By Tara Bitzan, Executive Director, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce
The Chamber’s Wake Up Alexandria and Off the Clock networking events are some of our more popular programs. Some people wonder what all the fuss is about, but others have figured out the networking value of these opportunities and take advantage of them.
Of course the main purpose of these programs is to spotlight businesses and organizations and educate the community on the products and services they offer. An informed community is a thriving community! However, to many attendees, the key benefit of these programs is the opportunity to network.
Network: To interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.
Many successful business people quickly realize and embrace the concept of networking. Why? Here are three of the top reasons:
To meet new people and gain contacts and referrals. Gaining new business and clients is usually the main goal, but don’t forget about the value of meeting people who could open the doors for new ventures or collaborations, or people who could be key in helping your organization in other ways. For example, if you have a position to fill, these networking opportunities may offer connections to the perfect candidate, or if your organization is in need of certain services, you may gain a referral for someone tried and true all because you attended a networking event. Meet people, introduce yourself, hand out business cards, and set up future meetings to further develop these important relationships. Work the room, and with every person you meet, as yourself – how can I help them/their business and how can they help me/my business?
Marketing and visibility. Seeing people face-to-face and developing relationships goes a lot further than most formal advertising options. This is just as important in maintaining existing client relationships as it is in developing new ones. Having yourself and members of your team out and about in the community at various events is a strong form of marketing. Notice I said “yourself and members of your team.” Some business execs make the mistake of finding themselves “too busy” to attend events like this, so instead they only send other representatives from their organization, and others make the mistake of thinking that only top management should be making appearances at community networking events. It needs to be a combination of both. Empower your team to be out representing your organization, but also take time to do so yourself. A healthy mixture of the two provides the strongest impact. The ones who are really losing out are the organizations that don’t send anyone, believing that there’s too much work to be done to allow any employees time to go out “socializing.”
Stay in the know! These events keep you up-to-date on what is going on within the community. Sure, you’ll hear about fundraisers and store specials, but you’ll also hear about what other entities are struggling with or what they’re celebrating, what the pulse of the current economy is, what business is moving into the abandoned complex in the center of town, what current legislation will be a win or lose for this area if passed, and so much more that you’ll never hear about while sitting at your desk all day every day. Some of the most impactful news for business leaders is the news shared over casual conversation at a networking event that doesn’t make headlines with the local media.
Is your organization taking advantage of local networking opportunities? The Chamber invites you to be our guest at any of our networking events. Find out about them here: https://www.alexandriamn.org/eventsandprograms.html