Associations have been very, very good to me. Here are just a few of the benefits I have gained:
• I learned about a job opening at Hallmark during an industrial editors association meeting. The job lasted 11 years. I learned a lot, and made lifelong friends.
• Soon after joining The Central Exchange, I got a lead to the Kansas City Direct Marketing Association, which became a long-time client. That in turn has led to many other clients, including Country Club Bank.
• Even more life-changing, I met my husband Larry while attending a luncheon of the Electric Association.
Getting the full benefit from associations, though, requires more than just attending the occasional meeting. You need a strategy. Here are 10 tips I recommend:
1. Join a few organizations and attend as many of their meetings as you can. It’s an investment that will pay off in new contacts and potential clients.
2. Dress in business attire that will make a good impression. Even on “casual Friday” it’s not advisable to look like you’re planning to clean the garage.
3. Arrive early enough to network. Ask for the other person’s card and for permission to send them a LinkedIn or Facebook invitation. When the conversation wanes, simply suggest that you both go mingle some more.
4. On your nametag, write your first name in big, clear letters and your last name somewhat smaller. Most professional networkers recommend wearing your nametag on the right side, making it easier to glance up and read it while shaking your hand.
5. When giving your name, pause a half a best between your first and last name, to give it a chance to sink in. Also have your “elevator speech” ready. When asked what I do, I say, “I make companies famous in a positive way…through the media.” Often people will respond, “Oh, public relations!”
6. Sit with people you don’t already know. I’m always amazed at coworkers who spend the whole time together, and barely talk to anyone else.
7. While listening to the speaker, think of an intelligent question you can ask. It makes you more visible, and the speaker will appreciate having at least one question to answer.
8. Before you leave, make it a point to introduce yourself to one more person. Often that individual will turn out to be the best contact you’ve made. For example, Larry Pepperdine was the last person I met at that Electric Association luncheon. The rest is history.
9. Soon after the meeting, follow up with the new contacts you’ve made.
10. Volunteer for a committee at some point. That’s the best way to build relationships with the top people in the organization. And if you become a board member, it will look good on your resume and your LinkedIn profile.
When you attend association meetings strategically, you can gain many benefits. Jobs. Clients. Referrals. Industry knowledge. Friends. Possibly even your future spouse!