Master networkers make great committee members – usually because they know lots of people. For this very reason, if you are a skilled networker you might be invited to form part of a committee for your peer group, association or institution.
However, once you accept this invitation, you may find that membership is flagging, attendance is down and you have a tough job ahead of you. As networking becomes the norm, rather than the exception, more and more networks are springing up. And as there are a limited number of people who would attend any of these events, sometimes numbers are low, membership wanes and membership renewals often drop off.
We also know that it takes as much effort to arrange a function for 50 people as it does to arrange one for 250.
So let’s look at some practical, inexpensive ways of boosting membership and attendance to make the return on attendance valuable, measurable and effective. More members means more networking opportunities.
1. Name tags
Always, always, always provide name tags. Reports show that 80 per cent of the population forget names within 30 seconds of hearing them for the first time. To avoid this embarrassing situation, providing name tags with names in approximately 32-point type will enhance networking opportunities.
2. Committee name tags
Most committee members are volunteers who freely give their time. Providing a different name tag for committee members not only gives them recognition, but also makes it easy for first timers to know who to ask to find out information and seek guidance.
3. Professional MC
A great Master of Ceremonies (MC) can make an event. Seeking out a professional from the ranks of your membership is an obvious solution. However, just because Jack Smith has been MCing for ten years doesn’t mean he is good at the job.
Seek out a professional, who is a good communicator, can keep to time, is not sexist and has a general interest in the growth of the network.
Professional MCs may consider a contra for their services to gain exposure to your network.
It is important to reward members and guests who arrived on time. Always start and finish your meetings on time. Starting late to accommodate late-comers is only rewarding negative behaviour.
5. Meeters and greeters
These are members who position themselves close to the registration area. Their job is to ‘meet and greet’ guests, first timers and regular members with a smile and a self-introduction. Most of the fear associated with attending networks for the first time is specifically related to the first ten minutes from arrival. A ‘meeter and greeter’ takes the pain out of this process and can introduce first timers and new members to others with common interests.
6. ‘Ask me’
Encourage some of your committee members to wear an ‘ask me’ badge or ribbon at meetings. This person will be acknowledged by the MC and encouraged to mix and mingle throughout the event, answering questions and providing information as needed.
7. List of attendees
Providing a list of attendees to all delegates is a great way to facilitate networking during and after the event. Including a person’s name, company name and position with or without an email address enables contact to be made post-event.
It is also a good idea to make a note on the list that confidentiality of this information is appreciated. As you meet people during the event, it helps if you highlight the person’s name, to enable you to follow up more efficiently.
8. Business cards in corkboard
As an alternate to the attendee list, some networks provide a double-sized corkboard filled with pin tacks. As people arrive at the venue, they pin a business card on the corkboard, which is usually located in a central area. This way, they are able to see exactly who is in the room and the meeters and greeters can connect them with whomever they want to meet.
9. Membership forms at meetings
Most networks want members yet less than 50 per cent of networks actually have membership forms on display at meetings – such a simple thing that is often forgotten. Some networks say ‘go to our website, we accept memberships online’. That’s fine, but why not have membership forms on hand to capture that potential member while they are hot?
Often membership officers become a little tired of promoting memberships, even though it is their role. Why not invite one of your ‘advocates’ to do the membership spiel for you. Select enthusiastic, visible members who attend regularly and ask them to say in two to three minutes what they have gained from membership; this is a far better advertisement for the group and again is an opportunity to give a member recognition.