5 Tips for Your Next Networking Event

As the leader of IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo, I oversee the robust 3.5-day program that includes more than 50 educational sessions, a variety of networking opportunities, “meet and greets” with keynote speakers, and other special attendee events. An important value of our conference, or any in-person business event, is the opportunity to network with like-minded professionals in our field.

If you’re uncomfortable by the idea of networking and approaching people you don’t know, here are some tips you can use at your next conference or in-person business event.

1.    If offered, attend the orientation session for first-time attendees. This will acquaint you with the event’s agenda as well as other attendees in the same position as you. When the time is right, introduce yourself to others.  Some “ice breaking” tips include sharing your name, where you’re from, where you work, and your role. Then ask others those questions, listening carefully for commonalities and differences in your backgrounds. Oftentimes, further conversation occurs naturally after this point and first-timers frequently plan to connect again during or after the event.

2.    Before or after a presentation, start a conversation with someone sitting nearby about the presentation topic. Start out by introducing yourself and asking about his/her interest in the session. If you have specific questions or insights about the session, offer that as further information, or ask how the session relates to his/her job responsibilities or career aspirations.  meeting presenter

3.    After a session that sparks your interest, introduce yourself to the presenter and ask specific questions regarding the concepts covered or how you can obtain more information. Offer your business card so that you can continue sharing material on the topic.

4.    During networking events such as “meet and greets,” group meals, or cocktail parties, seek out individuals who are standing alone, who you haven’t met, or who you’ve met in a prior session. Besides introducing yourself, inquire what sessions he/she has participated in, what his/her impressions were, and what he/she has learned. Share your thoughts also.

5.    Small group activities like conversational roundtables or exhibitor showcases allow for additional one-on-one time with other attendees as well as opportunities to meet with exhibitors to learn about their services. In addition to the above examples, other conversation starters include inquiring about new industry or regulatory events, discussing work challenges you may be experiencing, or learning more about the organization hosting the event to better understand other services of interest to you.

Make It Count

When you feel the conversation has ended, offer to connect on LinkedIn or exchange Businessmen exchanging business cardsbusiness cards. And don’t forget to follow up! Starting and sustaining a conversation with business professionals in your industry is an important way to grow, build your self-confidence, and expand your career horizons. So go ahead and mingle on!

To jumpstart building your networking skills, join us at IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo held in Las Vegas on June 18-22, 2016. Register now for your chance to network with the profession’s top thought leaders and professional colleagues.

Written by Debbie Warner, CPLP

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Why Diversity and Inclusion is Essential for Global Organizations

With changing technology and emerging global markets, it’s common in today’s world to find yourself working with or for people of different cultures and backgrounds. Therefore, the importance of adopting a diverse culture isn’t only a “nice to have” but a “must have” in order to have mutual trust, respect, and understanding of each other and to ultimately serve your members better.

To show how we embrace the various backgrounds of our members, IMA recently created the Diversity Thought Leadership Pipeline Committee, which celebrates the uniqueness of each culture within our membership. As quoted in the Committee’s governance statement, diversity involves establishing an environment where there are equitable opportunities for individuals from various backgrounds to express their thoughts and ideas.

Creating a committee and investing in a diversity and inclusion initiative strengthens an organization’s global position. It makes a statement among members that your organization isn’t only focusing on the needs of members in the U.S. At IMA, we pride ourselves on being a diverse company in a global marketplace.

So what does it take to be considered diverse? Let’s break down the Committee’s governance statement to find out:

“Through the backgrounds and experiences of our global membership base, we gain perspective and insights that impact the strategic and operational direction of our organization.”Innovation-Gears---1

A company that has a diverse, global membership network has a 360-degree view of the industry and the people who work to improve it. Having a broad membership base gives you various perspectives on issues facing your company or industry.

A company environment that fosters diversity also fosters innovation. A diverse staff will undoubtedly propose new, innovative ideas that can expand your company’s overall contribution. Your company will gain valuable insights from members and staff who come from diverse cultures and backgrounds.

“The global governance of IMA acknowledges and embraces the diversity of our membership and considers an inclusive atmosphere essential.”

SpiceStarIt’s important to have a diverse board of directors that represents your stakeholders because you need various opinions to operate as an unbiased organization. When your board members and top management are from different backgrounds, experience, and generations, you’ll better understand the marketplace and what your stakeholders expect from your business. IMA benefits from a diverse board to get input on what products and services should be offered to members from different regions.

“Our global diversity also provides new ideas and alternative perspectives that expand IMA’s contribution to the profession.”

A diverse company offers products, services, and events that appeal to a wide variety of professionals. Knowing your audience—their background, culture, and objectives—is the first step in producing and delivering these offerings. Then work on understanding how your audience likes to receive this information. IMA offers continuing professional education (CPE) credit through many avenues, including live and on-demand webinars and in-person events such as instructor-led courses and conferences. IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo alone includes 50+ sessions about management accounting competencies as well as sessions about soft skills training. Another example is IMA’s Women in Accounting Leadership Series, which is a platform for discussing the issues women face as being a growing part of IMA’s diverse membership.

The Future of Your Organization Depends on Diversity

Similar to other initiatives, global companies can benefit from developing a diversity committee that focuses on developing training programs or other outputs to strengthen cultural awareness among employees and volunteers. Having such a committee or initiative confirms a company’s commitment to global diversity and inclusion by projecting that your organization values the differences in people.

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE

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