Tim Ebner is communications director and press secretary at the American Forest & Paper Association in Washington, DC. He is a member of ASAE’s Communication Professionals Advisory Council and a former Associations Now senior editor.
Take a multifaceted approach to networking by giving members more than one place to connect with colleagues.
You can bet that virtually all of your members want to network with other professionals. But you can also bet they don’t all want to do it in the same way or for the same reasons.
“Especially for our new and younger members, we try to maximize their exposure to peers and draw in some knowledge and best practices to further their careers,” says Brandon Hackworth, director of membership at the American Association of Orthodontists. “We’ve also established opportunities for professionals further along in their career or making practice transitions.”
The key, he says, is to create multiple networking opportunities, both in-person and online. Here’s AAO’s lineup:
1. Ambassador program. Orthodontists can take many different career paths, which is why AAO created an ambassador program that convenes at the annual meeting. Ambassadors are highly engaged members who serve as career representatives to other members. “They effectively serve as a conduit to those looking for professional growth and career opportunities,” Hackworth says.
2. Virtual roundtables. Not all AAO networking happens face to face. “We recently launched a virtual roundtable, where we pick six or seven different members practicing in different modalities,” Hackworth says. In these webcasts, “members listen to other members talk openly about their career experiences.”
3. Social networking. Social media platforms have given career networking a big boost. “Our members are much more willing to join networking that’s already taking place on social media, and we’re starting to focus our efforts there,” Hackworth says. AAO is testing a closed Facebook group where members can post career resources and share job opportunities.