The art of networking in the manufacturing sector
July 9, 2023 | By Sukanya Ray Ghosh
No one is an island unto themselves within the manufacturing industry. Everyone needs support from different corners to remain competitive, successful and relevant in this economically tough market. Networking is key to building those crucial connections. So, how do you network within the industry?
Industry events are an excellent place to begin. Most events today dedicate separate times throughout the day for networking side-events and parties. They serve as an excellent opportunity to start conversations with multiple suppliers and OEMs. They offer the perfect space to dialogue with industry peers and evaluate respective situations, identify common challenges and possible solutions for them, exchange lessons learnt on technology adoptions and much more.
Major industry events and tradeshows are often massive in size and scale and can be overwhelming. It is, therefore, important to be prepared ahead of time. Details of exhibitors and networking events are usually available in advance on the events’ dedicated websites. It is always good to browse through and create a networking “plan of attack” to be able to extract the most out of the time spent there. Of course, many opportunities present themselves organically. So, just being there is a step in the right direction.
While exhibitors love to meet their potential customers, busy trade show floors can often hinder conversations or not allow you to have ample time to build that connection. If there are people or companies on your “must-meet” list, setting up appointments in advance can be helpful. Instead of feeling rushed, both parties can remain focussed and relaxed while discussing topics that you have perhaps decided on ahead of time.
Networking need not take place just on the trade show floor. Many industry events host networking parties in the evenings that are excellent to have conversations, meet new people and make new friends in a casual setting, while having fun along the way. I was recently at the 2023 Automate Show in Detroit and had the opportunity to attend two such networking parties. With fewer tables available compared to the number of people attending, it was not uncommon for strangers to share a table when having their food and drinks. I was able to meet some amazing new people in the process. My colleague even met someone who went to the same public school as her! I remember having interesting conversations about how terribly mind-boggling and fascinating automation technologies are going to be in the future. I came across familiar faces and connected in-person with people I had only met virtually so far.
Networking is not limited to the major industry events only. Often, suppliers put together day-long events on a smaller scale to discuss their products, services and solutions. Such events can bring in the local manufacturing community in one place for the day, help highlight the area-specific market conditions while discussing solutions that have worked nationally or globally.
It is not enough to stop with the exchange of business cards at events. To realize the full value of networking opportunities, it is worthwhile to drop a message or place a quick call after the event to ensure that the connection continues. Being strategic can help build long-term relationships and partnerships.
Do you have a networking strategy that works for you every time? Share your thoughts with us at email@example.com.
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