By: Nicole Slaughter Graham
When Lydia Hedrick was chosen as Chair of RISE YPN, Oklahoma City Metropolitan Association of REALTORS (OKCMAR) chapter in 2022, she had a vision that included a regular events schedule so that YPN members could network and learn on a consistent basis.
“We had events before that, but they were more sporadic,” she said. So, she got to work and created an events series that offers opportunities for learning and networking. The 12-month series focuses on learning during the odd-numbered months and networking during the even-numbered months. The events series is designed to give members the opportunity to learn and grow together.
One popular event in the series is Game Night, which is held once a year. “I run into people who have attended who tell me how much they loved it,” Hedrick said.
She describes Game Night as “a fun, low-stakes way to get together, network and support a local cause.”
In July 2022, Hedrick launched the first game night and about 50 members attended, which maxed out the room at the local restaurant. They played SINGO, a popular take on Bingo that involves singing. Event sponsors, which Hedrick found through her network, provided food and drinks. Another big part of the event was the opportunity for community outreach.
Hedrick pinpointed Sisu as the organization to support through the Game Night. The organization is a local shelter and resource center for homeless and at-risk youth aged 25 and under. Catering to the LGBTQ+ community, Sisu provides everything from transitional living and life skills programming to helping youth find permanent housing. In the weeks leading up to and at the event, YPNers were encouraged to contribute to the organization by donating items from Sisu’s Amazon wish list. They could also bring items for donation or donate cash to the cause.
Want to recreate this kind of event in your YPN? Here’s a breakdown of the specifics:
The purpose of this event:
The main purpose of the event is to provide an opportunity for YPN members to network and have a little fun in an environment that’s fun and accessible. Bonuses included the chance to support a local organization and meet with vendors.
In-person or virtual:
In-person at a local restaurant.
This event is held once a year in July when summer is in full swing. Because it’s an annual event, RISE YPN has plenty of time to secure a venue, date and time. It’s held in the evening, starting at 7:00 pm.
It’s important to build in time for networking, so Hedrick says they have three rounds of gaming with breaks for food and networking in between each round.
How to get the word out:
Hedrick said she employs multiple ways to get the word out. OKCMAR has a weekly email, and Game Night emails are included in at least two of the newsletters. She creates an event on Facebook as well, and then takes time to invite people on the event page. A week before the event, she’ll also tag members in a post to garner some buzz. She reaches out strategically, she says, noting that if she does so too early, she runs the risk of people forgetting.
A couple of days before the event, she’ll personally reach out to every real estate agent in her phone to invite them. Now though, she doesn’t have to text people anymore, as details of the event spread through word of mouth.
Hedrick and a few association staff members helped plan and execute the event. The association has a planning group responsible for coming up with ideas and pinpointing sponsors. Staff coordinates with the venue to secure a private space, arrange for food and pass out drink tickets during the event. Staff also keeps track of registrants and attendees.
Cost of the event:
Thanks to sponsorships, the cost for Game Night is relatively low. The space and some of the food and drinks are usually part of the sponsorships. The event costs roughly $2000.
Each year so far, the event brings in between 40-50 people. Last year, the number of attendees maxed out the space available at the local restaurant.
Creating an event that is fun and casual makes it easy and accessible for YPNers, which boosts attendance. Members want to attend, because there’s nothing pressing on the line, and they don’t feel the need to perform. Hedrick says that many of the YPNers who attend then attend other events, and as a result, the Game Night helps satisfy one of the primary goals of RISE, which is to draw in new members so they can network and build community outside their offices.
Giving people the opportunity to contribute to the community by donating to a local organization is a highlight of the event. Attendees like having a way to contribute to the community. Plus, giving is incentivized by providing an extra drink ticket to those who make a contribution.
Hedrick says she’s found that vendors like to come to these events, because they see it as a valuable opportunity to talk about their products and services and network with industry professionals.
Nicole Slaughter Graham is a consulting editor at REALTOR® Magazine and the manager of the YPN Lounge. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.