Join Mediation Associations to Grow Your Mediation Business - dummies

Join Mediation Associations to Grow Your Mediation Business

By Victoria Pynchon, Joseph Kraynak

In the ongoing effort to grow your mediation business, if you don’t yet belong to a local mediation or dispute-resolution association, your first step is to find and join the largest and most active group of mediators in your area. Ask experienced mediators in your area for recommendations or search online for “mediation association” in the state or jurisdiction in which you work.

The Southern California Mediation Association, for example, provides a wide array of opportunities for growing a practice, sharpening skills, keeping current with new laws and best practices, marketing services, engaging with peers, speaking, writing, and training.

Don’t merely join and pay your dues. Attend the association’s meetings, introduce yourself to its movers and shakers, and let people know that you’re eager to serve. As soon as people know that you’re willing to work, you’ll have as many opportunities as you’re willing and able to handle.

One day you’ll be picking up speakers for the annual conference at the airport, and the next day you’ll be editor of the organization’s newsletter. These extra duties demand your time and energy, but they pay dividends in raising your profile and building trust.

Only one thing is in short supply in all professional organizations — people willing to do the hard work of keeping the organization going and growing. Here’s a short list of opportunities that are almost always available when you join a professional organization:

  • Participate in and eventually lead organizational sections such as community mediation, litigated case mediation, professional development, annual conference planning, newsletter publication, speaker’s bureau, website management, and on and on.

  • Create an organizational section that meets your own needs as well as your market’s. If you’re engaged in parental custody mediation, for instance, and your local mediation organization doesn’t have a section devoted to that topic, create and lead it yourself.

  • Write articles for the organization’s newsletter.

  • Serve as a liaison to organizations where your market gathers, such as bar associations, the church community, organized youth sports, animal lover organizations, and the like. If your local organization doesn’t have liaison positions, create them yourself.

  • Begin marketing yourself by speaking on topics important to your market niche either at monthly section meetings or at the organization’s annual meeting.

  • Run for office. Most organizations have several officers — including president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer — and few candidates to serve in those positions.

  • Form study groups for new mediators.

  • Offer seminars about dispute resolution, negotiation, or peace work under the auspices of your local mediation organization to legal groups, local business leaders, and community organizations.

Getting involved in a trusted professional organization is a great way to lend credibility to your own platform as you promote your services. Offering seminars to the community under the auspices of an established mediation association is much more effective in garnering interest than merely promoting the seminars under your own name. Serve a professional organization and it’ll serve you.

Whether or not you belong to a mediation organization, you need to make a literal or figurative appearance in your marketplace at least twice a month — one online promotional activity every month along with either a speech, an organizational meeting, an article, or a personal meeting (lunch or coffee with someone in your market who can send you business, for instance).

If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas for networking activities, consider the following suggestions:

  • Participate in at least one activity every month for one of the organizations you belong to, even if it’s only attending a cocktail party, committee meeting, or training session.

  • When you attend a networking event, introduce yourself and converse with at least one fellow attendee with the goal of finding out as much as you possibly can about the person.

  • Take as many mediation classes that interest you as you can afford to in respect to both time and budget.

  • Volunteer your time as a mediator in a local court-annexed or community mediation panel.

  • Talk passionately about mediation whenever someone asks you about it.

  • Write an article about mediation for a journal your market reads, addressing an issue of concern to your market.

  • Ask a seasoned mediator if you can observe her in action or ask for tips on commencing a mediation practice.

  • Speak about mediation and negotiation skills to a business, law firm, or community group for free.

  • Attend a business, law, community, or mediation conference or workshop.

  • Take someone in your market to lunch or coffee.

Pace yourself. You don’t want to burn yourself out. Two activities per month are two more than most mediators in your market are doing.