The network effect is growing my public speaking business. For example, the Florida Society of Association Executives (FSAE) recruited me to speak at this year’s annual conference. While planning a membership summit for city and area Florida realtors associations, the event host found my session on FSAE’s program and asked me to give the presentation to their association professionals. An executive director of one of those area realtors associations saw me give the presentation and asked me to come and talk to their board. Sometimes one opportunity leads to the next which leads to the next.
I credit the network effect for propelling all of my recent initiatives from speaking, to recruiting quality participants for association industry research, to having clients find me for custom member research. The more folks I meet, and help, the better all this works.
The thing is, it took a long time and a lot of effort to get to the point where the network effect started to kick in. I probably wrote 100 blog posts before I was ever asked to present in person. I am estimating it took another 300 posts, many calls with industry contacts, and about 70 presentations before I was first paid to speak.
A colleague recently said that it seemed to her like I knew everyone in the association industry (I don’t, but it was nice to hear). I do know some, many even, but this is rare. Most professionals do not put this much time and effort into their network. On the other hand, some colleagues put much more effort into building their network than I do, but we are the exception. In fact, before I started this business I worked at my job, head down, without thinking much about building an external network. My bad!
Networking is one of the top values we provide our members. However, based on overall results from member research, I’m always quick to say that networking is broken. Some members are new, so networking is hard for them, even torture for them. Many other members are head-down working away, like I was, without thought to building their external network. So who is association networking for? Maybe the top 10%? But every member has problems, and if they were better connected, they could solve these problems.
I wonder if there is a way to deliver situational networking? Let’s say a member has been asked to lead a project that has never been done before at his company. Is there a way the association could identify and introduce him to another member or two who are working on or have completed a similar project?
Members say they are getting tired of reception-style networking. Maybe we should find ways to facilitate situational networking instead.