Networking is an essential tool for growing your law practice.

But for many lawyers, networking is right up there with getting root canal or spending time in a Porta Potty.

Attending networking functions can feel uncomfortable. What if you don’t know anyone? What should you talk about? How do you find business leads or job opportunities in a large crowd? And which events should you attend?

At the same time, networking can help you increase your circle of business contacts. And the relationships you build today will become the referral sources (or clients) of tomorrow.

Those relationships can also be instrumental in helping you to land future interviews or find out about unadvertised opportunities.

In reality, having one-on-one coffees is often more effective than working a large room; but networking can help you continue to grow your network if you do it right.

Here are some tips to help you overcome your natural aversion and get the most from networking events:

💡Keep your expectations low. If you walk away with two people who you want to follow up with, consider that a success.

💡Arrive early so you can look at the name tags on the registration table and see if you know anyone who will be attending. It will also be easier to connect with people when the room is less crowded.

💡Find other people to go with (i.e. a networking buddy who can help you work the room).

💡Drop a note to someone in your network who might be interested and ask them if they are planning to attend.

💡If you have a way of finding out beforehand who is attending, send a LinkedIn request to the people you want to meet and tell them you look forward to meeting them at the event.

💡If you know the organizer, tell them beforehand the kinds of people you would like to meet and ask if they can make some introductions.

💡Choose events that interest you.  Don’t try to participate in things that don’t feel authentic (If you don’t like golf, don’t play golf; If you don’t drink, don’t go to a wine tasting).

💡Choose events where you are more likely to meet the people you would like to meet (One of my repeat jokes to my clients is:  If you want to marry someone Jewish, don’t hang out at Catholic singles dances.)

💡Make sure you have a 30 second elevator speech (Who are you? Who do you serve? How do you help them?) Introduce yourself in a way that will make people want to find out more about you (i.e. be interesting).

💡When you approach someone, try to get the other person to introduce themselves first.

💡Make good eye contact and ask open ended questions to get the other person talking.  Be curious!

💡Listen for ways that you can be helpful to them (Is there someone you can introduce them to? An article you can share? A movie, restaurant, or podcast you can recommend?)

💡Look for odd numbers of people or people who are not already talking to someone else. It will be easier to break into the conversation.

💡Be prepared to answer the question “what’s new?” This can be something personal or professional (e.g. “My youngest son just started high school”; “I just came back from a great trip to Utah”; “We just won a big victory in Superior Court”; our firm just merged with an IP boutique”; etc.)

💡Try to keep conversations brief and if you are genuinely interested in continuing the conversation with someone, get their business card and ask them if you can follow up for coffee.

💡After the event, make sure to follow up within 24 hours

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