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State of the IFVP, from President of the Board Jenny Trautman

In this update from the President of the Board, Jenny Trautman discusses with Board Member Sunny BenBelkacem how the IFVP is doing, what the board is working on and what members can expect to see over the next six to nine months.

Overall, how is IFVP doing as an organization?
Your board has been focused on building an association to professionalize the work of visual practitioners in every field. The good news is that we are moving up the maturity curve and operating from a firm foundation. I’m excited about where we will be in a year  and embracing the final pieces of foundation building that needs to occur to get us there. We’re planning to improve our virtual platform to better serve member needs for professional development, networking and client outreach. We’re also looking at how to make our events serve members better.

We’re dealing with a lot of change. Some of the information and communications members want from the IFVP can now be found on social media sites like the Graphic Facilitation Facebook group page. However, information is not organized and curated in social media. That’s a barrier to learning. We aspire to serve our members by establishing and growing a robust professional learning community. People are looking for curated content to build up their knowledge. They want to operate as professionals in our nascent field. Members do not join IFVP just for the conference discount. Our members have asked us to deliver information that supports them, and we are laying the groundwork to do that.

This is an all-volunteer board and that poses some unique challenges. All of us have been pulled away by demands from our clients and businesses, families or other commitments. Still, every one of us is committed to roll out expanded benefits and services to our members. At some point, we aspire to hire an Executive Director and staff, but this is still a few years away as we build our finances to make such a move sustainable.

Share with the members some of the major initiatives the board is facing.
We are laying the foundation that will make IFVP sustainable so future volunteers and boards can make advances more quickly. Foundational work includes annual budget planning, managing association finances, formalizing repeatable conference planning procedures, membership management, administrative automation, and communications. We are also acting on several other initiatives like affiliate marketing, partnerships with other organizations, how to educate the market about who IFVP members are and how to work with us, and so on.

We are thinking about how to sustain all the work of previous boards and committed members that have done so much to get us to this point. Starting in 1996, so many people have seen a vision for the IFVP and invested their best thinking and time to build it into the association it is today.

We also see a positive future for the IFVP. Our current projects will allow IFVP to provide more member benefits like: regional/local meetings, curated content for professional development,  learning opportunities with partners, virtual networking, and educating  markets to build the credibility and legitimacy of our profession.

Our virtual communications platform is in for an update. Technology has moved quickly since we launched our latest website a couple of years ago. We are currently working on enhancements that will save the IFVP money and streamline administrative work. Some of these changes will automate membership management and allow the IFVP to apply our time to supporting local gatherings and organizing volunteer committees. Better new member on-boarding, automated maintenance of our current and updated member lists, and more reliable renewals are all benefits we expect to see from this update.

Tell the members some of the great things we’ve accomplished?
Your board is made up of accomplished professionals who work as visual practitioners.  All of them volunteer their time, supporting projects that further the strategy and key initiatives of the IFVP. According to our articles of incorporation, the IFVP must organize a yearly conference and maintain an association website. As you’ll see, your board is doing much more than that.

Beginning with the campaign to bring credibility and legitimacy, we have the IFVP Badge project. The badge can be used on your website, business cards, proposals, and just about any way you can think to market yourself as a visual practitioner.

We started a campaign to educate clients about our field and work, which was the Postcard Project. Look for two new cards coming in 2018.

We are continuing with our partnership strategy by joining EuViz for the 2018 conference.

The Business Barometer survey and report published last month gives our field a better view of the market and support the credibility and legitimacy of visual practitioners who identify themselves as full time professionals.

Our Member Benefit survey in 2015 helped us understand what our members are looking for, allowing us to design projects and campaigns that are meaningful and beneficial to members.

Our newsletter reboot has helped to connect members with other members and provide a channel of curated content interesting to our membership

Tell us a bit more about the partnership with IFVP and EuViz?
When we first heard there was a group of Europeans interesting in reviving EuViz, we were excited! We reached out to them to help in any way that was meaningful. We provided funds to help sponsor their design meetings and have had one or two board members at all but one of their four design meetings. We are there to lend support and provide advice.

We are joining them next year in Denmark for #EuViz2018 and will be offering all our conference planning expertise for them to leverage as they see fit.

We support local and regional affiliations as our profession is growing and maturing. Stronger local networking and more professional development opportunities will be created for European IFVP members through EuViz. An expanded footprint is a part of building credibility and legitimacy. We are here to cheer them and celebrate their successes.


