Beyond Basics: How to Make Your Chamber 101 Class More Memorable

Is your Chamber 101 welcome event more of a yawn-fest than a "yes-fest"?

Are you struggling to make it valuable for new members, future members, and loyal members? You're not alone. Many chambers struggle to make these introductory sessions exciting and it’s hard when you want to talk benefits to a room full of people who don’t all want the same thing, aside from possibly improving business.

But with a few tweaks, you can transform your Chamber 101 from a tedious obligation into an engaging experience that leaves members eager to get involved and future members interested in joining.

Make It Special

Someone has chosen to join the chamber (or is seriously considering it). This is a big deal, so market the Chamber 101 event like the party that it is. The Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber calls its Chamber 101 event a VIP Luncheon, which makes its new members feel really special.

Brian Gerau shared that at his chamber, “We host a Maximize Your Membership event. Tailored to new members but a refresher for existing members. It’s used as a recruiting tool. During the presentation we ask, ‘what do you want from a chamber membership’ and inquire to any new programs they’d like initiated.”

No matter what you decide to name it, make sure it feels more like an exciting opportunity and not a round-up or something akin to a cattle call. You don’t want members to feel like an obligation.

You don’t want the event to feel like an open house at high school either, where people lose interest as they have been there a while.

Perfect the Timing

Following the previous suggestion of making it feel special, if you offer them too often, your audience won’t be as large. Conversely, if you offer these events once a year, people who miss it will have to wait another year. There’s a happy medium to scheduling them.

Some chambers do once a quarter, while others host them once a month. Which works best depends on your audience and how many members and new members you’re bringing in. If you prioritize recruitment and are making big strides in that area, you may want to host them more often. Debbi Rydberg from the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce told the Chamber Pros Facebook group, “We host these every other month and switch up the day/time so it can fit others schedules. We didn't do them for a VERY LONG time, and I've found it is as beneficial for new members as it is for existing members (we market it this way) and to prospective members. Something always comes out of it, a new member, an existing member using a benefit they were unaware of or newer members getting involved.”

Begin at the Beginning

A vibrant Chamber 101 event sets the tone for a member's entire journey. It's their first real impression of your organization as a member, so it's crucial to make it positive. Engaged members are more likely to participate, renew, and become advocates for your chamber.

Part of making someone feel welcome is the greeting. Make sure you have enough staff or volunteers to greet everyone as they enter. Make introductions. Give them something to do. Anything but allowing them to just stand around.

Showcase Your Personality

Every chamber has its own personality, and a membership event like this is a great place to let yours shine. It’s the perfect atmosphere to help potential members see who you are, what you do, and what you’re like. But only if you do something that’s not vanilla.

Speaking of, help people get to know you and your members through…

Warm it up with Icebreakers

Here are a few ideas to get people talking and out of their little circles of people they know:

Member Bingo. Create bingo cards with squares like "Has visited more than 5 countries," "Owns a pet," or "Loves to cook." Members mingle and try to find someone who matches each square.

Two Truths and a Lie. Each person shares three statements about themselves – two true, one false. The group tries to guess the lie. This is a great way to learn fun facts about each other. If you have a large group divide it into smaller ones.

Speed Networking. Set up timed rotations where members have quick conversations with different people. Provide prompts or conversation starters to get things flowing. This helps alleviate the awkward desire to move on from the person you’re speaking with because the buzzer forces you to do it.

Make Learning Fun

If part of your event is “teaching” about chamber benefits, don’t read off a list and hope the audience hears something that resonates. Instead, make learning fun with these ideas:

Scavenger Hunt. Hide clues around the room or throughout your building. Each clue leads to a benefit of chamber membership. Make members take pictures of them to prove they’ve found them all. Maybe those pics will stay in their phones and they can reference them later.

Quiz. Use Kahoot! or Mentimeter to create a live quiz about chamber services and programs.

Membership Benefit Raffle. As you highlight each benefit, offer a small prize (gift cards, chamber swag, etc.) to a randomly selected member who can explain the benefit they just learned about.

You also want to make sure your content is worthwhile. Bridget Harvey Nations shared what her chamber does in the Chamber Pros Facebook group. She said, “We go over our monthly and annual events, marketing opportunities that are available through the Chamber, and ways for people to get engaged. We always have a Board member, or two, attend, who add their personal experiences to the conversation.”

Mindy Taylor said, “We go over all benefits, all events, lunch & learns & sponsorship opportunities. We talk about how to introduce themselves at the different events. At the end, we go around the room and let everyone introduce themselves. At the next monthly luncheon, we present them with a certificate of completion. You will notice at that luncheon many of the ones in the class seek out familiar faces & they sit together. Sometimes I will bring in ambassadors for testimonials.”

Additional Tips for a Memorable Chamber 101

  • Keep it short and sweet, ideally less than an hour.
  • Feed attendees and provide beverages befitting the time of day. This is a great sponsorship opportunity. Speaking of sponsorships, Kari Werner from the Houston West Chamber of Commerce shared that in addition to a food sponsor, they have a speaker sponsorship who gets 2-3 minutes of speaker time.
  • Send a personalized email to each attendee thanking them for coming and providing a link to resources or a survey.
  • Invite a dynamic board member or community leader to share their chamber success story. 
  • Use slides or a video to break up the presentation. Even funny pics or blooper reels can liven up your presentation.
  • Finish with a call to action. Invite attendees to a future event or suggest another action.

Remember, your Chamber 101 is the first step in building lasting relationships with your members. By infusing it with energy, creativity, and a little bit of fun, you can set the stage for a vibrant and thriving chamber experience.

​Learn more about what other chamber pros are doing here.

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