• Deanna Perkins, Solutions Manager

3 Tips to Make the Most of a Peer Community

As tax season winds down, we’re looking forward the spring meetings for several of our communities. Joining a peer community is an investment of time and money, and like many investments, the more you put in, the more you’ll receive in return. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good time to share my top three tips for making the most of a peer community.

Tip #1: Be Present

All of our peer community members are busy professionals. Occasionally they need to take a phone call in the middle of a meeting. Sometimes, they stayed up too late working (or playing?) the night before, and choose to sleep in instead of attending an early morning session. Once in a while, they need to book an early return flight to make it home in time for a prior commitment. While we certainly understand how hard it can be to balance competing priorities, we always recommend that our members do everything they can to be present for all sessions and agenda items.

Anyone who’s taken part in our peer communities for any length of time can attest to the spark that occurs when peers with similar interests, challenges and objectives come together. Tapping into the collective knowledge and enthusiasm of a peer group can be incredibly powerful, but to fully receive the benefits, you have to be there - body and mind. When you miss sessions or skip out on agenda items, you miss out on time with peers and a lot of the community benefits.

Tip #2: Plan Ahead

All of our circles offer plenty of time for structured socializing, but in the evening our members are free to do whatever they’d like. The most successful members plan ahead and set up dinners with other members and solution providers.

We sometimes see members head back to their hotel room to work or unwind. Others go out to dinner with the coworkers they arrived with. We see these as missed opportunities. One of the greatest benefits of a peer group is the meaningful professional friendships that develop between members. As valuable as the formal sessions are, some of the most interesting moments may come, not from the sessions themselves, but from informal interactions with other members.

Reach out to someone you want to get to know better before the event or start setting up dinner plans early in the day. A simple way to do that is to tell everyone you connect with to meet at 6 pm in the main lobby. Once you get a group together, decide on a nearby restaurant and go.

Tip #3: Follow Up

Conferences are great, but one thing that peer communities have that conferences don’t is that the connections continue between meetings. You don’t have to wait months to reach out for advice or accountability; you can stay connected anytime.

Staying connected with other members will help you maintain the momentum you brought back from a circle meeting. This year, we’re implementing MightyNetworks to facilitate those connections between community members. We’re excited to have a more visible means of communicating to help our members remain informed and better prepared to bring new ideas back to their firms.

Remember, a peer community is what you make of it. If you’re not sure why you’re going or what you want to get from the experience, you’re unlikely to get it. But if you are present and engaged, you will receive more value. Take it seriously, but remember to relax and have fun. This is all part of the larger goal of growing and learning.