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Take your networking events to the next level

This guest blog post is by Sarah Sain, a senior content strategy and development manager with Naylor Association Solutions, who works exclusively with allied societies and meeting professional organizations. Email her at ssain@naylor.com or follow her on Twitter at @ssain7.

People join associations because it gives them an opportunity to join a community and build connections with others in their industry – the opportunity to network. But traditional networking events – cocktail hour, name tags and business cards – can be intimidating for some of your members, particularly if they are new or uncomfortable in large social situations.

Whether it’s a new member or an old guard, introvert or extrovert, millennial or baby boomer, you want to make sure everyone who attends your networking events feels welcomed and engaged.

Think about your current networking events: Do they always follow the same format? Do they always take place in the same location? At the same time of day and same day of the week? In other words, are you in a bit of a rut? Think of ways to add some variety and appeal to members who aren’t engaging at your networking events but still want to grow their professional connections.

How you do that might be easier than you think. By offering networking activities where your members already have an interest, you’re making sure they walk in the door more at ease and ready to build a deeper connection to others who not only share their profession but also their passion. Here are some ideas for networking that can take place at your conferences or as standalone events.

  • A virtual meet-up
  • A morning walk, run or yoga
  • Coloring or painting party
  • Trivia or game night
  • Winery or brewery tour
  • Cooking class
  • Karaoke or a lip sync challenge
  • City tours
  • Scavenger hunt
  • Volunteering at a local charity

In addition, at every networking event, designate a few of your more active members to be your staff or board’s eyes and ears. Ask them to look out for members standing alone or on the outskirts of a conversation. Sometimes all it takes is a friendly face to bring them into the fold

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