National association conferences are a great way to build industry contacts. I attend many of these events (as a member, speaker, or master of ceremonies), and I have a pet peeve: Local chapter meet-ups while at the national conference.
Why fly all the way across the country to attend an event and then sit with or have a private dinner with people from your own city? This is common at association conventions, and often a waste of time and it undermines the potential ROI you can get from the event While yes, having good local relationships matters, there are other places you can cultivate those relationships.
On "dinner on your own night" people gather their local chapter pals and go off to a restaurant to dine. Or during the awards lunch they populate a table with their friends from home. This is so common it is almost an epidemic.
When I gripe about this practice I hear the mantra; "It is the only time we can get together". Ummm, no. The convention is the only time you can meet people from all over the world who are present. There are other times in your own city you can meet up with your local peeps. It is a choice.
Life is all about choices and words such as "only time" are neither true nor helpful. It gives people the excuse to not network with others, and makes many feel obligated to attend. Some say it helps bond their friendships with local colleagues, but if that was really a priority you could make it happen several times a year. Yes, yes, everyone is "busy".... but lately the word busy has become the accepted hall pass to justify any behavior. Ask yourself, is the "busy" label real or an excuse?
I recently talked about this from stage at a conference. Several people came up and said "Thank You", as they feel obligated to go to dinner when their chapter president makes the invite. They do not want to appear rude, so they go along with the crowd. Others did not like my rant, as they said they are more introverted and don't want to meet new people. OKAY... that is real. And acceptable. If this is the reason, say it out loud and let those who want to mingle be free to go elsewhere.
I am a long-time member of the National Speakers Association. My friends from the Austin Chapter always organize a night out together at the annual convention. I always say "No", and tell them why (this point of view gets re-stated each year). Many of my local friends have a different opinion, and I respect their right to go dine together (and they accept my going off with others). I am only at this convention once a year, and each night's activities are a chance to establish connections with people from outside my hometown.
What do you think?
Have A Great Day