I have always been a firm believer in the power of association memberships. From the time I entered the meeting and events industry, it has been one of — if not the reason — for my company’s success.
When I came to the industry from the film and TV world about 10 years ago, not only was I jumping into an unknown world, I didn’t have all the tools and mentorship I needed to succeed. I was blessed to have a colleague take me under her wing and invite me to my first “industry” meeting. She introduced me to several people who became mentors and “wingmen” in my journey. They helped me learn more about my business and find success through the relationships I built.
Networking is not, and never will be, a dead art. In today’s economy, you need all the friends and education you can get. Here are few thoughts to consider as you think about how to make association memberships work for you.
Find the group that is best for you. There are many amazing organizations to choose from, but not all will be a good fit. There are associations based in every discipline of the meeting industry, so don’t join one because you’re told it’s the “right one.” Attend a few meetings and educational opportunities, and meet people, then determine if that is where you want to put your focus.
- Attend meetings. Take in educational programs and networking opportunities. If you join, make sure you can attend at least one meeting or mixer a month. Go out and meet people, learn about new industry standards and find opportunities to work together. The best business deals are done outside the boardroom.
- Join a committee. Yes, we’re all busy but the best way to meet new business is to be a part of something. When you volunteer, you meet other great folks who may need your services. If you put your all into a project for the association, it’s natural to assume that you run your business the same way, and who wouldn’t want to do business with you then?
- Sponsor an event or meeting. There are many ways to do this, including overall chapter sponsorship or sponsoring a chapter meeting or event. Every association has a range of sponsorship opportunities, ranging from luncheons to golf tournaments. Associations welcome your help and participation. The best part is seeing your company get the exposure and advertising in front of your industry peers.
- Look outside the box. Sometimes being one of 50 meeting planners in an organization means you don’t have as many business opportunities unless you compete with your colleagues. Taking a chance on a smaller ancillary organization that has a good vendor base, and where referrals are much more substantial, may give you opportunity for growth in a new market.
Your associations — from Meeting Professionals International (MPI) to IMEX, the International Special Events Society (ISES), the International Congress and Convention Association (ICAA) or your state groups — are designed to help you, so let them. Take a chance on yourself and your business, and become more involved in your association today.
Want to read more about how to the anatomy of meeting planning? Check out the 2013 PYM Annual. Not on our mailing/digital distribution list? You can access our educational program for free by subscribing to PYM.