Monday, March 31, 2014

Limit Your Local Cliques At National Meetings

The national conference of an industry association is a great place to gain knowledge, learn best practices, and network with peers from around the country (or around the world).  Most people proclaim their best ROI at live events is directly related to the people they meet.  While the keynote speakers and they educational sessions are fantastic, most people find the real power in live events comes from the other attendees.  

The serendipitous "Hallway Conversations" that occur when we converse with fascinating people (often who are from other parts of the globe) are hard to plan for in advance, but when they happen we realize they are the reason we came to the event.

Yet too many people undermine their own chances to connect by hanging around with co-workers and other friends from their home cities.  It is not uncommon at large association gatherings for local chapters to have their own private happy hours or all sit together at luncheons.  

Why would I want to fly to New York to spend two days connected at the hip with my friends from Austin (who I see every month at our chapter meetings)?  Especially if being with them is limiting my opportunities to discover the maximum value from being present at the conference?

Am I saying you should ignore your friends or be rude?  Of course not.  But think about what happens at a luncheon if you all sit together -- You meet nobody new.  But if ten of you sit at ten different tables, then combined you meet 90 other people.  What are the odds that one of those 90 will be AMAZING?  (My guess is most of them will be!!!).

If you are attending a large destination event with several others from your hometown, together you can make the conference more successful by working together and separately.  Have your private happy hour in your home city two weeks before traveling to the meeting.  At this happy hour have each person take a minute to share with the group what they hope to accomplish at the national conference.  Then get agreement for all to be on the lookout to help others maximize the event.  

Hanging around together will limit the value you can encounter. Working for each other while meeting new people at the event will give everyone a shot at more success.  If you must see each other, plan to get together at non-convention times.  A late night drink in the hotel bar or an early morning walk is a great way to spend time with your friends. 

If you are on the shy or introverted side, then it is okay have one "networking buddy" whom you attend sessions together. But do not be clingy.  It is okay to sit at the same table, but leave a few seats between you so both can engage in conversations with people from other cities.

The next time you attend a national event, break the trend of needing to always be with your hometown friends.  Challenge everyone in your chapter to get out and be ambassadors for your chapter, city or region.  You may be surprised how this will impact your experience.  When everyone is out talking up your area the other attendees will notice.  If you all sit together everyone will notice you as a clique.

The people you meet at conferences can open up a whole new world of contacts.  A top reason that people claim to attend association events is for the "networking opportunities", and then they stink at making any connections because they are engulfed by those they already know and see regularly at home.  Get over the need to fly over several states to visit with your neighbors.   

5 Tips for Chapter Delegates at Large National Association Events

1.  Do not stand or sit together at every breakout, meal, happy hour, etc...  Go forth and meet new people. 

2.  Have a local meeting of those who will be present at the national event a few weeks before the conference.  Share what each person in your delegation is hoping to accomplish (what they want to learn, who they want to meet, etc..), and then everyone become the extra eyes and ears.

3.  Introduce the cool people you meet on site to others from your hometown.  You never know when you might the the catalyst for a fantastic connection.

4.  If you think your group is getting cliquey, encourage people to branch out and / or invite outsiders to join you.

5.  Have a chapter meeting within a month after the event where those who attended share with the information with whole membership.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections.

No comments: