New Networking Member Benefits
After many years of the same structure, the time has come for the Athens Area Chamber to reimagine the networking opportunities that we offer in order to align with the current needs of our valued members. With such a diverse membership, the Chamber has decided to expand our networking opportunities and services to hopefully better meet the needs of ALL of our members.
As with any new endeavor, there may be some hiccups along the way as we ease into our new networking structure. We will be asking for feedback frequently in order to make sure that we can continue to calibrate our offerings to meet what our membership is looking for. So please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, concerns, or constructive criticism (and, of course, we would love to hear positive feedback as well!). The Athens Area Chamber is listening to you and we are excited to move forward into this new chapter.
Below is the overview of our new networking structure. For those of you who are curious about why we have restructured our offerings in this way, keep reading for a brief explanation of our reasoning. For those of you who just want the quick details, skip down below – we have provided bullet points with the most important information you’ll need to know about each service.
Overview of New Networking Opportunities
Quarterly Business After Hours Networking
While the name is staying the same, our Business After Hours events will be much more exciting!
Our monthly Business After Hours will change into a quarterly networking event, which will allow us to enrich those events to make them more attractive and beneficial to our members.
- BAH will be a quarterly event held at a member business on a weekday from 5-7pm
- Each quarterly Business After Hours (BAH) will consist of valuable content and opportunities for quality connections, with a structured timeframe, loosely guided networking, and a learning component.
- Member businesses will still host each BAH, and the Chamber will select venues based on member interest, event set-up needs, and optimal accessibility.
- Sponsorship opportunities for food, drinks, and door prizes will be available for each BAH.
Our first quarterly Business After Hours will be held on Wednesday, March 22nd from 5:00pm – 7:00pm — learn more and register (it’s free!) here!
Coffee & Conversations
Get a jump-start on your day and tackle important local issues with area agencies and officials.
By creating the Coffee & Conversations events, the Chamber hopes to provide our members with valuable and direct access to local and state agencies and officials, giving our members the opportunity to discuss issues important to the Athens business community.
- C&Cs will be held at the Innovation Center from 8-9:30am on a weekday.
- During this pilot year, we have 2 Coffee & Conversations planned, with the potential to grow into quarterly offerings.
- Sponsorship opportunities for food, coffee, and door prizes will be available for each Coffee and Conversations event.
Our first Coffee & Conversations will be held on Wednesday, April 19 from 8:00am to 9:30am. Learn more here — registration will open soon!
CAP – Connecting Athens Professionals
New name, same vibe: Young Athens Professionals (YAP) is now Connecting Athens Professionals (CAP)!
If you are looking to connect on a social level, Connecting Athens Professionals (CAP) offers a laid-back gathering space for emerging and experienced professionals.
- CAP Happy Hours will be held on the 2nd Thursday of every month from April to October.
- CAP events will be held at a different local business every month, and the organizing partners will select venues based on member interest, event set-up needs, and optimal accessibility.
- CAP events will intentionally create a welcoming and informal environment for emerging leaders to feel comfortable creating and fostering new connections.
- CAP will emphasize connection, not cliques, at all events
- Sponsorship opportunities for food and door prizes will be available for each CAP event.
CAP will resume monthly Happy Hour events in April — stay tuned for more details!
Why Did Things Change?
While the Chamber’s monthly Business Before/After Hours events were popular for many years, since returning to in-person events after the COVID hiatus, we have seen a marked decline in attendance and interest in the Business Before/After Hours events. Through surveys and engaging with our members, we discovered two key points:
- our members have a desire to network and connect in more meaningful ways
- the vast majority of our members are interested in networking events that have structure and that offer compelling business-related content
While rethinking the Chamber’s networking opportunities, we wanted to think not just about why people do or do not attend, but also consider why members request to host those events. This led us to identify 3 main reasons that our members request to host a Business Before/After Hours event:
- to show off a new location or updated space,
- to connect with other members for a specific reason (for example, to raise support for a project or look for new partners to collaborate with),
- or to showcase their skills/services with the hopes of garnering new clients or connections.
Finally, we also recognized that we had the potential to grow the Young Athens Professionals (YAP) networking group, which the Chamber joined as an organizing partner in 2021. YAP was started in 2009 by Career Connections and the Athens County Economic Development Council (ACEDC) to provide a space for young professionals to form social connections while supporting local businesses, with the idea that those connections might help to retain their talent in our area. Aside from the Chamber joining as an organizing partner in 2021, YAP has remained relatively unchanged for almost 14 years. Until now! After many discussions with YAP attendees and Chamber and community members, the decision has been made to continue to offer a casual space for emerging professionals to connect, but with a name change that will hopefully mean the group feels more inclusive and less restrictive. Because let’s face it, no matter if you are an emerging or experienced professional, we could all use a laid-back, safe space to socialize and practice our people skills.
With all of these needs and opportunities in mind, we came up with 3 the diversified offerings you see below:
The Quarterly Business After Hours will provide loosely structured networking and business-related learning components while also allowing us to partner with several members for each event, allowing them to showcase their skills and services through in-kind donations and sponsorships. Our Coffee & Conversations events will provide morning networking opportunities, and we intend for it to be a space where local and government officials and contacts with local agencies can come and have direct, meaningful conversations with our membership about issues important to our community. And our Connecting Athens Professionals (CAP) group will build a safe space for emerging professionals to create and cultivate new connections with other emerging and experienced professionals in a laid-back environment.
We have also created 2 new member services to help meet the needs of businesses who are looking to showcase a new or renovated space or who are hoping to connect with other member businesses for specific purposes. Please read more about our two new membership benefit services here.