Kim Kirkham of The Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce

Kim Kirkham, Executive Director of The Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce

PENTICTON – Here in the Okanagan the business vibe in the summer takes a bit of a turn towards a more casual feel, as we head outdoors to enjoy hikes, beaches, festivals and events, and seek out seats on the nearest patio for a leisurely afternoon or evening.

But, of course, business itself doesn’t stop. While the usual networking events, such as business after business mixers, take a break till the fall, you can still network effectively over the summer. Yes, that may mean putting a handful of business cards in the back pocket of your board shorts…just in case.

First, know the situation. At a pool party or barbecue with friends? A family day at the beach? Maybe this isn’t the best place to focus on business. That said, if you end up chatting with a good prospect or someone you’d like to engage in a project, ask if it would be alright to exchange contact info and suggest a follow up conversation during business hours. Don’t be offend if the response is, “I’m not here to talk business, thanks.”

Meetup groups often continue gathering over the summer for more casual get-togethers, and many in the Okanagan are meant for business networking. Check out meetup.com and search for events by location and topic. Why not have a look at meetups if you’re traveling? A local social group might be a great place to get some good vacation tips as well as make business connections.

The many festivals and events throughout the valley all need volunteers. Add your name to a shift or two. You’ll be helping out your community and you never know who you might meet while selling raffle tickets, handing water to athletes, or lending your time to a charity fundraiser.

If you want to bring as few clients together to introduce them, or say thanks for their support of your business, book a VIP experience at one of the many wineries, breweries, distilleries, or cideries in the region, with a tour company to do the driving. Be clear that everyone should come for fun, but give a heads-up that you may want to make some introductions that could be useful for a few attendees.

And don’t forget to network with your own colleagues. Summer is a great time for staff retreats, company parties (why wait till Christmas?), or taking a day with your team to volunteer together.

Finally, while the vibe may be casual, be sure that your appearance and actions are just the right mix of professional and relaxed for summer networking.

Kim Kirkham is Executive Director for the Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce