At least seven times every month, the chamber hosts a networking opportunity for our members. We have coffees, luncheons and business-after-hours socials. And every Wednesday at noon, we have a free, brown bag networking luncheon called The Exchange that’s open to nonmembers, as well.
At the coffees and after-hours events, we usually have between 40 and 50 representatives of member businesses who attend, briefly introduce themselves and pass around their cards. That sounds like a decent turnout until you figure we have more than 400 members. In real numbers, we’re getting right around 10 percent of our membership taking advantage of these opportunities.
With the monthly membership luncheons, we get quite a few more. They average around 80 people. That’s still under 20 percent.
Why aren’t we attracting more? Our mission over the next few months is to find out. We have high-energy members who are eager to give referrals and make introductions. We have generous hosts who provide great refreshments and libations. We have door prizes. And we have lots of fun!
I suspect we get caught up in the day-to-day minutia and can’t even fathom taking on even one more task or time-consuming event. Often we are so busy running from sales call to sales call, we take a second to look at our watch and realize it’s too late to make the luncheon – and we missed the coffee altogether. It happens.
But dedicated professionals who are committed to increasing their business make sure a networking event is in their calendar and that their phone is set to give them an alarm to remind them it’s time to go. They come prepared with a handful of business cards, brochures, a warm handshake and genuine smile. They enter the room with an attitude that this event is the most important thing they’ve done all day, not that they’re putting in an appearance and can’t wait to leave.
We’ll be asking our members for their input on how to improve our networking events, and we’ll take to heart all recommendations. We’re always open to improvements and looking for ways to make our chamber more effective for our members.
And we’ll also be urging members to make these events a priority in their marketing and sales plan. Word-of- mouth is the best and cheapest advertising you can get, and anyone who doesn’t take advantage of networking opportunities is missing a very economical business development boat.
Aug. 12 is our next coffee, and it’s being hosted by Freedom Plaza. So mark your calendar, set your phone to remind you 20 minutes in advance and come on down to the clubhouse at the golf course.
We’ll be looking for you.
Dana Dittmar is CEO of the Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce.