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Why You Should Serve on an Association Board

We all know that relationships matter in the industry and that there are countless benefits to being a part of professional associations. What many don't realize, however, is that there is a much bigger ROI when you take on a leadership role.
When I first entered the event industry 15 years ago, I was eager to join the local wedding association, but quickly realized the benefits started to kick in once I dedicated even just a few hours a month to a leadership position.
How do you take the first steps?
Ask yourself
You are busy year-round in hospitality, so any time spent on new advertising, marketing, and personal development initiatives need to be justified. Be mindful of the goals you’ve already set for yourself, as well as the business, and be sure that expanding your role with an association is in line with it. Are you hoping to increase brand awareness among colleagues? If so, for what purpose? Above all, make sure you ask yourself, “what has to happen in order for this to be a success?”  

Networking can happen anywhere but industry gatherings such as Catersource 2019 are a goldmine of opportunity.

Getting started

While some organizations are constantly asking for volunteers to fill important roles, others are more competitive, with highly-coveted positions requiring more than just a raised hand to secure. How do you get your foot in the door?

“First, show that you are interested,” suggests Kevin Dennis of Wedding IQ and current vice-president for Weddings International Professionals Association (WIPA). “Start attending the events and letting people know you want to help.”

Shannon Tarrant, founder of Wedding Venue Map agrees, and says, “the easiest way to get involved is to find a board member in a position that you find interesting and offer to be on their committee. You can learn more about what is really expected of the position and still help in a way that you enjoy.”

As with most associations, leaders particularly excel when they have a true understanding of the ins and outs of the group. Your first steps should be focused on fully immersing yourself in the group, as well as seeking out initial opportunities to get a feel for opportunities.

Benefits of serving

Acting in a leadership role in an industry association has many benefits. According to Tarrant, being an association leader raises your profile and increases your exposure. For her, it “has led to increased leads, deeper relationships, and an improved resume. The number of doors it can open is well worth the time invested.”

Dennis feels that his leadership roles have helped him develop his network and professional friendships. “I’ve grown close relationships with these people so I know I have a squad I can call if I ever need help or advice,” observes Dennis. “It’s also helped us grow monetarily and we’ve added many clients as well!

“There are many reasons event professionals join association boards—from national networking opportunities to creating new and powerful industry relationships beyond your own backyard.”

Juggling responsibilities

Depending on your position and the committee members around you, a leadership position can put a big demand on your time. Dennis suggests scheduling time every week to work on board tasks and making sure you have surrounded yourself with a great team who can support you.

Prior to stepping into the leadership role, it’s essential to sit down and do an audit of your current workload and determine if there are any pain points that can be solved with technology or through delegation to another person.

Determining ROI

There are many reasons event professionals join association boards—from national networking opportunities to creating new and powerful industry relationships beyond your own backyard. As important as it is to determine how this new role fits with your ongoing goals, it is equally important to do an ongoing self-audit to ensure the time you are spending as a leader is not only productive, but creating the benefits necessary for you to continue.

Every quarter, be sure to ask yourself:

• How much time am I spending a week on my board responsibilities?

• Has this work affected my day-to-day responsibilities with my job/business?

• What positives have occurred as a result of this role?

• What are my current goals and do they continue to be in line with the work I’m doing on the board in part?

Joining the leadership team of an association is a big commitment with an excellent potential payout. Just be warned, as Tarrant reminds, “If you make a commitment to a committee, know that a lack of execution can hurt your business as much as being great can help it.” She warns that, “other people are all busy too, but they are depending on you. Be your word and honor your commitment.”

A number of industry associations will have annual board meetings at Catersource 2019. What a great way to rub elbows with those who can advise you on your path! Click here for the latest information. Registration opens mid-September!

Meghan Ely

President, OFD Consulting, Richmond, VA

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast. 

Photo: Melody Smith Portraits