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Live Well San Diego 5K: Lessons in Strategic Networking

By E. Mendez, MusicWorx Intern

 

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 28.0% of Americans, or 80.2 million people, aged six and older are physically inactive. On July 29, 2018, I attended the Live Well San Diego 5K, an event that challenged San Diego to defy this statistic. As stated on Live Well’s website, “Live Well San Diego is a regional vision adopted by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in 2010 that aligns the efforts of County government, community partners and individuals to help all San Diego County residents be healthy, safe and thriving.” This 5K brought together hundreds of volunteers and employees of organizations and causes that contribute to the physical, mental, and emotional health of San Diego’s 1.4 million residents. Some of the more well known attendees included Rady’s Children’s Hospital, Ralph’s, and the San Diego Humane Society. MusicWorx joined Live Well San Diego as a Recognized Partner on October 22, 2016, which means that MusicWorx is recognized as an integral organization to the health of San Diego along with the well-known organizations previously mentioned. This has helped us widen our reach of exposure and outreach to clients and foster relationships with other Recognized Partners of Live Well.

The day started bright and early at 5am (well, not so bright) and I begrudgingly trekked down to Waterfront Park with one of my supervisors, Lindsay Zehren, and fellow intern, Meera Sinha, to set up our booth for the event. Normally, I would never go out into the world at such an hour. I had three things motivating me that morning: food trucks, having a beautiful view of the waterfront, and the potential to make contacts for my internship special project. What I actually ended up getting out of this event was much more valuable in the long run:

  • Discovering the incredible groundwork already laid for our organization
  • Learning about strategic networking and developing my skills in this area
  • Witnessing the support systems of the runners, as well as feeling gratitude for my own support systems.

 

Discovering the Groundwork

As we arranged instruments, pamphlets, and banners around the booth, I observed the layout of the event. Four rows of interactive booths, including ours, stretched for about the length of two blocks. The 5K’s route went through the middle of the four rows, so attendees could watch the runners while they explored the booths. The grand size of the event impressed me. Music therapy organizations are often not included in healthcare-related events of this scale, so being at this 5K made me feel that our profession is seen and valuable.

Meera and I talked with the first few waves of 5K runners and their supporters, drank some delicious coffee from one of the food trucks, and prepared some of our own business cards to pass out. Then MusicWorx founder and CEO, Barbara Reuer, sent Meera and me out into the maze of booths to network and exchange “at least 10 business cards.”

This was one of many moments throughout my internship in which Barbara has instilled me with her unwavering confidence. She challenges me because she knows I am capable. Although my focus was on organizations that may align with my special project, I couldn’t help but notice how many of the names I recognized because I had worked with them through MusicWorx. “Rady’s…where I work weekly… Kids Turn San Diego… whom I collaborated with on an event at Silver Strand Elementary School… The Epilepsy Foundation… whose conference I just presented at yesterday…,” I thought, passing by each booth. I didn’t have long to reflect in the moment since I needed to start the process of networking, but looking back on it later, I realize how incredible it is that MusicWorx has collaborated with, supported, and influenced an entire region.

 

Networking Experience and Tips

I was on the lookout for organizations that provided services to non-paid caregivers of medically fragile children, since that is the focus of my project. As I began to approach booths that looked applicable, I impressed myself with how naturally my spiel about MusicWorx and my project sounded because I am a naturally introverted personality and don’t typically go out of my way to talk with unfamiliar people. I fell into a flow of conversing and networking, and before I knew it, I had a bag filled with pamphlets and business cards. Similar to my realization about the regional influence of MusicWorx, I only had time to deeply reflect on my networking experiences days after the event.

I learned three important lessons:

  • Write down the name and contact information of the person I talk to directly at each booth. (Credit to Lindsay for that lesson.) I received many business cards of supervisors and CEOs, but I realized I didn’t have any names of direct contacts to reference when I went to write my emails.
  • Hand out fliers related to any program I am promoting, along with a business card. One of the most important parts of strategic networking at this event is the ability to provide effective materials. This was something that I overlooked when preparing for this event, so I had to present all of the information about my program verbally.
  • Demonstrate authentic gratitude toward each contact. After I exchanged information with each booth, I thanked them for the important work that they do for the greater San Diego community. It allowed these moments of connection to end on a deeper level, instead of leaving a taste of superficial business motives.

 

Support Systems

After alternating between managing the MusicWorx booth and approaching other booths for the majority of the morning, Meera and I spent the last hour comparing resources we had gathered for our separate special projects. We gushed about how lucky we felt to be included in such a unique networking experience as interns, as well as how inspired we were to observe the runners and their families at this event. I saw a beautiful parallel between the support I received from my colleagues and the support the runners received. I feared that my introverted nature would hold me back from reaching out to other organizations at this event, but Barbara’s unwavering confidence in me, Lindsay’s depth of knowledge about networking, and Meera’s passion for the business of music therapy allowed me to overcome. The runners likely had individual obstacles they were dealing with, but their families and friends (and even furry family members) traveled from all around the region, wore silly costumes, and made encouraging signs to allowed them to overcome.

Around 11am, the crowds began to slow and we had collectively gathered lists of potential collaborations, clients, and goals for next year’s event. Although the event was a success, my work had only just begun. Fast forward to present day, and I have a phone meeting with one of the contacts from this event tomorrow to discuss my special project and the potential to create a lasting relationship between them and MusicWorx. According to Harvard Business Review, “a strategic network is about tomorrow. It comprises those who can help you do two critical tasks: first, define what the future will bring and second, prepare for and succeed in that future.”  I am excited to bring this organization into my strategic network and I believe that our passions align in ways that will lead to valuable outcomes.

An update to follow in my next post… stay tuned!

For more information about Live Well San Diego, and the many events you can get involved in to better the health of our region, visit www.livewellsd.org.

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