In my role as a SharePoint evangelist, I am constantly on the road – as are most of the IAMCP Seattle chapter’s board members, many of whom work in sales and business development roles. In fact, I see chapter co-founder and treasurer Jeff Shuey (WinShuttle) and our speaker chair and secretary Owen Allen (Pingar) more on the road, at events around the globe, than I do in the Seattle area. Jeff and I have been joking about the fact that we’ve been talking about getting over to the bank together to take care of some chapter business since back in January – and, unfortunately, it just never seems to work out with our schedules.

And yet at almost every monthly chapter meeting or event, some kind of partner-to-partner business takes place. I wouldn’t say that we’ve "fine-tuned" the organization just yet; we follow a simple agenda, but the tempo of the meetings can vary. We have, however, already seen successes. Since our official launch in January, I’ve helped broker two partner agreements through our chapter. I’ve also helped light a fire underneath my teams in Los Angeles, Boston, and London, prompting them to get involved with their local chapter. This, in turn, has led to more partnerships and a number of partner deals.
As I tell people investigating the IAMCP, you don’t know who you don’t know. What I mean by this is that through regular activity with the community, you may unlock second- and third-degree connections within the networks of fellow members.
Regardless of whether you enter an IAMCP meeting with an agenda, you’ll benefit from the associations. Maybe you’re expanding your business globally and are looking for a few partners. Or a prospective customer is asking for product expertise in an area where you don’t have a lot of experience, and you need to leverage the help of someone who does. Or your service company is looking to add additional products to your portfolio so that you can create more of a competitive advantage.
In each case, you’ll benefit from getting to know the members of your local chapter, and you’ll benefit from making participation in the monthly meetings part of your own business rhythm. Some ideas for creating a personal ‘rhythm to the business’ for participating in IAMCP:
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about what you are trying to accomplish. People are there to figure out ways to extend their own businesses and find new opportunities. The best way to do that is to have a good, healthy dialog about your business goals. Sometimes there is an instant match between partners, but most of the time it’s through secondary or tertiary connections we make, so keep talking.
  • Attend as often as you can. Don’t go too long between chapter events, because it makes it difficult to develop relationships.
  • Introduce yourself. The point of these chapter meetings is not to sit in the shadows quietly, observing from afar, but never really engaging. The point is to meet people, develop relationships, get connected. You do that by introducing yourself to anyone new. Work the room, hand out business cards, make sure you know what people do and help them understand what your company does.
  • Get involved wherever possible. Not every community event or chapter meeting needs to show an immediate return on investment. Some activities may help you to better develop those relationships that may be fruitful later. By playing a more active role in the chapter, you’ll put yourself in a position to have more conversations which will, in turn, lead to more opportunities between partners.
  • Take notes. I don’t know about all of you, but I am unable to recall every single conversation I’ve ever had. By taking a few quick notes around each new meeting, capturing names and context around a conversation, I am better able to recall those conversations later – connecting peers and business contacts to people within my chapter.
  • Ask questions, and focus on helping others. Not every event or interaction will drive obvious business value to you, but you may be able to provide value for others. It’s called “paying it forward” and is one of the keys to making any partner community work. Helping others to succeed by answering questions, helping organize activities, sharing contacts and ideas – it all leads to a healthier community, and builds good will with you and your company, which may lead to future opportunities.  
Successful networking, as with so many areas in our lives, is about establishing healthy habits. If you struggle to get value out of IAMCP – or any similar networking opportunities – you are likely not doing the things I’ve outlined above. It’s time to develop some healthy habits, and get more value out of your involvement with the IAMCP.