Coming up with awesome events and chamber programming ideas can present problems. You don’t want to do something that others have been doing for years and yet coming up with new ideas presents its own sort of support issues. A new idea hasn’t been tried and it’s possible that it won’t catch on.
So how do you know if your “good” idea is actually going to be a winner or one that falls flat with your audience?
One of the easiest ways to do that is to ensure you are solving problems or answering questions that your community is interested in. Using those as considerations can make a very popular lunch and learn and other chamber programming.
In this article, we’ll cover 42 trends and interests in the business community that people are talking about (or should be) designed to give chamber ideas for lunch and learns or articles.
Keep in mind every community is different. This list of trends and popular topics is a starting point for further discussion and brainstorming for more chamber programming ideas.
So let’s get started.
Topics Your Members Care About (or should)
In order to create valuable content and programming, you need to ensure you’re covering topics your members (and larger community) care about in the media they enjoy. That may mean learning sessions, videos, podcasts, articles, or a variety of all of them.
You can add additional value to these ideas by collaborating with members to bring it all together. Use community thought leaders (here are a few ideas on how to leverage them for content). Give them a platform to show off their knowledge without being salesy.
Here are a couple of suggestions to get you started. Some of these work well for one-offs while others can be used for talk series or ongoing exploration:
- Conversations about infrastructure. Infrastructure is a key component of economic development. Bringing your area together to discuss infrastructure needs can be a good way to gain insight into what areas they worry about. You can use those conversations to connect people who desire change with those who can affect it.
- Cybersecurity. Most small business owners think they’re too small to be at risk. That’s exactly who needs to worry most.
- Farming and tariffs. Proposed tariffs on imports could negatively impact farmers and their exports. Host a session that explores what that could mean for your agricultural community.
- Upcoming legislation. Review the chamber’s legislative agenda from a “what’s in it for me” perspective and in simple terms, not legislative language.
- How to manage money.
- Productivity tips.
- Balancing work life and personal life (sessions for employees and employers).
- Ways to build a quality team and the local resources available to do so.
- How to improve office culture.
- Establishing a brand identity or several ways you can rebrand yourself or your business.
- Tips for exploring new markets and/or demographics.
- Social media 101 and social media for experts.
- Social media news (an ongoing series that sums up all the big changes over the past quarter).
- Scaling your business, going from one employee to the next level.
- Exploring the software you need for smart growth and efficiency.
- How to hire critical business partners (like attorneys, financial planners, virtual assistants, and others).
- The top ten things you need first when you start a business or how to start a business program.
- Hiring your first employee.
- Making a name for yourself in the community (as a thought leader or a branding exercise).
- How to give better presentations.
- The basics of video and good photos.
- Everything you need to know about competitive benefits packages in 2019. (This should include info about what employers of all sizes are offering in your community.)
- Implementing a wellness program or wellness benefits.
- Creative ways to get more reviews for your business.
- The value of selecting and marketing your niche.
- How to begin selling online.
- Tips on grant writing, RFPs, or submitting government bids.
- The cheapest ways to build a website.
- Creating a successful referral or loyalty program.
- Understanding the upcoming tax law changes or the best ways to plan for taxes next year.
- Tax deductions you don’t want to miss (bring in a member tax professional).
- Disaster recovery preparedness for small business.
- Everything you need to know about artificial intelligence and what it can mean for your business. Is it time to start using chatbots?
- Using virtual reality in your business.
- How to ace paid social media advertising.
- Everything you need to know about hosting a Facebook contest.
- Recruiting and keeping the younger generation.
- 15 ways to make the most of your chamber membership.
- How to avoid career burnout.
- Switching careers mid-stride. Could include a networking component.
- Inventive places to find more clients or bring in more customers.
- Tips for improving your customer service.
