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The return of business after hours

Thandiwe Vela
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, June 20, 2012

From low-key to extravagant after-hours events, more than ever this year members of the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce have been meeting over drinks and catered food at each others' business establishments.

A long tradition of the chamber, the corporate social after-hours events have regained popularity this year - a trend that is part of the chamber's mandate for its 65th anniversary, president Larry Jacquard told Yellowknifer.

"Part of our mandate for the 65th anniversary is to increase activity for our members to create more activity so the members could mingle more," Jacquard said. "The business after hours event is a member-to-member event so it allows our members to invite other members to come and discover their new product, or new business, or new location, and a lot more members are using the service because they see the value in it. It's a great way to network business to business."

Recent successful business after hours events have been hosted by Merle Norman, Force One, Pioneer Supply House, and Matco.

The business owner bears the cost of the event and promotions, which usually runs upwards of $1,000, and the chamber brings together the business community and runs the bar.

With more than 200 members paid to date, and more than 400 followers representing businesses and organizations across the city who attend chamber events, more and more business owners are taking advantage of the after hours exposure to the city's business community.

"This year we have a lot of business owners looking for creative ways to generate local business and the business after hours is a wonderful tool for them to use to do that because we're going to put dozens and dozens people in front of them," said Tim Doyle, executive director of the chamber.

The chamber tends to get about 50 people to these events, and Doyle likens them to charitable golf tournaments, where businesspeople usually meet socially in a relaxed atmosphere.

"It's one of those things where you're away from the office but you're with like-minded peers and business gets done in that type of format," he said. "You're away from everybody else who's overhearing your conversation, you get a chance to let your guard down and relax in that type of atmosphere.

"It's perfectly conducive to creating business opportunities because you're relaxed, you don't have to go in with a hard sale and twist someone's arm."

While some people might be wary of professional boundaries being crossed with drinking at these after hours events, Jacquard does not see that as a major concern.

"Is it informal? Yeah," he said. "We want members to be relaxed around other members. We want them to have fun, to enjoy and discover the services they have to offer, but no I'm not concerned when there's alcohol because our members have enough common sense, especially when you're at another member's business, you're going to respect their event."

Although not many events are scheduled during the summer months, when the community gets quiet, the next business after hours event has been scheduled for July 5, at Blachford Lake Lodge. Several of the 46 tickets have been booked for the event, so the chamber is looking to add an extra flight to the lodge to meet demand.

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