BizTalk Blenders takes flight with chamber licensing
Alice Heiman wearied of business networking events, the sorts of affairs where people stand around talking with people they already know and little gets accomplished.
A decade after she began developing an alternative — she dubs it a “blender” rather than a “mixer” — the Reno sales consultant is beginning to draw interest from organizations across the country that want to license the concept.
The Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce scheduled its first BizTalk Blender (the name is trademarked) last week, and Heiman is talking with other chambers of commerce in the Bay Area.
An independent events planner hopes to launch BizTalk Blender in Raleigh, N.C., under license from Heiman, and a group in Connecticut also has shown interest.
As the concept has been developed over the past 10 years, and fine-tuned during three years that Heiman has been running BizTalk Blender events for The Chamber in Reno, it’s become a structured event designed entirely for businesspeople to meet each other.
Pre-registration is required, and the list of attendees is published beforehand. That lets other potential participants know whom they might meet.
When attendees arrive, they get a nametag that can be read from several feet away and a small envelope with instructions for the event and suggestions for follow-up printed on the back. The envelope is intended, too, to give participants a place to collect business cards.
No speakers are scheduled.
Instead, participants mingle for 30 minutes and sample food and beverages. (Food, Heiman says, is limited to bite-sized items that are easy to handle for someone who is standing.)
Next up is “BizTalk,” small-group discussions with assigned topics on business subjects. Again, Heiman says, the intent is to provide an opening for participants to discover common interests with people they didn’t know previously.
BizTalk Blenders in Reno have been drawing about 100 people each, and Heiman says nearly half the participants are newcomers.
She’s marketing BizTalk Blender licenses as a way for chambers of commerce to develop a new revenue stream at the same time that they solidify their dues-paying memberships.
A common issue among chamber of commerce members, she says, is the feeling that they are somehow standing outside the group that actually runs things.
“The BizTalk Blender makes you feel like you are on the inside,” Heiman says. “If they get to know each other, people are less likely to drop out.”
Len Stevens, chief executive officer of The Chamber, says the events have proven to be a good membership-recruitment tool.
“A large percentage of the non-members who attend join right after the event,” Stevens says.
Chambers typically charge $15 or $25 registration for BizTalk Blender events. If they run four a year — Heiman suggests no more than six a year — that attract 100 people each, that translates into $6,000 to $10,000 in new revenue with minimal costs.
Heiman licenses BizTalk Blender to chambers for $500 a year after their first year of participation. In the first year, Heiman herself runs the first event and then provides the concept at no additional cost.
While the licensing fees are modest, Heiman hopes BizTalk Blender opens doors for her sales-consulting services, her Webinars and her speaking engagements.
But she acknowledges the hard part is getting chamber executives to understand the concept.
“Breaking in is hard,” she says. “They don’t get it.”
To help spread the word, she invites chamber executives from miles around to attend BizTalk Blenders. She extended invitations throughout northern California, for instance, for last week’s event at Truckee.
Patricia Barrett, membership director of the Truckee Donner Chamber, became enthused after she attended a blender in Reno.
“I was so impressed. It was a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere where people easily met the people they didn’t know. It was plain to see this event builds camaraderie between members by making sure they get to know each other,” she says.
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