Make the Most of Your Content
As you serve up these topics in your chamber programming, you’ll want to ensure that you make the most of this valuable content. That means in addition to the lunch and learn or learning session, you’ll want to:
- record it and post it for those who couldn’t be there
- take valuable quotes from the session and create image quotes and tweets from them
- issue a summary blog post
- take pictures of the session and post them on social media
- live stream it (or a portion of the discussion as a teaser)
Chamber Programming Ideas: Additional Events
In addition to topics for programming, you may want to explore new events. But before you add another event (here’s what to do if you’re now in charge of events) to your roster and stress your staff over bringing it all together, figure out what your community needs. Some successful events that other chamber pros have tried include:
- flash mobs
- speed networking
- food truck rally or tasting event
- student leadership and development
- murder mystery
- CEO networking (only CEO or C-suite level)
- fashion show
- Dancing with the Local Stars Competition
- Meet the Candidates Night
- home show
- healthcare or wellness show
- member breakfast
- professional headshot session
- dinner and awards banquet
- state of the chamber
- Arctic Warrior Obstacle Race (St. Germain Chamber of Commerce)
- fishing tournament
- golf tournament
- bike race
- possum drop (Greater Haralson Chamber of Commerce)
- Ice Breaker Festival (South Haven Area Chamber of Commerce)
- International Women’s Day Event (Troy, Ohio Chamber of Commerce)
- Silent Auction
- Business Expo
- Restaurant Week
- Ladies Night Out
- a local shopping day
- Teacher awards
- Back to school breakfast
- Job fair
- Mentorship program
- First Friday Coffees (Farragut West Knox Chamber)
- Festival of Trees
- Young Professional Program
- Open house
- Halloween (or adult trick or treat as part of a networking program)
Are Chambers Moving Away from Events?
As I compiled this list with the help of ideas from several chambers, I realized it’s important to mention that not all chambers are moving toward hosting more events. Some are actually refocusing themselves on increasing their role as a support and resource for members, acting as a bridge to help strengthen business through stronger connections. Some communities have come to the conclusion that people simply don’t have time to attend events.
But while I write about that move, I would also be remiss not to mention the fact that experiential marketing is growing in other industries. Many corporate brands are increasing the number of events they do or the experiences they provide for their customers. It’s become a big part of their branding.
Why is that?
Because people are largely trading in things for experiences. Forbes recently published an article entitled, “NOwnership, No Problem: An Updated Look At Why Millennials Value Experiences Over Owning Things” by Blake Morgan. In it, she wrote that while past generations viewed ownership as an indication of adulthood and success, today’s young people are looking for more experiences. This idea permeates every point of their lives. They prefer working as a freelancer and traveling than securing that corner office. They’d rather Uber around or use ride-sharing than buy a car. Even with the high price tag, escape rooms and zombie experiences are more desirable than sitting at home watching TV. But when they do watch TV, they’re doing so with devices and talking about shows with friends across town or across the country in viewing parties.
So should you be sun-setting chamber events in favor of other forms of business support? Raymond P. Towle, IOM, CAE suggests, “You are not a chamber of events, you are a chamber of commerce. If you are running events, you are distracted.” You have to decide what mix works best for you and your community. You do this by analyzing:
- how are your events doing against the goals you have for them?
- what competition exists within your community and how are you doing measured against their results?
- is attendance increasing or decreasing?
- what feedback are you receiving on the event?
- the resources it requires versus the revenue or notoriety it brings in (again measure it against the goals you have for it. Are those goals revenue based or is the event more about branding or recruitment? Sometimes losing money is not a good enough reason to cancel an event particularly when it produces a benefit that makes it worth it. You see this with loss leaders at grocery stores. Those items are sold at a loss for the greater good, bringing in more customers.)
Adding events to your chamber calendar is something you want to think about for a while before you do. Know what you want to accomplish and have methods in mind of how you will measure success. Then take this list and decide what event or programming best fits the needs of your community. There’s likely something out there that’s bothering them or they’ve been thinking about. When you can align your offerings with their interests, you’ll become invaluable to the community.