Networking at Professional Association Meetings

Step #1: Supplies you will need

In order to successfully network at Professional Associations, you must have prepared in advance two items to use at the meeting: Business Cards and your Networking Communication Strategy

To learn more about each, return to the ajobs homepage, and complete Tool #3 and Tool #4. Even if you think you have both, I still urge you to read these short descriptions of Why and How.

Step #2: Choose your associations

From the categories list included here in the left column, locate several to consider. Do NOT join any association until you have attended at least three meetings and have determined that you enjoy the group and will benefit from membership. Membership can be expensive, but all groups encourage visitors and networking at the meetings. Even better, many associations offer free membership or a discount while you are in job transition.

Step #3: Learn about the association

Review the information on their website, especially the local (Atlanta) chapter. Look for these:

Job Board – most associations list job vacancies on their local site
Speakers scheduled and topics
Slate of officers
Meeting time and place – and the cost!
Even if the dinner meal is costly, think of it as a good investment in your career. If it's still too expensive, I recommend you attend the "social hour" before the meeting simply to network and then decide if it's worth staying – I'm betting you will stay!

Step #4: Plan 

What are your goals for the meeting? What do you want to accomplish?

From their web site, choose the officers you want to meet and then research them on LinkedIn. When you introduce yourself, compliment them on something from their LinkedIn profile – e.g., recommendations, tenure with their company, advancement, etc. People are impressed that you have taken the time to learn something about them. Then exchange business cards. In the next few days, you can call them for whatever useful information you think they might have.
Do the same for the Speaker.
Exchange business cards with at least five other members, also to contact later

Step #5: Follow through – Icing on the cake!

Send an email to the speaker, stressing how much you learned from his presentation. Then in three sentences maximum, state your job objective and what information you would hope to obtain from him/her. Attach your resume, and thank him/her for the help.
Do the same for the officers and other members you met.
Send LinkedIn invitations to the ones with whom you talked, noting on the invitation where and when you met them.

A word about the association officers:
All associations list their officers on their local web site, and most include their companies and titles. Many also include a short bio and a link to their LinkedIn profile. These contacts can be invaluable in your search. Even if you do not meet them at a meeting, you can call or email them to ask for their help, noting where you found them.