Have you ever gone to a networking group or chamber of commerce event for the first time and were hoping for great connections and instead you walked out frustrated and thinking I just wasted my time and money? I am sure we all, at one time or another, have experienced this frustration. It was likely when we were new at networking and did not know many people. But, what about when it happens to an experienced networker? It is just as frustrating, if not more frustrating, because as an experienced networker, we can see the cliques and unwelcoming attendees much more clearly.

What qualifies me to be so knowledgeable on this subject? My experience with networking goes back 23 years. I was very active in my hometown Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce and I loved it (and how I miss the great experience)! I was Ambassador of the Year two years in a row and I was the Chairperson of the Ambassador Club. We took our jobs seriously. We were to welcome new faces and introduce them to others! We worked closely with the Membership Director and our chamber of commerce grew! It was one of the best chambers of commerce in the area and even though I have been gone for 18 years, I bet it is still an amazing chamber of commerce.

Last year I had bad customer experiences at three different chambers of commerce networking events. I went in with a very positive outlook, after all, I was told by the Executive Director of one of those chambers of commerce that they were different from other chambers of commerce and they openly welcomed guests. The other two events I was also positive, because I was told they, too, were very welcoming chambers of commerce.

At all of these events, I registered as a new guest. Registering as a new guest, should indicate to the Ambassadors and the person in charge of recruiting new members that I would need to be welcomed and introduced around. I even announced to the Ambassadors at the check in table that I was new and I didn't know anyone. No one offered to introduce me. What I found is that the Ambassadors and the person in charge of membership stood around talking to people they already knew, laughing it up, and drinking their wine. It was clear at all three of these events that they did not welcome new people properly.

My customer experience was terrible at these events. I left thinking about how much time I had wasted. Of course, I never attended another event at any of those chambers of commerce (1st impressions count!). I even went so far as to kindly and politely give feedback to one of those executive directors who was trying to get me to buy a membership. She asked for my feedback. Do you know what she said to me about my email feedback? NOTHING! It has been a month since I sent it and she did not respond at all! Here is part of the email I sent to her (I did edit out the name of the city so as not to point fingers at a particular chamber of commerce in my area).

"Hi [name of person]. Thanks for checking in. I did get discouraged at the one chamber event I attended. I drove an hour to get there and did not see any difference from other chamber of commerce events. I told the ladies at check in I was new and it was like any other chamber of commerce event where I knew no one and was introduced to no one. You were the only one who introduced me to a man, who wasn’t very talkative. So, after an hour of trying, I left that event.  

Thank you for the time you did give to me. But, I really believe chambers of commerce still have a lot of work to do to be more welcoming to new faces. My customer experience was not good. Think about it for a moment – I am an extrovert and can put myself in almost any uncomfortable situation. Now enter an introvert – their experience will be even worse than mine. I have kept these thoughts to myself until now. Hopefully, by passing along my poor experience, the chamber of commerce and board can be proactive in welcoming other new people in the future. [Signed Best regards and my name]"

Did I mention, I also paid money to attend this event? But, it is not about the money. It is about the utter waste of three hours of my day, away from my family. As busy business women we need to be careful where we invest our time, money, and efforts. If the events we attend are not going to be productive and if those events take us away from our families, we should not participate! Find groups that are welcoming, are supportive, and are productive that meet when our children are in school and our husbands are at work.

At SHE Leads Group, we believe in welcoming guests properly and we do it differently than any other group, but you'll have to visit to see how! We welcome you to visit a chapter near you, where your business category is not already represented. Joining SHE Leads Group can be a great addition to your existing networking efforts. We provide business development training at every meeting and to respect women's busy schedules, we only meet twice a month. Learn more about the SHE Difference and be our guest at upcoming meeting!

About the author

Beth Boen, Founder of SHE Leads Group

Beth Boen has more than 30 years of experience in sales, marketing and customer service. She is an award-winning marketer. She is also a professional trainer and customer experience consultant. Beth loves helping people build long-term, loyal relationships that produce quality connections in their business that lead to lifetime customers and endless referrals. Beth helps people do this through her thoughtful blogs and training curriculum. Members of SHE Leads Group have access to more in-depth business development training through presentations at meetings from Beth, her curriculum, and guest trainers. In addition to being the Founder of SHE Leads Group, Beth has had a training and consulting business, The Voice Customer Experience, that she started in 2005.

comments powered by Disqus