Last week I attended OSCPA’s Ohio Accounting Show in Dayton and as always, I came away with a few a-ha moments.
The first is no surprise really—CPAs, like every other professional, like to mix fun with business. On the first day, I was very popular as I handed out raffle tickets for the Kodak-Pocket Video Camera and iPad drawings. After breakfast, members hurried off to sessions but on the first break, they were back in the exhibit hall, visiting with exhibitors and straining to hear whose name was called for the latest prize drawing.
At the Society, we are always promoting the value of networking and this event delivered on such opportunities in abundance. But just as in any group, some took to networking like fish to water while others hung back, not sure of where and when to join the conversation.
At the networking breakfast, I sat with a group of business and industry CPAs. As we chatted amiably over eggs and sausage, the conversation moved from how small employers can afford to keep offering healthcare coverage to the outlook for college graduates. We didn’t pick these topics off of a networking card in the center of the table. We got there by sharing personal bits about ourselves which moved the discussion in new and sometimes funny directions, like how we get our teenagers out of bed for school.
I lunched with a group of exhibitors from CCH Walters Kluwer, and learned one from Canton knows the football coach at my daughter’s high school. We ended up talking about school funding challenges.
To my left was a retired CPA who is still active on our Dayton show committee. We both worked for the same international holding company years ago—me in Pennsylvania and he in Dayton. Who knew we’d someday be sharing lunch and talking about how much we love the mountains in my home state?
I’m pretty sure we didn’t solve world hunger or Ohio’s budget problems in those two half hours, but the conversation was interesting and provided a few friendly faces in the crowd of more than 500.
It didn’t just feel like a business event anymore. And it occurred to me that the best networking happens when you’re not even trying that hard.
Throughout the day, I ran into every one of my table mates and each time we smiled and said, ‘hello’ or shared our opinions on what we just learned—or on the food which, by the way, is fabulous at Sinclair Community College.
If networking doesn’t come easy to you, try thinking of it differently. It’s not something you must do to advance your career. It can simply be a way to meet new people. The other benefits are icing.
You can also ease into networking by sharing your time and talents doing something you love. The Ohio Society has a ton of volunteer opportunities where you can work side by side with other CPAs.
We are recruiting volunteers right now for our standing committees, and always have room for willing CPAs to plan shows and events, or to teach FETCH!, the elementary financial literacy program. There are even programs geared specifically for networking.
It all comes down to a mindset, really. Networking doesn’t have to be the big, scary elephant in the room. It can just be dinner with new friends. And who can’t use more friends?