At first, I was skeptical about the value of joining professional associations. so I didn’t – for 20+ years. Then I had little choice because my career took a major shift to a new city – a new country, in fact – and into social media, away from the marketing and internal communications experience I had been building for years.
These professional associations are the organisations that meet monthly to discuss best practices in your professional category (communications managers, social media managers, PR reps, etc.) and gather annually to award the best of those in the group. I thought joining would only put me among many mingling members, small talking about ‘the business’, and not delivering any true benefit beyond knowing that person who works at that company – or at least having met her once. I wanted to learn something I could put into my work the next day and I didn’t think that was going to be served with wine and cheese. I was wrong.
Voila, I moved to Montreal. New to the city, I had no professional network. My tables were turned and suddenly I needed to meet and mingle with professional communicators like me (writers, marketing pros, internal comm. Geeks). The move also brought an expectation to perform my internal comm. and marketing writing in French as well as English.
Before I even crossed the border from the U.S. to Canada, I called the International Association of Business Communicators / Montreal Chapter (IABC/Montreal), joined and was welcomed with a bright voice on the other end informing me that they were looking forward to meeting me at the first meeting.
Really? You want to meet me and hear my professional journey story and what I have yet to accomplish? “Yes,” she said. “”You’ll add so much to our group. Can’t wait to meet you!”
Right there, it dawned on me. Connecting with people via Social Media is important and can provide almost endless resources. Connecting in person, via these professional groups, can deliver an entirely different positive result – perhaps more valuable. Then, that idea came to life.
If you’re wondering if it’s worth it to join IABC/Montreal, the answer is yes.
Simply put, this chapter conducts professional development in its best practice and provides for connecting with peers in an open, positive and learning-focused environment.
I met communications professionals from large agencies and small, independent shops as well as professionals and students at many local universities, MGill, Concordia and UQAM. They openly shared their knowledge of this market and the approaches taken by their organisations. They talked about recent successes and roadblocks. I was suddenly plugged in to Montreal communications.
These professionals led presentations about internal comm. best practices, current online marketing strategies in Montreal, takeaways from recent local marketing campaigns and face-to-face communications methods designed that get the best out of your organisation. New to Montreal, this also became a training ground for me to learn professional terms in French since this is the largest bi-lingual IABC chapter in the world.
Among my conversations in the first few meetings, one provided background I was able to use in a coming job interview; another led to an eventual contract; and a third opened a door that allowed me to participate with the chapter at the ultimate level.
I discovered the true potential of the IABC/Montreal Chapter just by starting up a conversation with a member of the Board about what I could do to help them. Connections are helpful, but participating in driving this growing chapter became a one of the most valuable professional experiences for me. They needed help and I had some time, so they invited me to assist with communications in their website and newsletter.
Never has raising my hand turned out to provide me such a valuable benefit (and remember, I’m the one doing the giving).
Amidst all this connecting and communicating, I found what became the most valuable benefit from this chapter: the positivity and warmth felt across the Board, the members and the guests. No agendas. No attitudes. And I didn’t get lost in a nameless, faceless crowd. The open approach of this collection of professionals and students promoted connecting and learning and walking away feeling that you gained more than you might expect.
My experience redesigning the chapter website and its eNewsletter and publishing content across both for two years fed my knowledge of social media so I took an online certificate course in Social Media Marketing. Soonafter, an IABC/Montreal chapter member invited me to teach a social media content writing course for McGill University’s Continuing Studies program. Connection brings new professional skill beings new professional opportunity.
Here’s the best part, the connections I’ve made across IABC globally lead me to believe Montreal is not some magic local chapter. I have a strong belief chapters around the world share this model and, that if you called IABC in your area, you’ll be glad you did!
Attend one event and I’m sure you’ll make at least one connection. Attend two, and be prepared for the opportunity to grow … perhaps more than you expected.