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January 13

Volunteer Your Way To Successful Propsecting

What do the AMA, PRSA, IABC and countless other trade groups have in common? They all require volunteers to make them run. For many years now I’ve been a member of the AMA. And like all membership organizations, the value I receive from that membership is directly proportional to the investment I make in it… hence the idea of volunteering.

Many moons ago, the New Orleans chapter of the AMA decided to build it’s brand around “Great Speakers.” We committed to a sponsorship program to raise the funds required to bring world-class speakers to each and every luncheon we have. Now someone had to step up to start the sponsorship program and find speakers. At the time I was in charge of Business Development at another agency. So of course, I jumped at the chance.

Over the next 4 or 5 years I invited marketing directors, vice-presidents of advertising, authors, and pretty much anyone that tickled my fancy for a free trip to New Orleans. The contacts I made were invaluable and the knowledge I (and the rest of the attendees) gained would have cost me a fortune in conference fees.

Even now that I’m no longer directly in charge of that effort, I routinely use the program as an excuse to meet really, really smart people. Last May it was Peter Shankman. I got to spend pretty much an entire day picking his brain and forming what has turned out to be a nice relationship. And today, I’ll get to hang with probably one of the finest Social Media Experts in the country — Mr. Chris Brogan who will be speaking tomorrow. And while everyone else will get  a few fleeting moments of his time/attention after his talk, I his lowly driver will have a good 30 minutes while we shuttle him back to the airport. And this evening, one of my co-workers will enjoy the same as he picks Chris up from the airport. So for the 30 minute ride into the city, a young, just starting out social media strategist will get to pick the brain of a master. All because he volunteered to help.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think there is something with this volunteering stuff. What about you? Ever get a big break or form a valuable relationship because you volunteered for something?

photo credit: Randy Stewart

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