Unlike participating in an international trade show or local expo, attending an industry conference puts you in an environment where most of the people you meet will likely be experts in your field.
An industry conference is a prime place for networking, as well as a venue for effective brand activation among business leaders.
This is because attendees of trade shows and expos include your end consumers, whereas an industry conference has you shoulder-to-shoulder with the professionals working within your own sector.
As such, an industry conference is a prime place for networking, as well as a venue for effective brand activation among business leaders who could become potential future collaborators on upcoming projects.
Brazen Marketing notes that developing new connections or promising partnerships are two of the key benefits of attending an industry conference, but there is an art to networking among your peers.
Let's explore some expert tips on successful networking at an industry conference.
Know the six types of networking personalities
Business 2 Community notes that there are six main networking styles. Identifying a persona when you meet one can help you tailor your behaviour to suit their style, so be aware of the traits of each:
- Connectors: Professionals who are well-connected and seem to know everyone in the industry, and are renowned themselves. They enjoy introducing you to others in the field after engaging you in a conversation, often asking intelligent questions that help them match you to their human database of connections.
- Wallflowers: Quiet individuals who tend to avoid eye-contact, keep their head down and may not be as comfortable with conversing. However, a bit of research may prove to be fruitful as wallflowers could be key players in an organisation.
- Socialites: These professionals seek social meetings to develop business plans over formal encounters. Creative industries would typically benefit from socialite-style networking.
- Handshakers: Quantity trumps quality for these individuals, who are determined to meet as many people as possible armed with a lot of business cards. Their goal is to spread the word, as opposed to having deeper interactions.
- Dealmakers: Attending the event with a clear agenda, dealmakers are keen to solidify contracts so Business 2 Community suggests being warm and friendly to potential offers but avoiding committing to a deal then and there.
- Power Networkers: High-level professionals who are at a point in their careers where they value between 3-5 quality, meaningful connections instead of leaving the conference with a pocket brimming with business cards. An elevator pitch is ideal for interacting with power networkers, as they will keep that in mind when seeking a referral for you.
Accountemps by Robert Half adds that for your networking efforts to pay off, you'll need a solid opening and closing. Repeating names during introductions establishes a strong first human connection, such as by saying "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mark", but conclude the interaction by following up after the conference to cement your connections.
Have a booth space that encourages networking
To help your business stand out at the industry conference, investing in a custom stand or conference booth design is an ideal solution. Usually, the stock-standard "shell-scheme" or bland white panel box style booths pervade industry conferences which is why a bespoke design really makes a dramatic statement and is memorable.
Many industry conferences or boutique marketing events emphasise face-to-face relationships, so incorporating clever seating into your booth design is a smart move. Bar stools in quirky colours or modern furniture shapes are examples, but for the ultimate brand activation, choose a colour palette that complements your company logo and a vibe that portrays your brand ethos.
In the example shown here, the team at Proj-X designed and delivered a booth for Laing O'Rourke, a globally focussed engineering enterprise. Networking was made simpler by the provision of a round table surrounded by tall bar stools, a classic way for a group of people to engage in discussion and establish eye-contact without having the 'head of the table' power pressure that square or rectangular tables bring. All the furniture was in brand colours for a cohesive, activating space.
Networking was made simpler by the provision of a round table surrounded by tall bar stools.
The booth was framed with even more seating, in an L-shape formation that also lends itself to easy conversation. Bottles of water were also in supply, as a kind gesture to people who would like to quench their thirst after talking for a while.
Harvard Business Review adds that technology is a key segment in modern day industry conferences, which is why large television screens incorporated in our design offered a visually stimulating backdrop to the conversations.
The team at Proj-X has ample experience in delivering customised booth designs that enhance and respond to your business brand, so talk to us about your vision and goals for an industry conference and we can develop a creative solution for you.