March 29, 2011


Oct 2011: Here's a new compelling reason to join the Toronto Board of Trade: the Business Excellence Awards. I'm proud to be a nominee in the Start-up/New Business category. Here's what happened.

(new) Feb 2013: I'm no longer a member. Here's why.

Toronto Board Of Trade: We Belong mark for membersJoining a Board of Trade or Chamber of Commerce is a path to success. You're supporting the local business community and finding new business opportunities.

If you join and wait for prospects to send you money, you'll be disappointed. What you get depends on what you give. You need to participate. Remember the power of consistent persistent generosity?

I joined the Toronto Board of Trade four months ago through Taxevity.

Two Poles

The Toronto Board of Trade (TBOT) faces a particular challenge. Members include the biggest and smallest companies. It's easy for small business to feel neglected when big business reserves entire tables in the prime spots at events.

The TBOT's solution is to hold lots of events — over 100 a year. That broad choice lets you choose what suits you. There are breakfast speakers like LinkedIn's Jonathan Lister and Google's Chris O'Neill. If trekking downtown to First Canadian Place is daunting, there are activities at other locations. I especially like Top of Toronto for networking. Perfect format. Smooth orchestration. For some (pleasant) reason, you don't find the "riff raff" common at many another places.

You also get a volunteer Ambassador to help you benefit from your membership. Mine is golf whiz Andre Gillezeau (LinkedIn profile).


There isn't much opportunity for members to help members by joining committees, writing or speaking. What else can you do besides network and sit in the audience?

Two months ago, I talked to Ravi Nayak, Senior Manager, Small and Medium Markets (LinkedIn profile). He made an excellent suggestion: participate in the private Toronto Board of Trade group on LinkedIn. I did.

That lead to an unexpected opportunity to publicize the TBOT and me.


Yesterday morning, Chris O'Neill, the head of Google Canada spoke. I had two conflicting meetings and couldn't attend but the Toronto Star did. Journalist Cynthia Vukets (@cynthto) wanted to interview TBOT members who used social media well. Jamohl Rutherford, Manager, Member Services (LinkedIn profile) suggested me. I agreed.

Cynthia called right away. She asked if I'd like to chat then or after getting photographed. I suggested we talk first because if I was a bad subject, she could cancel the photography. [Another newspaper once deemed an interview with me boring to publish (see How an actuary invests)]. Cynthia already looked me up online and decided I was fine. That's exactly why you need to use social media too.

The Toronto Star has photographers on standby. Within 90 minutes, Lucas Oleniuk arrived (Mediastorm page and photos from the Greenwall of China). When he saw my office (which I barely finished cleaning), he immediately knew how to compose the frame. Since social media is intangible, he wanted to show the human element.
Photo of Promod Sharma by Lucas Oleniuk (click to read article)
My webcam shows me on a screen facing him. Lucas shot the real and virtual me together. He took 55 shots with two massive Nikon cameras. He'd later upload two or three via his iPhone and await his next assignment, the third of the day. Gone are the days and surprises of darkrooms.

The resulting article, Small Businesses Follow Customers Online was published the same day. The TBOT gets mentioned, president Carol Wilding gets quoted and two members get profiled: Hilde Reis-Smart (LinkedIn profile) and me. That's great for one article. Your thoughts?

How This Happened

The Toronto Board of Trade has some 10,000 members but less than 9% belong to the LinkedIn group. Standing out is easy when others aren't visible, persistent or consistent. Do you belong to relevant LinkedIn groups?

Before joining the TBOT, I had questions and a hectic schedule. I asked if someone could call me at 1 PM the next day. Jamohl phoned right on time. I didn't realize he had a senior role. He convinced me to join even though I'd never attended an event.

During the last four months, we've exchanged several messages through the LinkedIn group. Most recently, I alerted Jamohl to a spammer and he quickly responded. We first met five days ago at a new member bash and he remembered me from our limited contact.

Test Drive

Nonmembers also gain from the Toronto Board of Trade. You can attend events as a visitor but members are more likely to give business to fellow members. I'm glad I joined and look forward to helping more.


PS If you aren't in near Toronto, check out your local Chamber of Commerce or Board of Trade.

1 comment:

  1. I have a friend who works in dental advertising and he said that LinkedIn is now only gaining traction as a very effective social media channel for marketing and networking for any business. What's your last count of your TBOT members in LinkedIn? If it has risen since then, then there's your proof.