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Tips for Networking in Any Industry

When you’re new to an industry, there are two things that you must do in order to be successful and relevant, especially in marketing:

1) Become a thought leader in that industry, and

2) Build your professional network.

I’ve been with VP Associations (DBA VP Demand Creation Services) for more than a year now. We’re not only heavily successful in the association and publishing industries, helping clients find and retain members, but we’re also very proficient in fulfillment – helping clients in the foodservice manufacturing industry with their marketing execution. I’ve been able to attend events like trade shows, award ceremonies, and conferences all around the United States. And to my amazement, each requires a completely different approach to connecting with people. I’m not a “people-person” expert by any means, but I’ve picked up on a thing or two in my first year that has to do with networking.

Wherever you are, wherever you go, bring business cards!

If you have the luxury of carrying a purse, backpack, or briefcase, try to always keep a few business cards with you at all times. Whether you’re in the elevator at your hotel or listening to a demonstration in the exhibit hall, come prepared! As a rule of thumb, I try to bring at least triple the number of business cards I think I’ll need. You never know whom you’ll meet (or how many giveaways you might enter).

Set goals for yourself and stick to them.

As previously mentioned, I try to bring at least triple the number of business cards I think I’ll need. Typically, I make it a point to tell myself that I am not allowed to bring back any business cards. This pushes me to get out of my comfort zone to connect with people when typically I’d shy away.

As another example, set a goal to at say hi and introduce yourself to someone you end up standing next to for a brief moment. It sounds weird, but it’s really easy. Riding up the escalator to an event, I introduced myself to a woman and chatted enough to learn that it was both our first time at the event; we ended up running into each other later in the conference and talking for hours.

Connect with people beforehand.

In March, I was able to attend Dscoop – my first conference alone. Being young and new to the print industry, I was a little petrified at the thought of connecting with people on my own; mostly because nowadays, who just walks up to someone to say, “Hi, how are you? Tell me about you.”

Before jet-setting, I reached out to a couple of business development managers who would be attending and asked if they had anyone I might want to connect with during my time there. A simple email asking for connections allowed me to have multiple meetings set up with other marketing professionals in a matter of minutes – all before attending the event!

Scheduling a dinner with someone beforehand is also a great way to connect. People tend to open up about their professional lives more in a relaxed setting – and maybe a beverage in hand.

Get off of your phone and look around you.

It’s crazy what you miss when you’re looking down. It’s even crazier what you see when you put your phone down and everyone is still staring at theirs. As a Millennial, I’m labeled a “Digital Native,” but my generation isn’t the one absorbed by the screen.

At Dscoop, I had a memorable instance where disconnecting from my phone allowed me to meet someone new. As I was sitting in a session, waiting for a speaker, a woman sitting behind me tapped on my shoulder and shared that I was smart to bring a sweater. I told her I was from Michigan, so I knew all about the cold. Come to find out, she was, too!

Networking can be challenging at first, especially when you’re new to an industry. You’re still learning; you’re not as confident as you would like to be. But with the right attitude and motivation, you’ll be a social butterfly in no time! Have any questions, comments, or tips to share? Connect with me on LinkedIn!

Article written by:

McKenzie Decker

Marketing Manager

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