Your chamber events, especially the networking ones, are only as good as your “crop” of attendees. If your chamber represents a smaller town with a non-transient population, attendees may feel like it’s been the same faces since the 1990s. True or not, it can be hard to convince people your events are worth their time when they feel like they’ve met everyone there is to meet.
Plus, you may feel like you have marketed to everyone in town. You likely know where they stand and how you can serve them, and you may be out of new ideas.
If that is the case, it might be the right time to do something different: a multi-chamber event.
Change can be off-putting for some people, but for networkers or those businesses looking to reach new audiences, change is just what they need and what they want from you.
Considerations for Multi-Chamber Events
One of the easiest ways to bring in quick changes to your audience and networking is by hosting a multi-chamber event.
If you held one recently, or at all, here’s what you should consider:
Establish a Good Fit
Hosting a multi-chamber event with several area chambers is a good way to bring in new members and give existing members a new group to get to know.
However, before approaching neighboring chambers with this idea, ask members if they belong to other chambers and if so, which ones. The last thing you want to do is go through the work of hosting a multi-chamber event only to find most of your members already belong to the chambers.
Look for area chambers that can complement your mission and ask if they’d be interested to share expenses and host a larger event between you. For instance, you might approach a local niche chamber (that represents a very specific group of people) in your area such as the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
While the focus of this article is multi-chamber events, you might also consider approaching the local business association or downtown merchant associations if you find that you don’t have a lot of member overlap.
Get Over the Competition
This is a difficult concept for some chamber pros because as business leaders, competition is what has made us successful. At first glance, you may worry that other chambers will lure your members away. But if you’re all providing value or helping them to reach a different audience, there’s room for all of you. Yes, people may have favorites but there’s no reason they can’t be a part of multiple chambers if they are meeting their business needs.
The challenge here is for your chamber to present enough value.
Think About the Future
Sometimes when chambers come together for events it is only the beginning to discovering ways they can work together.
For example, there are chambers that have joined up to offer health insurance plans and leverage the larger combined membership in something that would’ve been cost prohibitive if they attempted it on their own.
Reasons Multi-Chamber Events Are Good for You and Your Members
Multi-chamber events are good for chambers because they:
- Provide you with access to new potential members.
- Help you do more with less (reach more people and host a bigger event with a cost and workload divided between multiple chambers).
- Receive more coverage. It’s possible a multi-chamber job fair event, for instance, will receive more media coverage (due to size) than an event hosted by a single chamber.
- Learn new formats and directions. Most of us tend to continue to do things that work over and over until they are commonplace. When you bring in a new group of chamber professionals and staff, you may discover a new format or way of doing things you hadn’t previously considered.
- Expose attendees to new speakers. A new chamber may have access to different speakers than what your group is accustomed to. New speakers mean new topics presented with new energy or tone.
- Offer members of each chamber access to a new audience without additional dues or fees and that improves their satisfaction with chamber membership.
Examples of Recent Events
COVID has changed the way many of us operate. We’ve embraced change and encouraged our members to do the same. Here are a few examples of chambers that have embraced change and hosted multi-chamber events:
The Stoneham Chamber of Commerce hosts Multi-Chamber Business Card Exchanges four to six times per year. Each event helps “members to widen their networking reach with the inclusion of members from nearly 20 neighboring Chambers of Commerce.” The events are hosted by a single Chamber of Commerce on a rotating basis in a large, conveniently-located facility.
Highland Park recently hosted a Multi-Chamber Mega Connect Event with 24 chambers over Zoom. Hosting virtually means you can further your reach and not worry about members complaining about long drives to the event.
Large events can be overwhelming, particularly virtual ones. It can be difficult to meet people and connect because of all the voices. The Chamber 630 hosted a multi-chamber virtual networking event using breakout rooms that people moved through. This allowed attendees to share and network within a larger group without feeling overwhelmed.
Near the holidays, the Crystal Lake Chamber hosted a Multi-Chamber Network Scramble. To avoid too many professionals representing the same profession, they required pre-registration and closed several professions ahead of the event. This ensured a better networking experience for everyone.
If you’re considering a multi-chamber event, you’re not alone. Many chambers are embracing this concept as it allows them to bring more value to members as well as a new audience. This idea can easily help you revamp your networking events with minimal effort.