Sunday, August 04, 2013

The Long Haul of Belonging To An Industry Association

People want immediate results.  Our society has become seduced by speed.  We expect to have whatever we desire to arrive NOW.  Fast food, instant communications, the ability to travel around the world, etc... have lead us to believe that all results come quickly.

Some things take time. The ROI from belonging to a group (social, spiritual, business, etc...) are not necessarily something that can be fast-tracked.  Social Media has fooled up into thinking that connections are just a click away.

I often write about the power of being active in your industry association or other trade organizations.  Power is gained from being connected with other people who share your interests that cannot be duplicated.  But the long-term results are just that.  You cannot instantly "like", "link", "share", or "follow" your way to be part of a community.

Participating in the National Speakers Association for the past five years has been an important part of my business success as a professional speaker.  I am often asked why I give so much credit to the organization, and my response is that the people with whom I have met have directly and indirectly helped me grow.  NSA provides much learning, but they really provide access to the best people in my business.  While the experience I had at my first NSA Convention was great, it cannot compare to the powerful ideas that came from participating in my 5th convention.  

Over the years I have learned how to navigate the conference and established meaningful connections with other speakers who have become my lifelong friends.  I am in regular contact with many of these professionals, and we trade best practices and serve as sounding boards in sifting through ideas.  I have become part of a "Mastermind Group" with four others, and they slowly are becoming my unofficial board of directors.  I look forward to hearing their latest success, and am inspired to share with them my own results.

Attending the NSA's summertime event once was fun... yet my dedication to continued participation in the organization has given me an annual benchmark for the growth of my business.  I always come home with pages of notes, and am repeatedly awed by the platform skills of my peers.  However it is over time that I have come to appreciate the variety of ways one can establish their career.  Seeing the keynote presentations and being around those who have reached the pinnacle of success makes me try harder.  Without this accumulation of information and observations over time I do not think I would have the level of understanding of the important role that speakers play in the Meetings Industry or the greater society.

While every person and each organization are different (and there is not always a fit for everyone in their industry group), the discovery of value from supporting your trade association can take many years. 

Many sour on these groups because they see those who have participated for years (sometimes decades) as having a lock on the key relationships.  But anyone can carve out their own community inside the larger whole.  Do not allow the cliquey nature of a group stop you from gaining the value that comes from participation.  Over time you can develop a reputation within your industry, and earn the respect of your peers that cannot be acquired instantaneously. 

Long time members in any organization often fail to see how they close their ranks in failing to welcome new members.  They host a "first timers reception" and check the box as being "welcoming".  This usually leads to a group of new members feeling left out.  Some never come back.  Not every association does a good job of creating a culture of connecting.   But those who persevere and continue to return will become more recognized over time.  

It is a long haul to belong to an industry association, and many who demand fast results will never stick around long enough to understand the value in participation.  When you find the right group you will need to make your own warm nest of friends inside the greater collective.  Together you will come to become leaders and leave your own impact on the whole organization (but be careful not to become the next clique).

Have A Great Day

thom singer

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