Relationship Building at Networking Events: A How-To Guide for Lawyers
It’s been estimated that more than 80% of jobs are filled as the result of networking. Moreover, because more than 95% of professionals say that face-to-face interactions are vital to maintain long-term business relationships, it’s clear networking for attorneys isn’t optional.
But the term “networking” is broad, even by its definition, which is: “the exchange of information or services among individual groups or institutions; specifically, the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.” Since the goal of networking lies in cultivating relationships, it’s prudent to implement the following suggestions to build relationships through specific actions while networking.
- Be Strategic When Selecting Networking Events to Attend
Too often, attorneys view attendance at networking events as a bit of a crapshoot. They attend many events, hoping something will yield results. That’s not an effective way to market yourself, and it’s not an efficient way to network. Instead, identify two or three organizations to focus your efforts on and assess the ROI after six months or a year. If you don’t have time to research countless organizations, consider engaging help from a marketing agency for lawyers, which will identify key conferences and events, and create a strategic networking calendar that will be effective and efficient.
- Network with Attorneys and Non-Attorneys Alike
The number one referral source for many attorneys is other attorneys. However, that doesn’t mean attorneys should focus all networking efforts on building relationships with their legal peers. You never know the potential value of a non-attorney connection, until you forget it.
- Prepare to Describe Your Practice Succinctly & Memorably
Beyond keeping your elevator pitch brief, you want to explain your practice, expertise and value to clients in a way that will be memorable. It’s safe to say if you describe yourself as a business litigator specializing in working with small to mid-sized businesses, people may not remember what you do the next day, let alone ten minutes later. Be specific in explaining how you help others and, ideally, use an example to illustrate who you work with and how you work with them.
- Commit to Being Proactive
Networking events are not the place to be a wallflower. If you’re not proactively seeking to meet others, you’ll wind up reacting to those who approach you. And if showing up with a colleague allows you to feel more comfortable, do it, but be careful to not just talk to that person all evening.
- Use Your Ears and Mouth Proportionately
Networking events are the perfect place to remember that you’ve got two ears, and just one mouth, so using them proportionately is beneficial as it will result in active listening. Just because the person you’re speaking with doesn’t have an obvious need for your services, they may in the future or could be an introduction to someone that does. If you’re too focused on immediate business, you may miss an opportunity for work down the road.
- First Names Should Be First Priority
Building relationships requires trust, and to ensure those you meet and connect with recognize that you value them, be sure to commit their name to memory. Often, the easiest way to do this is through reiterating their name upon introduction, and before you part ways.
- Focus on Faces, Not Food/Drink
To make the most out of your networking efforts, turn your focus away from any social lubricants such as alcohol or food. You’re there first and foremost to build relationships, so spend at least the early part of the event maximizing your outreach before dining or heading to the bar.
- Touch Base Before Calling It a Day
For those who you forge a legitimate connection with, take a few moments before you leave the event to touch base again. A simple exchange of business cards or a handshake can go a long way towards reinforcing the fact that you enjoyed the conversation and truly would like the relationship to continue.
- Follow Up with Friendly Advice
If you didn’t get to say goodbye at the event, send a follow-up email acknowledging that you enjoyed meeting and talking with them. It can be very impactful to also send along a helpful article, recent blog, etc., that is pertinent to a discussion you had.
By following these nine best practices for maximizing your time and building relationships at networking events, you’ll ensure that you are using your time wisely and laying the foundation for continuing success.