There are a lot of things you need to do if you really want to build your business and your network. Some of them are simple, like mastering local SEO and basic website maintenance. Others require a more delicate hand, like learning how to manage employees and clients elegantly. And others, well, others you’d probably rather not do, like attend industry events and conferences. After all, networking has never really been your thing, right?
Guess what: anything can become your thing if you actively work on getting better at it. And, though you might be loathe to admit it, showing up at industry events is important if you want to establish yourself as any sort of player on your chosen field. After all, networking events aren’t just about selling your products and promoting your services (though they can be great for that). They are also about building your network of partners and referrals.
Here are just some of the reasons you should make sure to attend at least a few of your industry’s events this year.
Connecting with the Top Brass
You’ve been emailing the major players in your industry for months hoping to set up a meeting with any of them. You’re not necessarily trying to pitch your idea. You just want to pick their brains for a few minutes about your field, where it’s going, etc. Mostly, you just these Big Kids to know who you are. Unfortunately, being the Big Kids that they are, they’re all either too busy to set up a meeting anytime soon or they live too far away to do anything but Skype.
At your industry’s annual conference, though, you’ll get the opportunity to hear a lot of these key players speak. You’ll also likely get the chance for at least a quick meet and greet. And hey, you never know. Offering to buy someone a cup of coffee, a drink or even lunch, could be accepted. Even if it isn’t, if you continue to go to these events and make a point of saying hello to these Big Kids, they’ll start to remember you and your network will grow by default.
Education is Important!
Outside of making contact with the Big Kids, there’s the fact that conventions and conferences are great places to learn. You’ll be able to learn about techniques and technologies both existing and upcoming that will help you grow your business. This is especially true at the industry’s Big Annual Events. It is at these events that new technologies are often revealed. Just look at Apple. Wouldn’t you love to be in the room, watching those presentations in person and getting to actually play with the new toys before they’re released to the public?
Conferences and conventions are one of the few times when self promotion isn’t just accepted, it’s often encouraged. Call the conference organizers and volunteer for a panel or two. Or heck, submit your own talk for consideration! Being a panelist or presenter at an industry event is a fantastic way to help establish yourself as an expert in your field. You might also make a few new fans, er, network connections as a result!
Another great way to do this is to pony up the cash for a table in the conference’s exhibition or vendor area. Having a booth or a table is a great way to bring in a bunch of extra sales and to reach a lot of new customers–especially when your company is still new and trying to grow its presence.
Conferences are for Introverts Too
Maybe walking up to strangers and introducing yourself isn’t your thing. That’s okay! These days most conventions and events have some kind of internal social network or app. For example, the Exhibitor Media Group used the networking conference app at their annual event and attendees reported loving the ability to connect in a digital “safe” space before meeting in person. So, even if you’re the type of person to sit in the back of the room, you can use the event’s app to connect with the presenters, leave feedback, introduce yourself to potential clients and industry partners. etc. Being shy doesn’t give you a pass to stay home anymore!
It’s also worth noting that many events are trying to accommodate their introverted and socially anxious attendees. PAX, one of the world’s biggest conventions for gamers, for example, set up a “quiet space” where people could go and decompress when they needed a break from the crowds and it was a huge success.
Industry events and conferences can be awkward at first, sure. But the more you attend, the easier they get! Soon they’ll feel like fun reunions. We promise!