Smith, on the other hand, was encouraged by his boss. “He was the president of the St. Petersburg section of the Tampa Bay Chapter. Through meetings and things like that I ended up becoming an officer,” Smith says. After Smith moved to Sarasota, he took a few years off before getting involved in the Gulf Coast Chapter. Here he held positions as chapter director, vice president and then president.
Meyer adds that one of the benefits AIA offers its members is the ability to choose how actively they participate. “It can be used as only a resource without actively participating. You can use its contracts, knowledge areas on the website, go to conventions, and partake in continuing education — a more passive function. Or if you want to get involved, if you have a passion for something, AIA is great for that, too. Here in Minnesota we have 23 different committees working on state and regional issues. If you want to go to meetings, make something happen in your community or meet like-minded people, there’s a lot of opportunity,” he says.
Both presidents say the networking opportunities offered by being a member of AIA are rewarding. “I enjoy the camaraderie and meeting other architects. We get together and share war stories. It’s a healing process to know that you’re not the only one out there with problems or challenges with building officials, owners or contractors,” Smith says.
Smith explains that there are two types of networking: office networking and business networking. “Sharing ideas professionally is office networking. Then there’s business networking. As an AIA officer, I’ve spoken before the county commission, city commission, city planning board and county planning board. I’ve been interviewed by magazines, newspapers and TV. That has all helped in name recognition and is an opportunity to get your [business] name out there,” he says.
In the end, both chapter presidents find that being a member of AIA is a great resource for education, networking and growth. “AIA provides a way to distinguish yourself and show that you’re at the top of your game. It’s a terrific way to advance yourself through membership both from a layer of prestige but particularly for the resources and connection,” Meyer says.
Smith adds that AIA is the only professional organization that’s looking out for the best interest of architects. “The larger our numbers, the stronger we are. Without the AIA, you wouldn’t have the great documents, or the voice in Washington,” he says. “It’s a great way to be represented. [Architects] will enjoy it.”