by Debra Gray King, DDS, FAACD
A wise person once said, “Friends in your life are like pillars on your porch. Sometimes they hold you up and sometimes they lean on you. Sometimes it’s just enough to know they’re standing by.” This has proven true in my personal as well as professional life as I think of some of the best friendships I have developed through my involvement in the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.
In the early days of the Academy, I met and became friends with many of the icons of dentistry while my children played in the pool or as I ate at roundtable breakfasts. I have found that the AACD has always offered a friendly environment in which speakers were more than happy to chat over a cold beverage.
For many dentists, like many busy business owners, networking is one of the most overlooked aspects of professional development. Professional networking is simply creating and cultivating friendships and acquaintances within your profession for mutual benefit. It is the lifeblood of strong practices and long-term, respected careers. Here are some suggestions to help you begin creating a professional networking group.
Get Started by Joining the AACD
Whatever description appearance-enhancing functional dentistry is going by - esthetic, beautiful restorative, or cosmetic - it is a growing segment of most dental practices. The AACD is the largest professional organization in the world specifically dedicated to cosmetic dentistry. There is undeniable power in numbers - and that certainly applies to networking. The AACD has more than 8,000 members internationally. This makes it is a great resource, whether you have a patient on vacation in Barcelona with a dental emergency or one visiting relatives in Omaha with a similar need. Joining is simple. Just go online to AACD.com.
Attend the Next Annual Scientific Session in Atlanta
The AACD annual meeting, which this year will be in Atlanta, is the best way to jump-start your networking project. There will be many opportunities - from the welcome and new-member receptions, through the great programming, and the final dinner dance. The scientific program is outstanding and includes hands-on workshops as well as presentations from dentistry’s masters. You will have an opportunity to hear the best and make friends with dentists from around the globe. I have not missed a meeting in 15 years, and do not plan to miss this one!
Take Advantage of Local Chapter Meetings
A network of AACD-affiliated chapters can be found throughout the world. These local affiliates - from California to Maine to Russia - provide a variety of programming and networking for members on a local level. These smaller groups allow dentists to have more one-on-one interaction and enjoy the benefits of learning together via peer interaction. For the most recent listing of AACD chapters and CE offerings, check out AACD.com.
Volunteer in the AACD
It is true that “The love you get is equal to the love you give.” As in many professional organizations, there is a real need for volunteers for national and local roles. Volunteer opportunities include working on various committees, handling public relations, working with meeting planners, writing articles, and donating your expertise for victims of domestic violence through the AACD’s “Give Back A Smile” program. These opportunities deliver their own rewards while allowing you to serve others in important ways.
AACD-Originated Mastermind Groups
After you make friends with like-minded dentists in other locations, it makes sense to keep in touch on a regular basis to discuss problems and opportunities that you may face in your practice. A number of like-minded groups of professionals have evolved naturally from member involvement in the AACD. Frequently called mastermind groups, these small groups are an excellent way to network. They allow you to work on communication skills as well as any underlying issues you may be experiencing in your office. Your peers often can provide the help that you need. Learn to share. If something has worked for you in the past, do not keep it a secret. Sharing your successes, and even your failures, with your peers will build relationships and attract even more networking partners.
Get on Accreditation Track
Accreditation in the AACD is not just a benefit you receive at the end of the process. Rather, it is the professional journey to Accreditation that is the reward. The knowledge learned, the confidence added to your skills, the people met - are all part of the rewards. You also will discover you have peers who will help you succeed. Many will give you constructive feedback on your case selection, photography, presentation tips, and any other aspect that will help guarantee your success. To make sure that this mentoring process happens, the AACD provides members who can mentor you through the process of Accreditation. This is not intended to be too presumptive or formal, but rather to facilitate a natural relationship with a helpful source of beneficial information on the Accreditation process.
Professional Speaking and Writing
“What?! Stand up in front of an audience and give a lecture! Are you kidding? I’d rather die!” In fact, most people are terrified to give speeches. But once you overcome fear, speaking to audiences - whether large or small - can be a powerful way to generate opportunities and re-energize your career. You will discover that presenting lectures forces you to master material. Thus, your credibility among peers can skyrocket.
In essence, you are showcasing your talents, expertise, and confidence. The members’ Pearls segment of the AACD’s annual meeting frequently gives members a first opportunity to present their material. It is not uncommon for other dental meeting scouts to be at the AACD meetings. So after your presentation, you may be invited to speak to another group.
Nothing improves your dentistry more than sharing it with your peers! You also might be asked to work with companies in a consulting, contract, or employment role to help them achieve success. In addition, making available a list of your presentations on a CD or your office Web site can be a grand-slam home run. The personal satisfaction, pride, sense of accomplishment, and gift you have given others are rewards that are beyond description.
AACD On-Line Referrals
The AACD has a number of possibilities for generating professional referrals. The membership directory is a referral source for academy members. Moreover, if you Google “cosmetic dentistry,” the AACD Web site will be one of the first entries to appear. The newly redesigned Web site at AACD.com is not only popular with search engines, but also with dental consumers who seek straightforward, unbiased, reliable information on cosmetic dental procedures. The online directory of AACD-qualifying dentists worldwide also is available to consumers and fellow dental professionals.The items mentioned in this article are just some of the wonderful networking opportunities available to you. Take the challenge and reap the rewards of professional networking. Join the AACD and get involved. You will be glad you did.
Debra Gray King, DDS, FAACD, is Accredited, a Fellow, and a member of the AACD’s Board of Directors. A clinical instructor in cosmetic dentistry, her practice in Atlanta has been featured on Fox News, CNN, Time, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and ABC’s Extreme Makeover. Contact her via the Web at www.atlantacenterforcosmeticdentistry.com.