After I earned the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) designation in 2007, I became a member of the Northstar Chapter and, initially, had trouble getting to know anyone. Although the meeting organizers did not utilize assigned seating, it seemed as though everyone already knew someone else and had a “regular” table with their usual peers. Everyone I met was cordial, but it didn’t feel very warm and welcoming. It made me wonder, “What could be done to encourage more networking and personal connections within the chapter - especially for new members?”
Flash forward to 2015, when an opportunity arose for me to join the Chapter Board. I joined as Vice President and started learning how our chapter ran. While it was not one of the designated “duties” of Vice President, I started sitting at the registration table each month and greeting members. In doing so, I learned that I wasn’t alone in “being alone.” I have remained on the Board in different positions ever since, and we now strive to personally welcome first-time attendees and seat them with someone who can help them navigate the chapter. Still, it felt like we could do more.
In 2016, we started singling out individuals in our chapter for the “Member Spotlight” – a page on the Northstar Chapter’s revamped website featuring brief “getting to know you” interviews with chapter members. It was more difficult than expected, though, as members would agree to participate and then beg off (too busy, too embarrassed, etc.). This made it difficult in the beginning to meet our stated goal of one person per month so I decided to try a different approach.
I was Treasurer at the time and always at the registration table, so during lulls in check-in, I took the opportunity to start chatting with attendees at random. I asked simple questions like, “Where do you work?” and “For how long?” plus fun ones, like “What would your superpower be?” (flying is popular, thanks to our epic traffic levels in the Minneapolis area). I’ve found that once you get someone talking about themselves, the Member Spotlight basically writes itself. Adding their picture to the online post puts a face to the name for other members while also making the member feel recognized and special, fulfilling Andy Warhol’s most well-known statement, “Everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.”
So far, it has been well received and we hope to “spotlight” each and every one of our members. It has been a great (and easy) way to allow chapter members to get to know new and long-time members of the chapter and encourages more meaningful in-person networking at chapter events.
Northstar Chapter Members at the 2019 Chapter Exchange