Have you ever watched one of the talent shows on TV like America’s Got Talent?
It’s terribly unfair when they have children competing alongside adults, don’t ya think?
Who can compete with that?
The children are undeniably cuter and less is expected of them because they’re so young. if they hit a bad note, so what? They are only six.
Or what about Time’s Person of the Year for 2019 Greta Thunberg? She is being seen as a young leader, touted as an environmental guru and she hasn’t even graduated from high school.
Before this starts an argument, the main reason I use these examples is that children are becoming involved in subjects and roles that used to belong only to adults.
Whether this makes you happy to see the future of our society contributing at a much earlier level or whether it concerns you makes little difference. The point is children are being groomed to believe their opinion matters at a very young age.
This change in opinion about children’s views can be used to begin talking about the relevancy and importance of the chamber.
This generation is comprised of vocal doers and young leaders. People no longer believe children should be seen and not heard. For this reason and a couple of others we will cover in this article, creating events that focus on the under-18 set can be very valuable to the future of the chamber.
Reasons to Host Youth Events at Your Chamber
You might be thinking that targeting young people is a waste of time. Or maybe you wish you had the time to dedicate to these non-dues-paying future members.
But there’s a lot more to reaching out to young people then getting them as immediate chamber members. When you create events for younger people you are:
- Building a future network of potential leaders
- Helping young people’s voices be heard within the community
- Giving young people a reason to stay in your community versus moving elsewhere
- Providing the news media a new angle from which to cover the chamber
- Bringing parents back into the chamber world.
At the risk of sounding like a dirty marketer, this last point can get you an amazing amount of traction. Every parent wants to see their child excel, whether that’s on the field, in the classroom, or in the boardroom. By honoring, teaching, or mentoring their children, the chamber will naturally receive positive attention from these adults. After all, you are helping their children succeed in the future by helping with their resumes and skill set.
Another thing that benefits the chamber about these types of programs is the number of shares you could receive when you talk about them on social media. Now parents aren’t just forwarding information about a chamber event. They are showcasing the talents of their child when they share. Parental vanity goes a long way on social media and it can be a very successful engager.
So how do you get started? What kind of events or programs work best?
Here are a few ideas:
6 Events and Programs for Involving Young Leaders in the Chamber
Believe it or not, the generation that is being raised with the idea that everyone gets a trophy still enjoys competition.
The chamber could host any of these competitions easily by recruiting independent judges or using social media crowdsourcing to select a winner:
- Community advocate: the young person who best represents your community
- Community service: the largest or most worthwhile service project organized by someone under 18
- Young entrepreneur award: a young person with a successful business
- Shark Tank or angel investor pitch contest: young people are invited to pitch their business idea to local investors for seed money
- Young visionary: the person who successfully answers the “one thing you would change about our community and the plan on how you do that.” This type of competition could unearth a project what could make your area more enticing for young residents, keeping them in town after they graduate.
Mentorships and Guided Learning
A budding business person would enjoy being matched up with a community leader who could help them learn the basics of business. Consider the possibilities of involving them with your young professionals group.
The chamber could also run this program similar to what Junior Achievements does by putting together a group of young leaders who can run a business together, at least for the semester.
If you have an Innovation Center or an incubation group in town, you can sponsor an afterschool workspace centered around helping future leaders develop their ideas. Business leaders or ambassadors could be available for a couple of hours a week for young leaders to ask questions of them.
You could also flip the tables by bringing in young people to teach a subject they are well-versed in such as “10 things you didn’t know about Instagram.” However, keep in mind that while young people are probably very knowledgeable in building a following, they may not completely understand social media for business (unless that’s what they use their social media channels for).
So make sure if you invite them in to do any sort of presenting on social media topics that you keep this in mind. This is also great experience for them in prepping their resume.
Internships are very valuable ways to get young people involved in the chamber. However, if you’re going to consider starting an internship program, make sure you consult your chamber’s attorney or legal advisor. Many states are cracking down on what they allow interns (and other contract employees) to do without pay.
As a general rule, if you would hire someone for the position and pay them as a permanent employee, you should not be using unpaid interns for that role. For instance, if you like the idea of a young, bright intern handling your chamber social media and you’re paying them only in experience, you may find yourself in a legal bind. When in doubt, it’s best to offer a stipend or salary or work with the local college to offer some sort of credit for their work at the chamber. Today’s courts lean toward compensating interns.
Youth Ambassador Program
If the local high school or college has a business club or entrepreneurs organization you could approach them about partnering in a chamber youth ambassador program. Just like your adult ambassador program, these young people would serve a specified amount of time as a chamber ambassador. They could do this by attending events or by serving as a social media ambassador for the chamber.
If you create a program like this (here’s one from Madison, MS) you want to make sure that the students are interested and able to serve the full term. You should provide them with training and be clear about your expectations. Establish and clearly communicate what it means to serve as a chamber youth ambassador, what perks they can expect, and what things they should stay away from such as arguments on social media.
Make sure they understand the representation role filters into every aspect of their life including their personal one. Be clear about what you expect on their social media channels. This is good advice and experience for them when preparing for college and a job market.
There’s a lot to learn as they transition from student to valuable member of a business or organization. Youth leadership program or individual learning sessions can be ideal to help serious business-minded youth of your community navigate the do’s and don’ts of being a professional. Topics might include networking for jobs, deepening business relationships, personal branding, and leadership.
If you are fortunate enough to have a very business-minded student community in your area, you could put together a youth business expo where are they could sell their goods and services to your community. Participating in the expo would also give them valuable experience in representing their business.
As a chamber, you may also host a hiring fair or job expo in your community. If you do, consider how you might encourage young people to attend.
If you don’t specifically invite them they may assume that only adults looking for full-time employment are welcome. Instead, work with your members and find out if they may have a need for seasonal or internship positions for younger people as well. If so, get that information out to the community by contacting schools and youth leaders.
Engaging emerging and young leaders in the chamber and helping them understand the importance of the role the chamber plays in the community is essential to your future growth and that of the community’s.
If you ignore this very valuable generation, you will find a lot of them may move away. By creating these types of programs, you are helping them to grow roots in the community. Through that cultivating and nurturing their future success.
Young people today have an entrepreneurial spirit. If you can find a way to enable them and help them in their pursuits, they will think very highly of the chamber.
But unlike generations before them, they are not innately hardwired to join your organization. They’re going to want to see what you have to offer long before they join. With these programs, you can provide a good foundation and initial experience for the future of your community.