Friends have shared with me countless stories about their personal first date experiences. Both males and females alike often take a misstep when it comes to navigating an initial meeting. Should I open the door for her? If I offer to pay the check, will he be insulted? When is it okay to lean in for a first kiss? These details can be overwhelming and confusing, but may truly impact whether or not the relationship will ever flourish beyond a courtship. The first encounter with a potential business partner is oddly similar. You want to put your best face forward, have conversation flow easily and clearly convey why this partnership could be mutually beneficial – without coming on too strong!
A great way to recruit new partners for your school is to host an exciting event. Determining who to invite is perhaps the most critical element to consider. Begin by engaging the entire school faculty because the more people you have involved, the larger the network to tap into. Have everyone consider their personal network – friends, family, civic organizations, community contacts and even social networking groups like LinkedIn, Twitter etc. Invite individuals who have volunteered at your school previously – guest speakers, mentors, internship providers – they are already invested in your success! Also, consider local service organizations like Rotary & Kiwanis Clubs or the Chamber of Commerce. Finally, and most importantly, you must invite organizations related to the school’s theme – even if you have no personal connection to them. There are also high profile individuals to consider such as the Superintendent, the Mayor or other elected officials. While it may be a long shot that they actually attend, it never hurts to ask. After all, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take! Send all of the guests a letter inviting them to the event and get a group of volunteers together to make phone calls to follow-up. Make people feel like their attendance is really important.
Don’t reinvent the wheel! The National Academy Foundation has a sample letter available on their website located in a resource called the Advisory Board Manual. Download this resource and modify the letter it to make it your own.
Now that we have invited our potential new partners to join us, it is important to plan an exciting and engaging first meeting. Here are a few tips to make your recruitment event, or first date, a success!
1. Start and end the event on time - no one wants to feel like they have been stood up or kept out too late. Be considerate of others’ time.
2. Highlight the school’s strengths – a first date is not the time to share the sob story of your break-ups or medical history. Keep it positive & keep it light!
3. Showcase students and their work – it is important to put your best face forward and tug at the heartstrings a bit. A person needs to feel an initial spark or connection to become interested.
4. Serve yummy food – nothing too extravagant is recommended for a first date, but you also don’t want to come off as being totally cheap either.
5. Make your guests feel special – this seems really obvious to me but something that is often underplayed. Greet your guest, make eye contact, thank him/her for coming and listen to what he/she says. Make this person feel like he/she is the only one in the room (although, if he/she is actually the only one in the room, it is safe to say that the event isn’t going well).
6. Alert the media – in the case of your recruitment event, not your first date. While you want good press coverage of your school, you probably do not want your first date reported on (or even posted on Facebook for that matter).
So hundreds of people showed up to your event – a great problem to have! How do you choose those to invite to join your school’s Advisory Board?
Stay tuned for my next article, Make a Commitment: Knowing Who to Settle Down With