Navigating Challenges in the Association Landscape: Allison Shapira’s Expert Advice

In a recent conversation, Kyle Kahveci, President of ACEA, had the pleasure of sitting down with Allison Shapira, a renowned expert and the founder of a training firm specializing in communication and leadership skills. Allison, a certified speaking professional (CSP), has been instrumental in improving communication across Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, and government agencies. This blog post and video delve into their engaging discussion, highlighting key insights on effective communication, influencing without authority, and the role of certifications in professional development.

The Power of Effective Communication

Allison’s journey in public speaking began with her background as an opera singer. Over the past two decades, she has transitioned into teaching public speaking and leadership communication, focusing on helping individuals speak with impact in various settings, from keynote speeches to day-to-day interactions. She emphasizes the broad nature of public speaking, asserting that it applies to any conversation with one or more individuals. This, she believes, is particularly relevant in the association world, where effective communication with members and colleagues is essential.

Allison Shapira

Influencing Without Authority

One of the crucial topics that Allison has expertise in is influencing without authority. This is a challenge frequently faced by professionals across various sectors, where persuading others to act requires building trust and employing negotiation skills. Allison highlights the importance of building trust and providing value before seeking to influence someone. She acknowledges that influencing without authority involves a delicate balance, influenced by the individuals involved. It’s a skill that should be honed continually, rather than relying on quick fixes or AI tools for persuasion.

Allison Says:

“We can’t just reach out to someone and say, hey, I need something. If we haven’t taken time to build that relationship to provide something of value first in negotiation, we talk about tradable. In a negotiation, tradable are things that I can give you that are easy for me to give up, but of high value to you. So if you have a child who plays soccer, it’s easy for me to say on a Monday morning, how was your child’s soccer game? And it’s of high value to you. So as we think about influencing without authority, what trades do we have so that we can provide value or benefit to others before we seek to influence them.”

Strategies for influencing without authority

Mastering Communication at All Levels

Allison’s insights extend to the management of associations and organizations. Whether you’re managing staff, serving on boards, or leading as a CEO, the ability to influence and manage various stakeholders is paramount. She emphasizes the importance of building trust and providing value to engage individuals at different levels effectively. Additionally, she encourages organizations to consider the velocity of information flow within the organization, ensuring that key information reaches the right people promptly.

Allison Says:

It goes beyond polling members, although that could be one part of it. It’s looking for the allies within your target audience who really care about your mission and are willing to give you honest feedback before you communicate a message.

Proactive Communication and Adaptation 

In a rapidly changing professional landscape, proactive communication is critical. Organizations should strive to keep on top of leading indicators of effective communication and adapt to shifting industries and evolving needs. Allison advises organizations to communicate with a broad range of stakeholders to get a pulse of what’s on their minds and to make them part of the consultative process when making significant decisions. This inclusive approach can help prevent issues that may arise from top-down decision-making.

Allison Says:

“This year, the associations that I’m a member of have increased the fees of membership, and they’ve also increased the fees of their conferences by a significant amount with zero flagging for the members. And the only place that’s being addressed is on the private Facebook group of the association. It led to a lack of trust on my part because the association didn’t think ‘Where are people? How are they doing in this financial environment, in this economic climate?”

Importance of Certifications

Allison believes that certifications play a vital role in demonstrating expertise and credibility. Certifications, like the CSP in the National Speakers Association, help professionals establish their longevity, dedication, and objective achievements in their field. They are particularly important in areas where anyone can claim expertise. Certification not only provides recognition but also facilitates access to exclusive circles where knowledge and experience are shared.

Allison Says:

Anyone can go onto a generative AI, use a learning language model like Chat GPT to learn something, and then all of a sudden declare themselves an expert, as you and I know it doesn’t work that way, but you can probably convince some unsuspecting people. So it makes certifications even more important as an objective and trusted authority.

Enhancing Communication in the Digital World

With the proliferation of online content and digital communication, the art of effective communication has evolved. Allison provides valuable advice for engaging a digital audience. She emphasizes the importance of authenticity, clarity, and creating value in virtual interactions. Managing online fatigue and understanding the need for synchronous or asynchronous communication is essential to keep the audience engaged and informed.

Mastering virtual communication

Resources for Learning

To further hone your communication skills, Allison recommends her book, “Speak With Impact,” as a handbook for busy professionals looking to improve their speaking skills. She has also released a digital e-guide titled “Speak With Impact Virtually,” which helps apply the principles from her book to virtual and hybrid settings. Allison is a regular contributor on LinkedIn, where she shares valuable insights and is open to answering questions.

In summary, effective communication is at the core of successful leadership and organizational management. Allison Shapira’s expertise in public speaking and communication offers a wealth of knowledge and practical advice for individuals and organizations looking to sharpen their skills and adapt to the ever-changing professional landscape. As we navigate the digital age, mastering the art of communication is more crucial than ever.