I have moved around enough that I have friends all over the place. When my husband and I got married, friends from high school, college, grad school, and a few different jobs were all in attendance. It was super gratifying to see how well my friends all got along.
Generally speaking, we like our friend’s friends.
The members of our associations are the same. They are predisposed to like each other. They have similar backgrounds, have had similar experiences, do similar work, run up against similar issues, and are curious about similar topics. They might even have similar tendencies, or personality traits, or opinions.
When members meet each other, they like each other, and this is excellent news for associations! You have a bunch of people in your membership who are inclined to become great friends. But somehow that initial contact has to be forged. And that’s where the trouble is.
Networking is awkward. Sitting next to someone in a session is fleeting. Lunch is all about small talk.
So how do you help everyone who wants to meet someone, meet someone so they can start down the road to a meaningful relationship?
- Set your members to work – on a relevant industry topic, or on association business. Even a two-hour volunteer gig can help members meet one or two peers.
- Curate networking – what problem is your member trying to solve? Gather members together by problem or project.
- Develop brain dates – allow members to ask questions or propose a topic, other members will respond to what interests them and set up a time to chat.
- Teach them how to network – give your members tips on how to translate those social media interactions to IRL connections.
- Cultivate the friendliest member culture ever – welcome new members and new attendees with big smiles. Tell them other members are really friendly (if it is true). Encourage long-time members to extend themselves, soon many more members will reciprocate.
Help members meet each other, and they will take care of the rest.