Follow along as our new ACC President and CEO, Veta T. Richardson, chronicles her first year at ACC, with this monthly blog series. The voice, views and stories expressed in this series are of the author and are not ACC’s. To read the first installment of this series, click here.
Networking the Room While Avoiding Rich Food and Wine
“Inside me lives a skinny woman crying to get out. But I can usually shut her up with cookies.”
– Helen Hayes, internationally celebrated actress whose career spanned silent films to Broadway
Being president of an association like ACC requires being comfortable representing it all over the world, to a diverse group of constituencies. With more than 15 years in association management, I cannot count the number of times I have had to navigate my way through a crowded venue where I knew few attendees. Fortunately, a long time ago, I taught myself to network in a variety of settings and circumstances so that the skills I possess now kick in like auto-pilot.
This was definitely helpful over the past month as my attention shifted externally to focus on outreach. My most eventful week found me meeting with members, interviewing with reporters, and greeting ACC sponsors in Toronto, Montreal, London and Paris –– all in a five-day span! The past month entailed attending an awards gala, networking receptions, two chapter board meetings and another bar association’s conference where I participated as faculty.
Law is a profession in which building trusted relationships is just as important as developing one’s substantive abilities. In recent weeks, I began building the relationships that will continue to serve ACC well. In addition, because I believe that networking is so important, I led a networking skills workshop for ACC staff. For junior members, many of whom are not lawyers, the workshop offered an opportunity to practice with one another and gain greater confidence navigating a room filled with lawyers. As we prepare for the ACC Annual Meeting –– where ACC will host almost 2,000 in-house counsel –– it will be important for all staff to feel comfortable interacting with our members, as there will be lots of them there in Denver!
At the Annual Meeting, in addition to great networking and CLE sessions, ACC will hold a number of member focus groups as part of our strategic planning process. We’re intent on making sure that as we build for the future, it will be with our members’ needs foremost in priority. Invitations will be mailed shortly and participation will be on a first response basis, offering an opportunity to provide direct feedback and input regarding future ACC programs, services and resources. However, if you are unable to join us in Denver in October, do not to worry: A brief strategic planning questionnaire will be sent out later this week via email to all ACC members, thus allowing every member an opportunity to offer feedback in strictest confidence, as all results will be compiled by an independent consultant and reported only in the aggregate. Please look for this very important email and be sure to share what you think.
My first four months on the job have definitely been eventful and busy. I am feeling more confident in this role although there is still quite a bit to learn. One lesson I am learning is that, despite being more comfortable navigating the relationship side of the job, navigating all the good food and good wine that also comes with the position is a more daunting challenge. To avoid my waistline expanding at the same rate as my growing network of contacts, I have to become a lot more disciplined. I recently joined the Weight Watchers at Work program and am now counting my Points Plus. Many of you also have to navigate scores of business dinners and hors d’oeuvres-laden receptions. Aside from the obvious but impractical advice to keep my mouth shut, I am wondering if anyone has a few tips or approaches to share for someone who is often on the go? Surely, I am not alone in this fight and with the holidays fast approaching, many of us face similar challenges.
Your suggestions are welcome!