I met one of my close APMP friends at BPC 2015 in Seattle at lunch, and I noticed she was standing alone next to our table and looking over the room. We invited her to sit down, and we’ve been friends ever since.
With another highly successful BPC Europe in the rear view and BPC Orlando coming in May, it’s safe to assume that 2023 will be another banner year for APMP members to gather, meet, and share their knowledge and expertise. I always wonder, though, what happens when, after an event, they all go their separate ways. In other words, how many people recognize the multi-faceted and long-term value of the acquaintances they have made?
My first foray into APMP conferences was in 2011, in Denver, and I have attended every one since, along with several regional chapter symposia and expositions. One of the main experiences I have come away from every event is that APMP members are among the most open and eager to meet other members. I’ve been to many professional events over the course of my 40+-year career, and only at APMP events have I found members so willing to engage.
Early on, we all appreciated meeting other proposal people, agreeing in a half-serious/half-joking manner about knowing that there were other people – a community, actually – who share our professional pain. But it’s become much more than that, and I know it’s not just I who believes this.
Over the years that I’ve attended APMP events, I have adopted an approach for myself – setting a goal to meet at least one other member who can become what I call a ‘Professional SME,” someone to whom I can turn for information, insights and, if necessary, assistance with proposal-related questions and challenges, and for whom I might be able to serve a mutual role.
Here are just a handful of examples of contacts I’ve had with other members and the support we’ve provided each other:
- Writing job descriptions for proposal positions
- Providing examples of creative ways to gather and use lessons-learned feedback
- Assisting a presenter to prepare for a presentation on how to be a more confident presenter
- Sharing curriculum and results of college-level proposal development instruction
- Discussing the potential for starting proposal classes at additional universities
- Comparing notes on structuring proposal internship programs
- Providing references for members who have lost a job
- Contributing experience and ideas on staffing a proposal department
I could go on.
APMP events offer so many opportunities for members to meet, including the ice-breaking first-timers session and Regi-ception, and it improves every year. In recent years, for example, time was built in between sessions so that people could relax, grab a snack or drink, and meet instead of quickly (and literally) running from one session to the next. And the newly minted TARA event, masterminded to take the place of a more formal gala, has generated so much energy, excitement, and enjoyment!
In the 15 years that I’ve been an APMP member, I’ve considered it such a privilege to meet so many members from so many different industries, companies, states and countries, backgrounds, and personal and professional experiences. I’ve met people through involvement on committees and by serving on the APMP International Board of Directors. I met a member while standing outside a BPC venue and witnessing her almost being hit by a car. I’ve met other members in discussions after our respective presentations, finding that we share common ground, whether it be of a professional nature, a love of baseball, our children surprisingly living in close proximity to each other, the joy of knitting, or the desire to bring more young people into our profession and the Association.
But my favorite way to meet people at APMP events, despite my innate shyness, is to scan the ballroom, find a table inhabited by people I don’t know, sit down, introduce myself, and learn about them. And I try to return the favor. I met one of my close APMP friends at BPC 2015 in Seattle at lunch, and I noticed she was standing alone next to our table and looking over the room. We invited her just to sit down, and we’ve been friends ever since.
Speaking of friends, one never knows when an addition to one’s professional network will become a life-long friend as well as a proposal colleague. I’m blessed to call so many of the APMP-ers I’ve met friends. One of those friends took an hours-long train ride from his home to meet my husband and me during our stop in Vienna last fall, giving us a personal historical tour of some of the city’s parks that far exceeded what we had learned from our tour guide earlier in the day. Another member became a close friend in conversation during the long ride to Midway Airport in Chicago from a Greater Midwest Chapter event. One member became a friend over dinner when we found we were the only two staying an extra night after a regional conference in Atlanta.
One of the things I’ve always tried to do is to see my network of professional colleagues, SMEs, and Association members as people first. When they are not working or attending APMP events, they live in interesting places around the world, have families and other interests and talents. Showing them concern – about their safety with a hurricane or tornado bearing down or remembering an anniversary or the passing of a loved one – really validates the fact that we are truly a community.
With BPC Orlando nearly upon us, I look forward to seeing my friends, meeting new people, and seeing the potential for collaborating with or learning from each other. I hope other attendees arrive with the same motivation.
No matter your definition of networking, APMP provides the opportunity for members to follow their own path. There is value and a great story in every member you meet. Aside from my own experience, it would be so interesting to know how other members have met, reached out to, and helped each other professionally and otherwise gained from their APMP acquaintances.
Until then, see you in Orlando. I look forward to meeting you.