This month, we have been talking about networking, and the networking opportunities available to home office workers. On Tuesday, we looked at the local Chamber of Commerce and its events, which are good for interacting with others in your community. But what about others who are in the same industry or line of work as you?
Depending on the industry in which you work, chances are there is some big trade event where vendors and customers meet and network with each other. These are great opportunities to meet new faces, collect business cards, and get your name and face out among potential clients.
How do you find trade events? There are likely one or more trade publications (in print or online) that serve your industry, and these publications include calendars of events. Depending on your industry, there may be a wide variety of events, and they may be far-flung. Choosing which industry event(s) to attend will be a function of your travel budget, the time available, and the perceived return on investment. Maybe your industry’s big annual conference is being held in Dubai this year. Are you likely to get enough new business to justify the expense of traveling there? A smaller, closer-to-home event may be more practical, especially if you have not attended a trade event before.
You may even achieve a certain level of renown in your business so that you are invited to speak or take part in panel discussions at industry trade events, and your own presentations can be excellent promotional opportunities. However, unless you have a great desire to be a professional speaker, you may have to pick and choose these events. After all, travel is disruptive and can take time away from your primary business. And getting on a plane every other week is worse than commuting to an office every day!
You can often find out what trade events are coming to your town by visiting the website of your local (or nearest) convention center. There may be a big expo in your line of business coming to town.
A trade association serving your line of work can also provide good guides to industry events, and probably sponsors its own—both at the local and national (or international) level.
A trade association—and most professions have at least one—is a professional organization that serves a variety of functions, from offering training and educational materials for member companies and individuals, to running trade shows, to serving as “experts” for the media, to promoting a particular industry, to lobbying local, state, and federal governments, and more. Some of the most visible associations are entities such as the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Bar Association (ABA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Lesser known trade associations include the American Mushroom Institute, the American Pie Council, the National Association of Convenience Stores, the Hosiery Association, the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, and Printing Industries of America. In other words, if you are in a particular industry or business, there is quite probably a corresponding association. Also note that there are many state-specific trade associations (the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, for example). A thorough but nowhere near complete list can be found here.
Trade associations can serve as useful resources, not just in the preparatory stages of setting up your business (they can sometimes help answer industry-specific questions and provide news and information about pertinent law and regulatory changes), but also as promotional outlets. Many associations have meetings—from large national or international conferences and conventions to smaller state and regional events—which can provide educational, networking, and even public speaking opportunities. Association publications, either online or in print, can also offer potential venues for you to communicate your expertise to others in your industry.
You can find organizations or associations in your line of work by Googling, say, “management consulting association” and finding, at the top of the hits, the Association of Management Consulting Firms (AMCF). Add your state or even city to your Google search to find any local chapters or local events. Also check your local newspaper, especially if your region has a business publication, for upcoming events.