How To Network At An Industry Conference (And Why You Should)

Photo by HIVAN ARVIZU @soyhivan on Unsplash

If you’re looking for a job or you’re trying to find new opportunities in your current career field, one of your best options for meeting new people is networking at an industry conference. But why is networking at industry events so valuable and how can you make the most of it?

Finding the Right Industry Events

For almost every conceivable industry, there’s a slew of different conferences held each year – and with virtual attendance possibilities, it’s easier to get involved than ever before. In 2021, for example, there were many virtual fleet management conferences available to industry professionals – and moving forward, most conferences in the industry have both physical and virtual attendance options. 

Almost any industry event you attend is going to present networking opportunities, but some are going to be better for your end goals than others. Carefully consider where the event is being held, what types of people are going to attend, and what else you can learn by attending.

The Value of Networking

Let’s take a look at the value of networking at an industry conference. Why is this such a rewarding activity?

  • New perspectives and ideas. For starters, meeting new people who are all involved in the same industry you are is a great way to get exposed to new perspectives and new ideas. You’ll learn more about how other people see your industry and how they’re adapting to new changes. You may also get inspired to change how you’re working or come up with some new ideas on your own.
  • Partnership and employment opportunities. Depending on where you are in your career, networking could be valuable for forming partnerships or new employment opportunities. If you’re new to this field, this is a great place to meet prospective employers; if you have more experience, you could meet people who share your experience and enthusiasm and want to build a new enterprise.
  • Competitive research. Competitive research can be valuable in two different contexts. If you’re trying to create new products or innovate in some way that’s compelling to your customers, you need to know what your top competitors are currently doing. If you’re competing in the job market, it’s also helpful to know what your peers are offering to prospective employers.
  • Time maximization. Industry conferences play out over the course of hours, and sometimes days. Not all of this time is going to be spent in workshops and seminars, so networking is a way to fill the gaps with more meaningful interactions.
  • Social and personal benefits. You never know who you might meet at an industry conference – you could even end up meeting a new best friend.

Tips for Industry Conference Networking

So how do you make the most of your industry conference networking?

  • Prepare to offer value. There’s nothing wrong with asking for a favor or seeking guidance, but you’re going to have much more success in networking if you have value to offer to others – rather than exclusively trying to get value from others. Is there something you can share or teach?
  • Dress and present yourself well. First impressions matter. Make sure to dress and present yourself well. Check a mirror before interacting with others in person, perfect your posture, and be mindful of your body language.
  • Be yourself. Too many people end up putting on a fake, “professional” personality when interacting with colleagues. You’ll find much better results if you simply commit to being yourself. People appreciate sincerity, especially in these environments.
  • Commit some personal details to memory. When meeting new people, try to remember one or two personal details about them, such as where they live, or what kind of family they have. It makes people feel good when you remember these things, and it can serve as a jumping-off point for your next conversation.
  • Take notes if you have to. Don’t hesitate to take notes if you need a memory assist.
  • Get contact information to connect in multiple ways. Try to connect with people in multiple ways, getting their phone number, email address, and connecting on social media. This way, you have multiple ways to reach out in the future.
  • Prepare to follow up. Don’t let your network decay due to inattention. Instead, prepare to follow up with all the new contacts you’ve made on a regular basis.

Networking is a skill, much like any other. The more time you spend actively networking with other professionals, the better you’re going to be at it. You’re going to feel more comfortable and more competent, and networking is going to feel more natural to you. 

All the while, your network will be expanding, and your career possibilities will continue to grow.

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