Relaxed and creative networking formats can go over big.
Member Center. Because the Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine’s membership is “very social and very diverse,” says Lynda Baldwin, principal with Communication Strategies Group, Inc., having a laid-back “landing spot” was bound to be a hit.
Baldwin helped AAIM to design a multifaceted Member Center in the middle of the exhibit hall with multiple elements to foster “more natural interactions and connections,” she says. The center, now in its third year, beckons with March Madness basketball games on TV, two video game systems, a foosball table where attendees can challenge each other, and a popular professional headshot booth, along with coffee and comfy couches with charging stations.
“It’s a more intimate type of environment to feel relaxed and comfortable in, rather than being lost in a huge reception where you just sort of meander around,” says Baldwin. “It’s where relationships are built.”
Prom Night. Dressing in prom formal wear, crowning a king and queen, posing for awkward photo booth shots, and laughing at each others’ real-life prom photos—the board of NALS: The Association for Legal Professionals went all in on the theme for its donor thank-you dinner, which took place at its September 2018 annual conference. Friendships are born at this annual event, which in the past has featured a lip sync battle and a comedy night.
Board games on opening night and an escape room challenge for assigned teams were also part of NALS’ high-spirited networking program. “The thing that keeps our membership … coming back is that they’re so close. They all develop friendships across chapters,” says Communications and Meetings Manager Lydia Goodwin.
The Human Library. Grant writers spend lots of time in libraries, so it was fitting for the Grant Professionals Association to name its new networking format the Human Library. Conference attendees seeking information on a topic can ask a “librarian” to “check out” one of the leading authorities on grant writing for 15 minutes. If the resource—a veteran GPA conference attendee—is not reserved after that, the session can be “renewed” for another 15 minutes.
GPA has tripled the number of Human Library sessions it offers since the format’s inception in 2015. “Feedback from members is that it [alone] was worth the money to attend,” says Barb Boggs, events and volunteer relations manager. —M.M.