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March 15, 2005

Tip #12: Talk it out

This is tip #12 in a series of 13 to help you pass the CAE exam. Forward this tip to a friend.

THIS IS THE BEST TIP. The next tip will be stealthy, but this tip is by far the most valuable of the 13.

Once you feel comfortable with the concepts outlined in the recommended reading, the best way to prepare for this test is in a group setting. You should get together with other candidates and talk about issues that association executives face. Let everyone in the group contribute to the conversation to allow for the espousal of diverse viewpoints. There's an article in the Winter 2005 edition of the Journal of Association Leadership on the new book by James Surowiecki that demonstrates how this tactic will help you pass the CAE exam.

If you can't meet face-to-face with other candidates for whatever reason, try posing scenarios to your comrades on the CAE candidate listserve. Or you can set up a conference call like I did. Pose scenarios where there is no clear answer (there will definitely be some like this on the exam) without multiple choice options, and just discuss the issues with your colleagues. This is really the best way to prepare for those "Leadership" type questions.

For example, here's a scenario...

You are the CSE of an international trade association that is primarily a standards-setting body. An article in the trade press alleges that the chair of your association's ethics committee is involved in questionable business practices. The source of some of the allegations is a prominent member of a competing trade association that supports a different standard. The vice-chair of the ethics committee and some of the members of your board of directors are calling for the committee chair's resignation. The committee chair's company is not based in the USA, and it has recently been re-certified by the association's credentialling committee, which includes an ethics review. What factors are in play? What should you do first? What do you tell the vice-chair and members of the board? What is the best solution to this problem?

Talk about scenarios and try to internalize into your own thought processes the points of view that your colleagues bring to the table.

During these roundtable discussions, they may not seem all that productive on the surface (see the comments from the Center for Association Leadership's review course on the "group exercises" subject). However, if you approach these group exercises purposefully, with a view to integrate the perspectives of others into your own thinking, you will benefit immeasurably. Next to mastering the recommended reading, this is the most significant thing you can do to prepare for the CAE exam.

Up next: Stealthy, sexy, sneaky tip #13. Stay tuned.

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