Get out and network: How to find a business organization

Want to join a business organization, but don't know where to start? Maybe it's been a while since you ventured out of your social networking cave and met up with real humans. Not to worry -- our tips for understanding business organizations will take you from shy to savvy.

Chamber of Commerce. These general business organizations allow you to mingle with other professionals from a variety of industries via informal monthly mixers. Sometimes Chamber of Commerce meetings include special speakers, presentations or discussions on business topics to keep you plugged into your general business community.

Professional/trade associations. Professional business organizations can help you by providing industry statistics, industry newsletters and publications and, most important, a list of association members. Talking to other members of these business organizations can be an invaluable way of really digging into the trends in your local industry as well as bigger trends affecting the industry overall. Between the literature and the contacts, you can tap into trends and customer buying habits. Some examples of these business organizations are the American Medical Association, American Bar Association and National Association of Professional Organizers. Here's a secret tip: Join the trade association your top clients belong to, so you can get direct insight to what your customers want -- not to mention direct contact with a bevy of prospective customers.

Community service clubs. Through these business organizations, you have the opportunity to give back to your community while building good PR and word-of-mouth. These are probably among the oldest of business organizations -- clubs like Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis Clubs were networking way before networking was a verb.

Networking organizations. Yes, there are really still face-to-face networking groups ... remember those things that used to exist before Facebook and LinkedIn? These business organizations exist purely so you can exchange referrals in a casual setting. Sometimes they meet for open networking; other times, they may include short presentations from attendees, followed by networking.

Niche organizations. Whether a franchisee business organization or a women's business organization, these niche groups can provide networking and support opportunities specific to your experience. Often these business organizations offer that valuable "I know what you mean" camaraderie.

Since all these business organizations cover very different needs, the trick is to not just join one but at least two or three from different categories to get a well-rounded business organization experience.
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