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Give Value To Your Members With Association Networking Events

Author: Sayana Izmailova
November 26, 2021
🕑 7 min read

One of the best things you can offer to your association members is the opportunity to network. After all, they join your association in order to grow professionally and advance in their careers. What better way to do that than to meet people who work in the same industry and make lasting, mutually beneficial connections?

In this post, we’ll go over everything you need to know about association networking. Read on to discover the different kinds of networking activities you can organize, a few tips for planning successful networking events, what your members are hoping to get out of them, as well as what’s in it for you.

What Is Association Networking?

Networking involves meeting new people who work in the same or related industry and establishing a professional relationship with them. Forming these relationships can help professionals expand their circle of contacts, find new clients, find new job opportunities, and stay on top of the latest news and best practices in their field.

Despite these great benefits, many people are intimidated by the idea of networking — they don’t know where to meet new people or how to get the conversation going.

Luckily, professional associations exist to help networking happen more naturally and more regularly. In fact, most people who join a professional association do so in order to take advantage of the networking opportunities it presents.

That’s why, if you run a professional association, offering these opportunities to your members is an absolute must. If association networking events aren’t yet a part of your member benefits package, or if you’re simply looking to improve your current programs, keep on reading.

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13 Types of Business Networking

There are many ways to help your association members network with each other. Some work well for larger organizations, while others are perfect for organizations of any size. Check them out below and see which ones you could try with your association.

1. Guest Speaker Presentation

What it is: A presentation from a guest speaker on a relevant topic, usually with a Q&A session, and a networking portion.

Why it works: The presentation is educational and inspirational for your members. After the presentation, they get the opportunity to network with each other, as well as the guest speaker.

2. Networking Breakfast / Lunch

What it is: A breakfast or lunch event, usually with notable guests in attendance. This can be purely a networking event, or have a presentation/panel discussion component, as well.

Why it works: Information about the notable guests is sent out ahead of time, so that members can come prepared with questions and discussion topics. They have plenty of time to talk to the notable guests, as well as other members.

3. Happy Hour

What it is: A less formal networking event, usually with snacks and drinks, that occurs outside of work hours.

Why it works: Members don’t have to discuss any specific work-related topics, but it’s a great chance to build relationships and connect with each other on a more personal level.

4. Roundtable

What it is: A group discussion with a defined discussion topic and a moderator.

Why it works: Every attendee has a chance to participate and hear the different perspectives from everyone else at the table.

5. Speed Networking

What it is: A networking version of speed-dating, where participants talk to a fellow attendee for 5-10 minutes before switching conversation partners.

Why it works: Members get to meet a great number and variety of people in a short amount of time. They can then have follow-up conversations with a few people they connected with the most.

6. Seminar

What it is: A lecture-style presentation about a specific topic.

Why it works: Members can learn something new about their industry, latest best practices, or examine a case study.

7. Workshop

What it is: A more hands-on version of a seminar where participants learn through discussions and group-activities.

Why it works: Members get the opportunity to work in small groups to solve a problem and learn something new in the process.

8. Conference

What it is: A large-scale, usually multi-day event with speaker presentations, seminars, workshops, and networking events.

Why it works: Attendees can choose which sessions they attend and get to meet like-minded people with similar interests and career paths.

9. Trade Show

What it is: An exhibition event where members of a specific industry can come together to showcase their products and services.

Why it works: Both attendees and exhibitors get the opportunity to learn from each other, as well as find new clients and potential partners.

10. Virtual Networking

What it is: Any of the above types of networking can be done virtually through a conference call platform.

Why it works: This is ideal for members who have tight schedules or can’t travel to where the event would take place.

Read More: 10 Strategies for Organizing a Successful Hybrid Conference

11. Online Community

What it is: A website forum or messaging system where members can ask each other questions and have industry-related discussions.

Why it works: It’s a great way to engage with like-minded peers without spending a lot of time or having to travel somewhere.

12. Social Media Group

What it is: An online community hosted on a social media site like Facebook or LinkedIn.

Why it works: The discussions here can be a bit more casual and members can share photos, links, and other social media posts.

13. Community Service

What it is: Members get together to volunteer at an event or organization in their community.

Why it works: Members get the opportunity to spend time together and have meaningful conversations, while doing something good for their community.

What Members Want Out of Association Networking

In order to maximize the value of your association networking events, you need to understand what your members are hoping to get out of them. Of course, the best way to do this is to survey them — this way you can customize your networking events to align with your specific industry and your members’ needs. That being said, here are a few general benefits that members in all industries tend to look for:

  1. They want to meet new contacts: being well-connected can lead to countless new opportunities for exposure, finding new clients or partners, and career growth.
  2. They want to land a new job opportunity or hire new employees: most job openings aren’t advertised on public job boards, so networking offers a great chance to find the perfect new job or employee.
  3. They want to find a mentor or mentee: whether or not your association has a formal mentorship program, your members can form their own mentor-mentee relationships and schedule their own mentoring sessions.
  4. They want to stay up-to-date on the latest best practices: your members want to learn from each other and share tips on how to navigate their industry.
  5. They want to develop relevant industry skills: they can share valuable resources, courses, and programs to help each other grow professionally.
  6. They want to build a community: as industries inevitably grow and evolve, your members like to have a community of like-minded people to turn to for support and encouragement.

5 Tips for Awesome Networking Events

1. Onboard New Members

Having an effective new member onboarding protocol in place will benefit both your new members and your existing ones. It’s a chance for you to teach the new members about your association, let them know what they can expect from their membership and networking events, and make them feel acknowledged and comfortable. Your existing members, on the other hand, will appreciate a brief introduction so they can feel more comfortable approaching the newcomers at the next event.

2. Keep a Networking Event Calendar

When your members can easily access information about which networking events are coming up and when, they can plan ahead and increase their chances of attending. The more people attend your events, the more valuable they become for everyone.

3. Prepare Your Attendees

Time is limited at networking events, and attendees would rather spend it actually building connections, than reviewing agendas and speaker bios. Send this information ahead of time so attendees can come prepared and make the most of their time there.

4. Deliver Top-Notch Content

Make your events valuable and enticing. Invite leading industry speakers, deliver timely news and educational content, and provide lots of opportunities for attendees to interact with each other. At the same time, make your events easy to attend — book accessible locations, schedule them at convenient times, and host virtual events to accommodate those who can’t attend live events.

Read More: The Ultimate Event Planning Guide: How to Plan an Event

5. Consistently Take Feedback

The best way to give your members what they want out of networking events is to ask them. Survey your members on a regular basis and establish a feedback-friendly culture, so they feel like they can always come to you with suggestions for improvements.

How Creating Association Networking Opportunities Helps You

Providing association networking opportunities for your members is one of the best ways to grow your membership. For one, when you list these opportunities under your membership benefits, new potential members will be more enticed to join. You can also open up some of your networking events to non-members or encourage your current members to bring a friend. This can be done for in-person events, as well as for virtual or hybrid ones. After attending your association event, these non-members will likely become interested in joining.

How To Manage Association Networking Events

Planning a networking event takes quite a bit of work. You need to manage contacts, send out invitations, track RSVPs, and process payments. Luckily, you can do all that and more with membership management software (MMS). It will completely automate all the administrative tasks related to running your association and organizing events, so you can focus on bringing your members together and building a community.

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