Volunteering is hands down, the best way to gain the maximum return on your investment in association membership. My volunteer work helped me establish myself in a new industry and launch my career, helped me land jobs, and more.
When I transitioned into the events industry full-time in 2011, I knew zero #EventProfs, and no one in the community knew me – how would I ever make a name for myself, and start building relationships that would lead to opportunities?
I thought back to the advice professors had provided on industry associations like the International Live Events Association (ILEA) and Meeting Professionals International (MPI), and in 2012 I decided to jump into a membership with ILEA. I went all in, and signed up to volunteer on the Board of Directors. I served on the Board in a variety of roles for 3 years, and folks I had been volunteering with starting hiring me to support them on long-term projects, and for day-of coordination work. I gained several repeat clients through the relationships I built while volunteering for the chapter, and I worked on some really cool events!
I decided to launch eventConnect in 2011, alongside the start of my business. eventConnect was a networking event for the events industry, planned and produced by a team of interns who volunteered their time. They could meet and network with industry professionals at the event, and more importantly, their volunteer work enabled them to add valuable event planning and marketing experience to their portfolios. That experience and those connections led the interns to great opportunities at great organizations; in fact, it also led me to a great opportunity. My current role at Redstone Agency was made possible in part by a very strong referral from the 2-time eventConnect planning lead – someone I initially volunteered alongside 7-8 years ago, and now consider a great industry friend.
My most meaningful volunteer experience to-date has been on the Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID) planning committees for 2019 and 2020. GMID is an internationally recognized and celebrated day, designed to shine a light on the economic impact of meetings and events. I am proud to be a part of a group that shares a passion for the industry and that places a high priority on the quality of programming and content for such an important event. I am enjoying getting to know the meeting planners and industry suppliers on this year’s committee, and I’m looking forward to being a part of delivering an amazing #GMID20.
These days, industry volunteerism gives me the opportunity to give back, to learn from others, to support others in their professional development, and most importantly, it provides a forum in which I am able to continue to develop meaningful connections. Sure, you can attend events and meet new contacts that way, but volunteering in the industry is really ‘accelerated’ networking. There is no better way to develop long-lasting professional relationships than by working side-by-side, aligned on a common goal – and having fun while you’re at it!
We’d love to hear why volunteering for a professional association is important to you! Please share in the comments below.