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5 ways volunteering at networking events grows your own network

(Business News) Networking events are full of opportunities, but volunteering is one of the best and most often overlooked lead generators at your disposal.

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Grow your network by volunteering

If you’re like most people that attend networking events, you may be looking for ways to expand and grow your network, make new connections faster, and generate leads. One of the best ways to do this other than attending great networking events in the first place is to volunteer for them.

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Over the years of my personal experience, volunteering has been one of the secrets over how I’ve grown my business network relationships so quickly. Here are some benefits of volunteering at networking events that you may not been aware of.

1. Getting involved gets you connected

When you volunteer, you are usually placed with a lot of the main movers and shakers of an event. Many people that create events are well connected and respected in their communities and by simply volunteering you get to help them (and they may return the favor someday), you get to help the event, and you will find that volunteering increases your personal brand awareness. The more the word gets out about who you are and what you’re doing for an event, you will be more often thought of and introduced to new connections and leads.

2. You get to test the market

Sometimes people are a little cautious where they spend their time and what kind of people and events they associate themselves with. It’s always great to do your research before committing yourself to volunteering, but once you’ve chosen an event to assist, you’ll find volunteering sometimes helps you get a sense for what kind of event it will be like, what kind of people run it, whether you’d like to be associated with the event in the long run.

You will learn all kinds of things over how operations run, too. Best of all, the volunteering scene often runs a more relaxed pace where you will have multiple opportunities to chat and connect with other volunteers. A more relaxed environment often allows you to get into deeper conversations with people and build stronger connections than if you just met them at a networking event.

3. Good exercise in leadership and networking

All of us have our days where we are feeling shy or we just want to relax and we don’t want to have to be ‘on’. Volutneering provides a lower pressure setting where you don’t have to commit as much to getting into conversations, but you still get to be around people. If you are shy or introverted, volunteering can be a good stepping stone towards connecting with people and networking more regularly.

4. Quality of conversations during an event gets better

When you are volunteering for an event, it is often assumed that you have (1) elevated status, (2) you know something about the event that others don’t, and (3) are more connected than other individuals in the room.

Because of all of these assumptions people make, it is good to let people know in a subtle way that you are associated with the event production during the main networking event. When you get into conversations, you’ll notice people take you more seriously, they will attempt to help you out more or volunteer larger resources your way. In addition to this benefit, mentioning that you are volunteering for the event when you are networking can help you to continue conversations you want to be in. It is one more interesting topic to talk about and explore with people.

5. It’s great to help others

When you volunteer, it is often the gift that keeps on giving in long term. The process of volunteering can be rewarding in and of itself. Helping others definitely can warm people’s hearts; however, there are additional benefits.

Helping others helps them to remember and think of you and what you do for next time. If you seem like a nice, personable, non-threating, friendly, and kind person when you’re volunteering and helping out for the event, the event organizers and other volunteers may think of you first next time they come across a business opportunity or a strategic connection for you. People have an easier time doing business with those kinds of people and they tend to remember them.

Matthew Winters is the owner of Austin Visuals 3D Animation Studio , a Full-Service 2D & 3D animation studio, advertising agency, and video production studio. As one of Austin's movers and shakers, he also founded Speed Friending Events which produces networking mixers and social events in over 14 cities nationally. Matthew is dedicated to providing solutions to social and technology related issues in the industry.

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Business News

$100m reimagined convenience store startup to open 25 stores in 2022

(BUSINESS) Foxtrot is looking to redefine the convenience store as we know it. This startup is looking to make it a whole new experience.

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Laptop with Foxtrot convenience store locations in Chicago.

Move over 7-11, there’s a new player in town! There’s always room for competition, even in the world of convenience stores. Yes, you read that right, Quick Trip has some serious competition from a newcomer, Foxtrot.

Foxtrot is a curated, modern convenience store offering a brisk 30-minute delivery and 5-minute pick-up. It was created by Mike LaVitola and Taylor Bloom in 2014. These stores will undoubtedly be popular in walkable areas, but also with their online ordering convenience. This modern version of a convenience store offers the combination of an upscale corner store with a digital-first e-commerce platform. Sounds pretty glorious, right?

However, the original convenience store is safe as long as people are traveling and need to stop for gas or a restroom break.  If you’re from Texas, then you know and love, Buc-ee’s, the Texas-born chain. Buc-ee’s have been creating their own in-store products garnering a cult following among their customers. Still, Buc-ee’s doesn’t have an online ordering or delivery option unless it’s offered through a third party.