In light of the challenges of conferences, what are some solutions the Board is looking at?
Ask any Conference Committee member and they will tell you it takes more than a year to put together a really good conference. It takes a Committee of at least five people with clear leadership to succeed in organizing a strong program and handling all the details. As a result, the conference committee this year created a reusable online Conference Planning guide that further documents and builds upon best practices from previous conference committee to take some of the pressure off future Conference Committees. We consider it another piece of our foundation.

Responding to member requests, we’d also like to augment our annual face-to-face networking with local and regional meetings. We are seeing a shift in what IFVP members want from an international conference. Other international associations are feeling pressures around conferences as well. We believe an international conference is important and creates a distinction between the IFVP and other groups. But we are asking ourselves what makes our conference structure sustainable and most valuable to our members. We’re considering alternatives including: significantly reducing costs by hosting the conference at a university instead of a conference center, offering a limited number of longer Master Classes instead of a conference with many short breakout sessions, and supplementing our regular conference format by offering virtual conference sessions after the conference or streaming conference sessions for members who can’t join us physically.

In 2018, we are partnering with EuViz for a conference in Denmark. In parallel we will be looking to members for guidance on conference frequency, size, location, etc. We plan to survey members for feedback on what is most valuable to them about IFVP conferences.

What can members expect to see from the Board over the next 6 months?
We can expect to see the board continuing to build upon the foundation that has been created.

First, we are going to see improvements to our virtual communications platform.

Second, we are transitioning leadership of the IFVP differently than we have in the past. Sunny BenBelkacem will step into the role of Vice President that will overlap with Jenny Trautman’s role of president for the next 6 to 9 months. Jenny rolls off the board in June of 2018 and Sunny will take the role of president then.

Third, as the IFVP has matured, the need to update our bylaws to match has arisen. Two IFVP members, Joe Azar and Sam Bradd, have drafted new bylaws. They are currently under review. We are also exploring another change - establishing ourselves as a corporation in Delaware and setting up a second nonprofit entity to support our educational and professional development functions. We are currently incorporated as a 501c6 in the state of California where we must file state income tax and comply with other state regulations.  In Delaware, we would establish both a 501c6 and a 501c3. With the 501c3, we can apply for grants and accept tax-deductible member and sponsor donations to support our learning platform. That would provide a source of funding to accelerate delivery of professional development and other educational benefits to members.

Fourth, members will see more benefits targeted to distinguish them as visual practitioners with the IFVP Badge Contest. The contest will allow members to have a hand in the look of the badge for 2018.

Fifth, client education is a big area where the association can help to provide materials. We are working on creating two more postcards to educate clients on how to leverage a visual practitioner in the room, how to identify what service they are looking for, and knowing when and how to hire a visual practitioner. We have also been working on creating definitions for the visual practitioner roles.

Finally, communications through the form of our newsletter and Facebook IFVP Tribe page help keep you connected with IFVP and the many wonderful things our members are up to. We are laying the groundwork to establish committees for members who want to help move the IFVP to the place we want to be: The professional association for visual practitioners.

Share a moment you experienced as the President of IFVP that you helped you grow and be a better leader?
The past four years have been about putting my head down and working diligently with my fellow board members to shape and build upon the work others have put into the IFVP. As an emerging profession, we’ve seen a lot of change. The IFVP has matured from its beginnings as a member association. Members have asked us to become a professional association that can establish the credibility and legitimacy of their chosen profession and reach out to prospective clients on their behalf. That’s been my focus.

Though it’s been largely invisible to members, and not very glamorous, it’s been worth the effort to build a better foundation. My biggest growth as a leader has been learning to facilitate the work of others. My hope is that this foundation will facilitate the work of many others long after the work of this board is done.

You’ve spoken a lot about laying a foundation, how are you protecting that foundation from erosion as you roll off the board?
For one thing, we have an active and energized board. This is a board made up of people who together can see the future of our field as a legitimate and credible profession. They are people who are motivated and dedicated to help build the foundation to make it all real. They are all accomplished and distinguished visual practitioners from across the globe (currently from Brazil, Spain, Thailand, Russia, and the United States) that have been successful in their businesses. They understand the challenges an organization faces and are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and do the work.

Secondly, we have formalized budgets, conference-planning tools, newly revised bylaws to work with, documented processes and procedures and a virtual platform committee with the expertise to deliver an enhanced platform for the organization.

Finally, we are transitioning our leadership roles with a 9-month overlap, something we’ve never done before. All of the work we have done since I joined the board over four years ago has been formalized and documented. We have systems and processes in place to advance all the work of our peers and previous board members.

With these things in place, the IFVP will continue to grow and provide a professional home for our tribe of visual practitioners.