Meeting people, can be both the most important and the most challenging aspect of chapter events, even for those deemed extroverts. For the introverts of the world, the mere mention of networking can create anxiety, stifling participation and member growth. Since each member is part of your team to grow your chapter, guiding them through the networking process not only helps your members, but enhances your chapter as a whole.
The first step to quality chapter networking has nothing to do with the actual act of networking. Rather, it is all about the meetings you offer and the content you present. Planning presentations that elicit high attendance rates at your meeting ensures you have people present to make meaningful connections within your membership.
The next step requires purposefully organized opportunities for networking at each of your events. This boosts the value of membership exponentially since your chapter is focusing on both providing content and fostering connections.
Herein lies the dilemma that your chapter leadership must solve: getting your attendees to make those connections. Everyone wants to connect, but many simply don’t know where to even begin. With the growing use of social media and technological connections, in-person communication skills could use some nurturing, which is why the in-meeting networking time is so essential. However, the traditional method of just allotting time for networking and just expecting it to happen organically won’t work. Most likely attendees will return to their smart phones, possibly even missing the value of the content provided.
Guide your chapter’s networking though creative activities that fit your industry and event. For instance, a participation activity that allows a small group to evaluate and discuss a key case study or plan a discussion session following the content. The key takeaway here: make sure your attendees don’t join a group with people they already know. This is especially important in the larger events.
Create a member affiliate table where your members, as well as community associates, can place their contact information. Business cards. Flyers. Brochures. This offers a low-key way for attendees to see who is at the meeting and who supports your chapter. Attendees can take the materials for those they are interested in contacting at their leisure, possibly away from the meeting. This maximizes networking efforts while better connecting your chapter to the community in which it operates.
Plan your networking efforts with your members in mind, and with them as part of the process. Be creative to ensure your members can develop beneficial connections without the awkwardness that has historically been associated with networking. In this alone, your chapter takes the next step on the journey toward success. After all, being in an association is the perfect place to start the relationship building. And it is those relationships that will drive your chapter and the careers of those within your chapter.