Nicole (Pinto) Stephenson
Programs Director, Society of Professional Women at The Main Line Chamber of Commerce
What is your professional background?
My background is in Communications and Marketing.
What inspired you to transition from KYW Newsradio 1060 to the Society of Professional Women at The Main Line Chamber of Commerce for your career?
The Society of Professional Women program itself inspired me to transition my career. Each event that I attended as a Sponsor would leave me wanting to do more in my personal and professional life. The energy in the room was contagious, and the speakers were incredible. I wanted to be a part of a program that inspired others to better themselves and seize the day. When I was approached about the position, it was a no brainer.
In layman's terms, how does programming within the Chamber of Commerce work?
The programming is planned based on the needs of our members and the members of the community. We have many resources to help us; via multiple committees for each individual program, surveys to membership and sponsors, and a Board of Directors. We also listen to the marketplace and trends.
What’s your average day like?
The average day is mostly preparing for our events. There is a lot of planning that goes into each event. We have to prepare the marketing materials, and set a schedule to communicate our event to the public and our membership through e-mail, social media and ground roots marketing. We have to organize the attendees and seating charts for some events. A timeline and script must be prepared prior and shared with those participating in the program. The venue has to be made aware of all that is going on. There is constant communication with the speakers of each program to determine the topic and presentation details. There is also constant communication with sponsors of the program to be sure they are receiving their benefits.
What has been your greatest accomplishment with the Society of Professional Women?
My greatest accomplishment has been working through the transition of the departure of the SPW Founder in the summer of 2016. Our team worked very hard to ensure a smooth transition. We were able to produce a fantastic 2017 programming lineup and share it in a new very impressive Supplement. I believe that we maintained and even strengthened many of our relationships with the Sponsors of the program, and even added a few new along the way.
What are the most common mistakes that can occur with programming?
Mistakes are typically things that are out of your control. Attendance is the toughest thing to control as there is always a flux of people who say they will come and do not, and those who don’t let you know they are coming and do. You have to be able to give yourself enough flexibility to accommodate that so that you aren’t wasting food but you aren’t under serving. Timing can be another common mistake. Even when you do have a strict timeline and hand signals you will have people who ignore it.
Do you use specialized software in your role? If so, what have you found to be effective?
There are many software programs for Chambers of Commerce to use along with regular events programs. We are currently using a program called SBA, but are considering switching to a program called Chamber Master. I’ll have to get back to you on which is more effective. We are still trying to find that perfect software for us.
What opportunities are now becoming available for businesses to take advantage of?
Joining a Chamber of Commerce is a huge opportunity for a business and even an individual to take advantage of. The benefits are limitless depending on how you decide to use it. The Main Line Chamber provides a wide array of business programs and networking opportunities where members can meet other area business people and potential customers. Members can gain direct exposure to businesses and community leaders in their areas. The newest opportunity at our Chamber is our Talent and Education Network (TEN). We won a $75,000 grant from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to develop strategies to help younger workers more effectively meet the talent needs of employers last year. TEN is designed to help our region's employers forge stronger and more collaborative relationships with our member institutions of higher education. Employers have a vested interest in retaining educated talent in our region.
What do you foresee in the near future?
I’m always hopeful that in the near future we will see a more equal playing field for women and minorities in business. I believe that most companies can no longer ignore having more diverse people in leadership positions. It’s not acceptable if you don’t.
What about the long term?
I think that the equal playing field is within the near future when it comes to obtaining high-level positions, but equal pay is still a long term issue. This is something that cannot be ignored and will need to be continually fought for to make it happen. I also think in the long term, flexibility in the work place will become more acceptable and necessary. With the new generation of workers and advanced technology, working from home and tele-commuting is going to be more common. There are many theories that support the flexibility in a work-place resulting in better performance, loyalty and personal wellness of employees.
What books/blogs/materials about campaign analysis would you recommend?
I would absolutely recommend reading anything from Adam Grant or Sheryl Sandberg. Those two are a power team with a wealth of knowledge! I read a lot of books from many talented individuals who help with campaign analysis. Visit spwmainline.com or follow our social media channels to view our calendar of events. Our topics/speakers are incredible and sample an array of vast topics and categories.
What advice would you give to someone looking to becoming involved with a Chamber of Commerce?
I would say when joining a Chamber, be sure to explore all they have to offer. Our Chamber of Commerce has many different programs, and not every program is right for every person. If you can find one or two things that really work for you, it will be so much more beneficial. Take as many opportunities offered to network as possible. The benefit of being a member of a Chamber is doing business with each other and helping each other.