Many senior lawyers and Partners within law firms find attending events and networking to be a highly successful way to build their practices. When done well, it can be a great opportunity to meet and start a business relationship with new people in a relaxed environment. However, for many lawyers in the early stages of their career, or those who are naturally more shy or introverted, the idea of attending an event to meet new people sounds like one of the worst things they could imagine.
It is perfectly natural to be apprehensive or even fearful of attending these events, even the most experienced networkers would sometimes prefer being sat at home watching TV, rather than mingling in a crowd. A lot of these feelings come down to how the day at work has gone. After all, however great your job, and however much you enjoy it, you’ll still have off days. But much like a trip to the gym or a run, you need to do it. Skipping the event, you meant to attend becomes a habit, the wrong kind of habit. So instead, build the right habits and be confident to attend networking events no matter how you are feeling.
To help build this talent, it helps to build your confidence with some simple tips to assist you to overcome your fears and apprehensions. Here are 6 simple tips to help you feel more prepared for your next event.
1. Do your research.
Read what’s going on in the industry or sector relevant to the networking event you are attending and what the current trends are. If the event has speakers, then look up the details of those speakers and read any articles they may have published around the topics they will be talking about. Understanding these will help ally your fears as you’ll feel more in control due to the preparation you have made, and it will help you to have a broader and more interesting conversation with the people you meet.
2. Be wary of setting a target number of people you need to meet.
Some people swear by this, but one thing a lifetime in sales and business development has taught me is that sales is not simply a numbers game. Personally, I think it is ridiculous to say you’re going to swap cards with, say, 10 people at a networking event. This is networking, it isn’t speed dating. I’ve been on the receiving end of this approach and clearly, I wasn’t the intended audience, so I had a business card quickly shoved in my hand before my speed-networker moved on to the next person in the room. One good meaningful conversation is far better than 10 pointless ones. I once went to a networking event and only spoke to one person who was hanging around the side-lines. He turned out to be the CEO of a major property investment group, we built some good rapport and lots of business followed.
3. Arrive at the networking event early or at least on time.
People make impressions based on their appearance and timekeeping. We all like to work with people we can rely on, and being a person who arrives in good time is all part of actively demonstrating your reliability. It’s simple but effective.
4. Avoid overtly selling or pitching.
Networking is purely about building rapport so that the other person has a desire to meet with you again. Therefore, avoid giving someone your 30-second elevator pitch. You may have practiced it and got it down to a fine art, but have you noticed the other person’s eyes glaze over when you blurt it out? Yes, share what you do, but then get back into conversation mode ASAP. Ask lots of questions, use this time to be curious and get to understand the other person better. From these questions, you’ll find that synergies between the two of you happen much more naturally.
5. Remembering people and the details of what they do.
After a talk and perhaps a couple of drinks at the end of a long day, this suddenly seems not a simple task, but more of a herculean one. So, the trick is not to put it off, but get the details down whatever way that works best for you early. Here are some simple tips that I’ve seen many people in professional services employ successfully:
- Write notes on the business cards you receive.
- Write notes on the way home / outside on your phone.
- Send yourself an e-mail.
- Call your office phone and leave yourself a voicemail.
6. Follow up on your networking that day or the next morning.
Don’t put this off. If you don’t follow up, then you’ve basically wasted all the networking you have done. Block out 15-30 mins in your diary that day, at an appropriate time to do your follow-ups. When following up send an email expressing how you enjoyed your conversation and meeting them, give maybe a bullet point summary of what you discussed, and if appropriate, suggest a coffee or more formal meeting as the next stage.
The above 6 steps should help give you a simple structure and some confidence to go out and network. One of the best bits of advice is that, like any new skill you are learning or a skill you are seeking to improve, the more you practice, the better you will get. If you want more information on enhancing your skills visit this resource. Of course, the best method to improve any skill is by practice; simply do as much networking as possible.
Ben Paul is the CEO The BD Ladder, a consultancy specialising in helping Legal firms grow their revenue and building effective BD and marketing strategies. He has held senior BD and marketing roles in leading law firms and has over two decades’ experience in business development and marketing. Connect with Ben via LinkedIn