What’s Old Is New Again: The Value of In-Person Networking

Back in the day, meetings and networking could only take place face-to-face. You would think that today’s technologically advanced world would have made this practice extinct, but many people stillnetworking1 believe in the power of in-person networking to create a more emphatic, memorable experience.

As one of IMA’s conference and event managers currently working on IMA’s 95th Annual Conference & Exposition, I know the value of in-person networking and see it firsthand.

The Meetings Mean Business Coalition was created by the U.S. Travel Association to showcase the incredible value that business meetings, travel, and events bring to the U.S. The following are the pillars of the Coalition and are great to keep in mind when attending a conference or event.

Creating Personal Connections and Building Strong Communities

networking2One of the most valuable features of a conference is the opportunity to network. If you aren’t networking at a conference, then you’re really missing out on potential opportunities.

Networking isn’t easy for everyone, but within a conference community, there’s nothing to fear. At an event, there’s a sense of community, shared commonality, and reasoning. You can share dilemmas and solutions you’ve experienced at work and learn from others. Conversations can lead to a new job, a new idea, or a new partnership.

For example, I’ve met meeting planners from the West Coast and can reach out to them to find the best hotels in the region. I would easily trust them over other referrals because, after meeting them, I know that we understand each other’s job responsibilities and needs.

If the conference offers a “first-time attendee” orientation, I highly recommend participating. Take that last empty seat at a lunch table. Exchange ideas, connect with people, and collaborate. Swap business cards with everyone you meet and follow up on LinkedIn so when the time comes to re-connect, you’ll know how to find them or vice versa.

Driving Positive Business Outcomes

People tend to forget that conferences also are conducive to conducting business. When I attend an association or meeting management conference, I make appointments with hotel sales managers and the local convention and visitor bureaus.

In November 2013, the Crown Plaza released its first-ever Business Meetings in a Modern World global research report. Of the 2,000 business people surveyed around the world, 47% of them believed they had lost a contract or client simply because they didn’t have enough face-to-face meetings, and 81% stated that face-to-face meetings are better for building long-term trust and ensuring strong client relationships.

Most people will say the reason they registered for a particular conference is to continue their education and to maintain their certification. They rush from session to session, and they disappear at the end of the day. If you’re already at the conference, take the time to engage and observe – ask a question to the speaker, find out more about an organization, or stop by an exhibitor booth.

Conference learning includes personal development, career development, networking, and broadening horizons. You’re surrounded by opportunities to grow. You enable yourself to become an expert.

When you attend any conference, take full advantage of your investment in your most valuable asset: yourself.

Written by Tina Gaerlan, CMP

Volunteer Leadership – What’s In It For You?

In professional associations, many Puzzle on white background. Isolated 3D imageleadership opportunities exist for volunteers. It is this powerful relationship between the association and its volunteer members that help organizations deliver their mission.

Throughout my career, I’ve had numerous leadership opportunities including my current role as IMA’s director of market advocacy. I have the pleasure to serve as a staff liaison to IMA’s three technical committees to ensure that these groups represent the interests of accounting and finance professionals everywhere.

Aside from the intangible benefits that volunteerism brings, such as a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and giving back, I see three tangible benefits that our volunteer leaders gain through their roles.

Making Connections

As I’ve observed from the volunteers I work with, participating on a committee can expose you to a variety of people with a common interest. volunterer_leadership-QuoteProfessional associations offer access to boards, committees, subcommittees, and ad-hoc groups—a plethora of opportunities for volunteers to broaden their networks and commit to a shared common goal. In my role, I get to strengthen my existing relationships with members, as well as meet people in my field with a multitude of perspectives from around the globe. Networking is important to everyone, regardless of your career level. Business contacts and even personal friendships can stem from volunteer positions.


Advancing Your Skill Set and Your Career

Volunteer roles help you gain experience in a particular area of interest, practice relevant skills in a safe environment, and learn what it takes to be an effective leader to aid in the progression of your career path. Going outside of your normal day-to-day job is a differentiator that also adds skills to your résumé. Volunteer roles can help you gain experience you may not otherwise be able to get.

Yet, as important as it is to step up and be a leader, it’s also important to step back, share your knowledge with others, and allow them to step up. The most valuable experience I’ve gained as a leader is learning to facilitate successful outcomes without controlling the process. True leaders assist in the process of grooming someone else to lead a task. Being a strategic thinker and creating opportunities for others is also a rewarding experience, as you watch others grow from your guidance.

Impacting a Cause

At IMA, our volunteers serve as a voice, not only within a group, but on behalf of the profession as a whole. Advocating for a cause enhances technical knowledge while helping the greater good. At IMA, our volunteers are passionate about serving the interests of small businesses, promoting sound financial reporting standards, and educating the business community about important issues that impact them in some way.

If you have an opportunity to take on a leadership role, go for it. These valuable experiences will help you expand your knowledge, create lasting personal and professional relationships, and make a powerful difference in the community.

Have you had an interesting volunteer experience? Did it exceed your expectations?

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA

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