An executive search firm based here in Orange County, McDermott & Bull, has come up with an excellent idea for building their reputation by helping others stay connected. 30-40 times a year they host small-group dinners for local executives. The sole purpose of the dinners is for the executives to meet each other and hopefully create new relationships that will be helpful to their careers at large. No pitching, no sales talk -- the search firm simply facilitates bringing similar professionals together to the benefit of the professionals. Brilliant!
Each dinner is at a quality restaurant, includes 12-18 attendees and lasts for about two hours. By the way, each dinner for a different type of executive. One dinner is for CEOs, the next for CFOs, and so on. They start of with casual conversation and then, as they sit down for dinner the hosts introduce a short conversation game to help attendees get to know each other better.
Once the meal is served they introduce a speaker who talks for about 20 minutes. The key to selecting the speaker is that he/she never talks about anything related to the professional skills of the executives attending. For instance, a speaker for a CFO gathering would never talk about Sarbanes. Instead they talk about things not related specifically to the profession of the attendees. The speaker may talk about business coaching, or grooming, or their trip to Africa. The key is they talk about something interesting and hopefully engaging/entertaining for the executives.
This series of dinners has proven so popular they have to turn executives away. Any one executive can only attend two dinners in a year. That makes a lot of sense because the whole purpose of the gatherings is to extend the network of personal relationships; not create a cliche.
And, the dinners are at no cost to the attendees. Do you think that McDermott & Bull is earning kudos with local executives? You betcha! Do you think they are remembered when opportunities arise? You betcha!
I admire any firm or company that has found a way to market themselves by helping others reach their goals.