A How-to Guide for Networking at a Print Industry Event

In just a few short weeks, hundreds of printers from across the nation will join up in sunny San Diego for the 7th Annual National Print Owners Association (NPOA) Spring Conference.

We’ll be there, and we hope you’ll stop by and see us! This conference will be a fantastic opportunity for you to get away from the day to day of your print business and be able to invest the necessary time to work ON your business.

If you’re getting ready to go, you can look forward to learning about what’s happening in the print industry as well as take advantage of the chance to connect with other printers in the same daily trenches as you.

To make sure you make the most of this incredible networking opportunity, here are five things you can do to pump up the experience.

1. Get Social!

Thanks to the wonderful world of the internet, some of your greatest connections might not even need to take place face to face:

Don’t miss these social tips:

  • Follow the NPOA Facebook Page to stay up to date on the latest things going on at the conference and to stay connected with others who will be in attendance.
  • Take that same idea a step further by going through the conference agenda and following keynote speakers and workshop presenters of interest on their social media channels.

The more knowledge and interaction you can glean from these sources the better, and you can do so whether you get to meet them face to face or not.

2. Come Prepared

The purpose of these events is to not only learn from the sessions and keynotes but to also network with other printers. Knowing that, it’s important you come prepared to interact with others with more than just a:

“So, uh…, how’s the weather?”

These types of questions are not only awkward, but they also won’t provide you with any real reward for your networking efforts.

Take some time before you arrive at the event to prepare a few open-ended questions like these:

  • Have you been to one of these conferences before?
  • What things should I be sure not to miss?
  • How did you get started in the printing industry?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • Who are your biggest influencers?

If things are going well and you’re comfortable sticking around and continuing the conversation, take it a step further and mention the pain points you’re currently facing. You can then ask for recommendations on what sessions and workshops to attend or what they have done in your shoes.

You’ll also want to consider a separate list with questions you have for vendors or keynote speakers. Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and forget the intentions you set out with. That’s why it’s vital that you have a well-thought-out mission for when you hit the conference floor.

Lastly, don’t forget the print essentials like business or networking cards as well as other conference essentials. Here are a few more tips to help you in this area.

3. Remember the Introverts

At times, conferences can feel a little like a junior high dance.

“Who should I talk to? Will anyone talk to me?” 

If you’re comfortable being the one to make the first move, look for the wallflowers and make it your mission to reach out to them. Everyone wants to feel included, so come with your list of questions in hand and be the one that puts everyone else at ease.

4. Set a Goal and Make it Fun

Since it’s all about making an effort to stretch yourself a little and get out of your comfort zone, why not make it fun?

Set a goal for yourself before the event and make it a game. Then, see if you can beat yourself! Here are a couple of goals you could try:

  • Get five business cards from people you’ve never met
  • Get information from vendors on three different products or services
  • Follow six new people on social media that will provide you with value and help you grow
  • Perform one random act of kindness for a stranger (maybe that’s merely being the first one to start the conversation)

5. Carve Out Time to Regroup

Remember, no one is suggesting that you turn into a networking fool and reach out to others 24 hours a day for the entire time you’re at the conference. That’s not realistic.

Instead, purposefully put some blocks of time in your schedule to step back and regroup. You’ll need that time to re-energize and refocus, and then you can get back to what you went there to do. Expect that to be the case and plan for it. Plan to grab a snack and something to drink at a quiet table away from the crowds or give yourself time to get back to the room for some time to regroup.

All in all, remember that these events might stretch you, but that’s the point — that we spur one another on to greater things and don’t follow each other to failure.