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Join and Participate: Industry Groups Bring People Together

People often question, "Why should I join my industry/trade association?" The reasons are many, but finding ROI from membership is about more than writing a check—it is about participation. These organizations are not leads clubs, so those who mistakenly believe joining will bring them new business (without any effort) will be disappointed. Only paying dues and being listed in the member directory will have no impact, but if you get involved it can change your future.
 
Belonging to an association like MPI does not mean you will find new clients or get a new job upon signing up. These groups are not designed to funnel leads to their members, but they do provide many opportunities that can be morphed into business if the member is actively involved and prepared to listen, learn, and make meaningful contacts through networking. The opportunities come from people, and there are few better ways to discover the right connections than joining and participating in your industry associations.
 
The benefits in joining organizations are found in the contacts you will make and what you will learn from them. Some run the other way from their industry groups because they do not want to network with competitors, but that is short sighted. A professional speaker once told me she never joined the National Speakers Association (NSA) because mingling with other speakers ("the competition") was not the best use of her time. She proudly said that she only goes to meetings where potential clients are present so she can "get" business. To me, it sounds awfully one-sided to only show up where you can take yet never go where you can give and share in your industry's future success. If everyone exclusively participated in organizations with the sole intention of taking from others, eventually nobody would go anywhere!
 
My business has grown because of my involvement in industry groups like NSA and MPI. I continually learn from the people in these groups and have developed real friendships in both. In many of these relationships we are constantly helping each other find new business, sharing best practices, and making the whole journey more fun.
 
Some association executives ask their vendors (speakers, meeting professionals, transportation providers, etc.) if they are members of an industry or trade association, as it makes no sense for membership driven groups to hire vendors who do not support their own industries. I like this attitude of those who promote participation in a member driven organization in turn looking to work with others who support their industries.
 
The downside of an association is that there will always be the politics that pop up when you bring people together. In all groups there are those who feel they are on the outside of the cliques. If you think joining will make you an instant part of the club, you will be disappointed. Those who hope for automatic attention and recognition will be frustrated. To get noticed you have to participate, sometimes for years.
 
The best advice is to join with the purpose of learning, networking, and to serve others. The real career benefits will come down the line. You cannot keep score in your participation (I helped twice, others only helped me once, and so on) as the time frame is impossible to determine. If you get frustrated too fast and leave the group, you might have done so just before your efforts delivered ROI.
If you are not involved in one or more industry organization, it is time to review the choice of groups that serve your industry. Get involved and attend the local and national meetings and conventions. But do more than attend—serve the group in some way. Your investment comes back and you will meet awesome people.
 
Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst," a speaker who mixes meaningful content with a high energy presentation style that results in audiences gaining new knowledge and taking action on what they have learned. Thom is also the host of the "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" podcast. He can be reached through www.ThomSinger.com or (512) 970-0398.

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