Navigating the 2013 NGLCC Conference as an Affiliate Chamber

| By Sam McClure
Displayed amongst various certificates and family photographs in my office, I have a yellow map of the United States pinned on my wall. As the Director of Affiliate Relations and External Affairs of NGLCC, I know this map is a constant reminder that everything--the entire strength of the movement--is out there. The work of each affiliate chamber in every city around the country contributes to the endeavor for LGBT economic equality, and the NGLCC works to bring all those people, from all those places, together.
From July 30 to August 2, affiliate chambers of commerce will have the opportunity to expand their organizations through the NGLCC National Business & Leadership Conference. Returning attendees will be able to reconnect with old contacts, and first time attendees will be able to experience just how universal their local efforts are.
But just like reading a map, there are easy ways to navigate and use your time wisely at the conference. First of all, this year’s break-out sessions are organized into distinct tracks to better reach specific audiences.
> Affiliate chambers will be most interested in the conference's Track 4: Organizational Development for Local NGLCC Affiliate Chambers. Including topics such as government affairs and membership engagement, Track 4 panels are headed by chamber leaders and field experts invested in the advancement of local chambers.
Of particular note is a session led by our keynote speaker Les McKeown. Directly after his plenary session, McKeown will demonstrate how to apply his Predictable Success business model and help chambers achieve scalable, profitable growth. This session, “Predictable Success for Local LGBT Chambers of Commerce,” will be taking place on Wednesday, July 31 from 10:45 A.M. to 12:00 P.M.
As for chamber leaders attending with multiple board members, volunteers, and staff, the best strategy for navigating the conference is to go through the whole agenda beforehand and allocate who attends which panels. During certain timeslots, multiple Track 4 panels may be simultaneously offered. In order to cover as many topics as possible, divide sessions up according to each staff member’s individual role within the chamber. For example, on Wednesday afternoon both “Chamber Communications Part One: What’s the Message?” and “LGBT Supplier Diversity Champion Training” take place at the same time. Communications professionals and volunteers should attend the first, while Supplier Diversity professionals should attend the second. For a full list of all Track 4 panels, see this year’s conference agenda.
NGLCC recognizes that there is a steep growth trajectory among local chambers, where many have grown to the point that they have added staff. To train these staff members in the operations of small organizations, we will also be offering “Local Chamber Staff Academy” for the first time this year. This session will be taking place on the pre-conference day on Tuesday, and will deliver tactical skill building for membership management, basic finance, bookkeeping, and working with volunteers and boards of directors.
Outside the scheduled panels, there are many other opportunities for local chambers at the conference. Plenaries, receptions, and dinners are excellent chances to form relationships with other chamber leaders and corporate partners.
When networking with fellow chamber leaders, keep in mind ways to mutually develop your organizations. Discuss ideas and current operations so that both chambers can return to their communities more capable than ever. These peer to peer conversations serve to spread the best practices and overall strengthen the economic equality movement.
Similarly, another important chance lies with the attending corporate partners. Affiliate chambers will be able to explore potential strategic partnerships and leverage significant opportunities for local LGBT businesses. They will be able to sit down, one-on-one with heads of national companies to establish connections with neighborhood initiatives, promoting shared interests of economic growth and equality.
For me, this combining of worlds is the essence of what the conference is all about. It is the convergence of opportunities, the central focus of the force of the movement. I love learning and understanding how each chamber leader, each corporate partner, each LGBTBE business owner possesses the same motivations, and how the gathering of these related spheres drives everyone forward.
I am so proud that all corners of my map will be meeting in Dallas this summer--and with them comes unparalleled strength and immeasurable opportunities.