July 27, 2015
I recently had lunch with a close friend of mine and we talked about industry organizations and the adage: “You get out what you put in” came up. In this day where there are a lot of great organizations and everyone is so incredibly busy with our booming economy, how do you get the most out of your membership?
I have a few thoughts that I think work whether you are a veteran of the organization or a newbie:
1. Get to Know the Staff. I speak from first-hand experience, the staff at RECA rocks. I find that it’s true for other organizations I’m a part of too. If you haven’t yet introduced yourself to them - do it now. Think of it as befriending the host of the party, or the most popular kid at school. It will make your interaction with the group so much smoother when you know folks on the inside.
2. Find Your Tribe. I tell my preschooler that when he’s in camp, his goal is to find “one normal person”. You need to find the group of folks who share similar interests with you. Do you want to hang out with other young people? Are you interested in philanthropy? Are you a policy wonk? Believe me, in most groups, there is a committee for that. You will find your “one normal person” and then some.
3. Start on time. The monthly luncheons/networking events can be overwhelming for almost anyone. It’s not easy to walk in alone to a group of 200+ people. If you show up right at the start time, odds are that most folks will arrive 15 minutes later. You’ll have some time to warm up, say hi to your staff friends, and begin talking to a few others without feeling like you’re showing up fashionably late to a nightclub.
4. Show up often. Woody Allen once said 80% of life is showing up. He’s right - attendance matters - or at least it helps. When you keep showing up, others in the group remember you. If possible, ask for a calendar of events from the membership or programs chair so you can schedule those lunches in advance. All of RECA’s upcoming events are posted on their website.
5. Lose the elevator speech. Seriously, just stop. You’re here to meet folks, not robotically give a 30-second blurb about you and your company. Now, you do want to be able to talk coherently about what you do - just have it come up naturally. Instead, find out more information about the person you’re talking to.
6. Help out. This is my favorite thing! One, it gives you some purpose. Two, it helps the group. Three, your nerves will melt because you instantly feel like you belong. It can be as simple as greeting folks, helping with name tags or serving punch.
7. Shake it off. I always say this in advance: you will meet folks who don’t want to talk to you. They may have been forced to attend or feel they are too important to deal with you. Just think of Taylor Swift and “shake, shake, shake”. Move on to the next smiley face.
8. Get a wingman/woman. Tag teaming an event is the best. Just make sure you and your friend aren’t holed up in a corner catching up. Meet folks and have fun together.
9. Practice remembering names. Mindy Kaling has the BEST quote in her book about this. “…Not knowing people’s names isn’t a neurological condition; it’s a choice”. Whatever way works for you - find a way to remember the names of the folks you meet.
10. Just do it. Again, to quote Mindy “sometimes you just have to put on lip gloss and pretend to be psyched”. In my experience, 90% of the time, you’ll be glad you went. (Note, lip gloss is used metaphorically. It just means putting on your best face and walking through the door. I just don’t want the non-lip gloss wearing contingency after me).
What are your tips?