Foxtrot has raised $160 million in Series C funding and they are expecting to open 25 locations in many cities in 2022. There are a few different levels of funding. If a company makes it to Series C funding, they are already successful and looking to expand or develop new products per Investopedia.

According to Retail Dive, “About half of the new stores will be in Chicago, Dallas and Washington, where all of the 16 stores Foxtrot currently operates are located, LaVitola said. The tech-focused retailer is also planning to begin operations in Boston and Austin, and intends to open four or five new stores in each of those cities during the next year and a half, he said.”

Foxtrot is testing out technology equipment that would allow customers to leave the store without stopping to checkout at the counter. They plan isn’t to go entirely self-service, but as the creator LaVitola stated, “the more hours we can allocate towards sampling and storytelling and interacting with customers and less [on] tasks that don’t add on to value, like checkout, that’s great.”

Foxtrot is redefining convenience by including carefully curated products. They aim to offer local popular products as well core pantry items. They aim to make the commonly unpleasant experience of convenience stores enjoyable. Let’s hope they succeed.

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Business News

What small business owners can learn from Starbucks’ new D&I strategy

(BUSINESS) Diversity and inclusion have been at the forefront of Starbucks’ mission, but now they’re shifting strategy. What can we learn from it?

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Hands of all different skin colors on green background representing Starbucks' D&I.

Starbucks was one of many companies that promised to focus on diversity and inclusion efforts after the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020. What sets Starbucks apart from other companies were its specific goals.

How It Started

They began with hiring targets and have now added goals in corporate and manufacturing roles. Starbucks’ plans and goals revolve around transparency for accountability. They released the annual numbers for 2021 as a way to help hold themselves accountable. The data they’ve released so far show that they’ve met nearly a third of their 2025 goals according to Retail Brew. Because of this information, we can see why they are choosing to move in the direction of manufacturing and corporate jobs. In 2021, POC’s fell to 12.5% of director-level employees from 14.3% in 2020 in manufacturing.

How It’s Going

Per Starbucks’ website stories and news, “[I]t will increase its annual spend with diverse suppliers to $1.5 billion by 2030.  As part of this commitment, Starbucks will partner with other organizations to develop and grow supplier diversity excellence globally.” To put that into perspective, they spent nearly $800 million with diverse suppliers in 2021. With these moves, by 2030, it will increase by almost double.

As part of their accountability and progress, they plan to partner up with Arizona State University to give out free toolkits to entrepreneurs on fundamentals for running successful diverse-owned businesses. Another goal they’ve listed is to boost paid media representation by allocating 15 percent of the advertising budget to minority-owned and targeted media companies to reach diverse audiences.

At the heart of all this information on their goals and future plans, data transparency and accountability are what’s forcing them to look at the numbers to make specific goals. They are doing more than just throwing money at the problem, they are analyzing how they can do better and where the money will make a difference. Something that, as entrepreneurs, we should all do.

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Business News

Peloton is back-pedaling: Reports of price increases, layoffs, and cost cuts

(BUSINESS) After a recording of layoffs leaks, ‘supply chain’ issues cause shipping increases, and they consult for cost-cutting, Peloton is doomed.

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Man riding Peloton bike with instructor pointing encouragingly during workout.

Is Peloton in Trouble?

According to many reports, Peloton had success early in the pandemic when gyms shut down. Offering consumers a way to connect with a community for fitness along with varying financing options allowed the company to see growth when many other industries were being shuttered.

After two years, CNBC reports that the company is “being impacted by …supply chain challenges” and rising inflation costs. According to the report, customers will be paying an additional $250 for its bike and $350 for its tread for delivery and setup.

As demand has decreased, Peloton is also considering layoffs in their sales and marketing departments, overheard in a leaked audio call. The recording details executives discussing “Project Fuel” where they plan to cut 41% of the sales and marketing teams, as well as letting go of eCommerce employees and frontline workers at 15 retail stores.

Nasdaq reported that the stock fell 75% last year, after a year where it soared over 400%.

Peloton reviewing its overall structure

According to another report from CNBC, Peloton is working with McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm, to lower costs as revenue has dropped and the growth of new subscriptions has slowed since the pandemic. Last November, according to NPR, Peloton had “its worst day as a publicly-traded company.” It also anticipates greater losses in 2022 than originally predicted. It makes sense that the company would reexamine their strategy as the economy changes. They aren’t the only one that is raising prices amid supply chain issues.

It will be interesting to watch how Peloton fares

Peloton has a large community that pays a monthly fee for connected fitness. While growth has slowed, the company still has a strong share of consumers. Although it is facing more competition in the home fitness market and more gyms are reopening, as Peloton adjusts to the new normal, it should remain a viable company.

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