique best practices of that segment. Abstract submission and speaker management, for one, is quite different when education is about presenting science. We’d love to get your perspective on how certain adult learning concepts apply to medical meetings as we go.

    @Mel and @Hugh thanks for the encouragement! I look forward to meeting and getting to know you Mel.

    @GregRuby you’re part of the inner circle of trust. Thanks for being there to help and encourage us!

    @Swan Thanks for calling us on what makes us unique…our differentiator. As a business consultant, I preach that to many clients. We tend to customize the differentiators to the opportunity, but they usually include:

    1. Connections – I’m fortunate to have a very large and helpful professional network in the event industry. Jeff adds to that substantially! I can’t tell you how often our network helps deliver better recommendations to a client.

    2. Golden Touch – There’s lots of smart people in meetings and events, but not too many that have helped build one of the most successful businesses in our industry from the ground up. Add that to the fact, that most of our clients are hitting the ball out of the park right now. We’re picky about who we work with. We know how to deliver long term results.

    3. Cut to the Chase – Both Jeff and I can consume a ton of information in a short period of time. One of the advantages we bring to the table, is that we are usually able to put our finger on the key issues quickly and set the less critical issues aside. We’re not looking for ongoing projects. We want to go in and give enough guidance that the association can run with much of the implementation on their own.

    4. Knowledge – We’re focused on one area, big meetings. For many associations, this is their single biggest area for non-dues revenue. We’re one of the few companies that can address all facets of that product (including two of the hottest issues – technology and education) to develop a long term strategy.

    Dave Lutz – @velchain

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