Your next great partnership may be someone you meet at a chapter meeting, on the other end of a cold call, or it could be from joining in on a Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Small Business Owners (SBO) casual chat called CommuniTEA. The one-hour Zoom call focuses on a core topic of concern to SBO members.

Unlike most CommuniTEA sessions, this was less about attendees discovering new software or gaining insight in how to better manage a small business. It was simply a way to get to know one another’s abilities and business-focus with the possibility of future business partnerships being hatched.

Already in the time since CommuniTEA first came online in 2020 during the COVID pandemic that inhibited in-person meetings, many of MPI SBO’s members have partnered with other members. Susan Piel, MP, CMM, DES, owner of Spiel Planning and an MPI Community Advisory Board member, has been hired by other members of the group for her planning services.

To the surprise of new participant Nann Philips, CMP, CMM, DES, PMED, owner of Scurry Street Meetings & Events, the Sept. 15 “Getting to Know You” group did not consist of just independent meeting planners. The Sept. 15 session had a sax player who hosts virtual events, a sales trainer, a travel agent, and someone who owns an association and meetings management company. There was an owner of an international B to B marketing company, someone who creates game shows, someone who specializes in technology for registrations, a person who provides recruitment staffing, and me (Karen Kuzsel), who is an active member of the Engagement Committee, a journalist/blogger, and works as Natasha, The Psychic Lady for events. There was a book author that enables business development, an industry blogger who is also a psychic for corporate and social events, a speaker and business coach, and yes, independent and corporate meetings and events planners.

During most CommuniTEA sessions, participants introduce themselves before being divided into breakout groups to more intimately discuss a given topic. Before the session ends, participants are always invited to share their LinkedIn address to encourage connections. Our Engagement Committee members have often heard after each of the CommuniTEA sessions that getting involved and attending CommuniTEA events is the best way to get to know each other to generate business opportunities.

Before the breakout, an important announcement was made by Ciara Feely, Chair of the SBO Community Council’s Engagement Committee. A new directory is in the works for the exclusive benefit to SBO members. Participants on the call were provided an opportunity to provide input on categories delineating the various services offered by the hundreds of SBO members.

One of the main questions discussed was “What do you look for/want in a business partner”?

Canadian Jarrod Goldsmith, podcaster & founder of both eSAX Virtual Events & Sax Appeal Ottawa, quickly chimed in “trust.” Toncie Roberson, MBA, CMP CTA, who provides travel planning and services for Expedia Cruises and Dion Magee, PMP, CMP, GRCP, GRCA, CRCMP, CMM, SMPP, HMCC both mentioned “transparency”.

Wendy Parsley, who produces events, tied the two thoughts together. “Transparency can help build trust,” she said. She added that she attended this SBO CommuniTEA session (her first) because “I do a lot of networking. I am here to meet others and learn about their services and how we might work together.”

Other ideas discussed included someone who is consistent in doing the work. They should be confident and have proof that they can do the requested service. Heather Herrig, CMP, who describes herself as a hospitality and tourism advocate, advised people to “focus on what you do well.”

Many of the first-time participants on the call were initially contacted by Leanne Calderwood, CMP, an active Community Engagement team member and LinkedIn Trainer who takes networking online and in-person to new levels of connectivity.

Register now for the next two MPI SBO CommuniTEA events, October 20th and December 15th. October 20th’s subject is Managing Client Expectations: With so much having changed in the industry this year, are you finding you have the same conversations with clients explaining why budgets have to change and why it is taking longer to get your suggestions to them? December 15 is a seasonal holiday gathering.

Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries.  She is an active member of International Live Events Association and Meeting Professionals International and is now serving on the 2022-2023 MPI Global Advisory Board for Small Business Owners. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Karen writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, she has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events.;;; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady.