Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Networking = Critical Success Factor

Can I please have a show of hands of those not-for-profit associations that do not have networking as a key element of their member value propositions?  Truth is that associations were formed out of a critical mass of people with common needs and shared interests.  Does that not sound like a description for the perfect networking crowd?

Likely, members demand networking opportunities from their associations because they consistently place a great deal of value on connecting with their peers.  But have we stopped to consider why?  Is it the beverages and food...or is it something deeper that creates the value they seek?

Interestingly, many people believe networking is directly related to job hunting.  When I was in sales, networking was about filling the pipeline with prospects.  In the association world, networking is about connecting, gathering information, sharing resources and building relations.  Networking provides access to solutions, lays the groundwork for innovation and builds resources that may be a significant benefit both personally and professionally.

Networking is a critical success factor for high performing associations and a foundational element of the member value proposition.

The recent CSAE National Conference can be considered uber-networking central!  Of course, there are many educational opportunities, but I have always considered the networking as the greatest value.  Why?  Because while education provides a great foundation of general, theoretical information...networking provides knowledge in the lessons learned from the real life application of that educational information.  We get that knowledge from interacting with our peers through networking.

This article looks at why networking is so popular with the members.  It provides tips for networking success and provides suggestions as to how an organization can facilitate networking at its events.  What it doesn't discuss is the etiquette of networking.  While the etiquette is very important for making that all important first impression, the focus here is one the what, why and how of networking.

What is networking?

Networking is about connections that build your resource and support base that can be called upon when required.  Networking is like an online game...you build up points to be able to buy stuff.  You get imaginary points by helping others through sharing resources, connecting people, pointing them in the right direction or some other value-added assistance.  Then when you are in need, the door is open to reap some returns.

It is very much relationship building.  Relationships are value exchanges where both parties obtain something of value.  As with any relationship, some effort is required to make and maintain the connections.  The beauty about networking is there is no pressure to take the relationship to the next level.

Networking is also an excuse to leave behind the day-to-day grind and refocus on the important issues, rather than the urgent.

Stay tuned for the second part of this - Why is it valued?

This article was written by Dana Cooper, MBA, CAE (Executive Director, Orthotics Prosthetics Canada)

Image courtesy of cuteimage at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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