Networking is an art and, like all arts, there are many styles and degrees of proficiency. This week I am offering some advanced tips on how to leverage your attendance at conferences and similar events. Everyone knows that speaking at conferences provides exposure and credibility. However, most lawyers neglect other salient opportunities for connecting with potential clients, referral sources, and new partners. Next time, try some of these:
(1) Sit with the cool kids – It’s generally pretty easy to discover who the movers and shakers are in a particular organization. Seek these people out. Sit with them at lunch. Ask them questions. Sheryl Sandberg talks about how even quite senior women tend to sit on the periphery rather than, literally, taking a seat at the table. The same thing applies at conferences. Many people deliberately choose to sit away from the bigwigs, because they aren’t sure they belong, don’t want to impose, don’t want to seem pushy, etc. Yet meeting people and developing relationships is one of the main purposes of conferences. So take advantage of the opportunity.
(2) Do your research and create excuses to talk to your targets – Read the conference materials that are available beforehand. Research speakers. Decide with whom you wish to connect. Then, think of a reason to talk with them, a way to foster a relationship. Maybe you are writing an article and that person would make a great co-author. Maybe you are considering moving to a new firm and would like to speak with someone who works there. Even those uninterested in idle chitchat will be happy to talk with you if they can see a potential benefit.
(3) If you are not speaking at the conference, position yourself to do that next year – As you attend breakout sessions, think about topics that may be missing this year about which you have expertise. Look for opportunities to talk about your ideas with other attendees and get feedback. Talk with conference organizers and find out when they will be requesting proposals for the following year.
(4) If you are a speaker and don’t have a twitter account, set one up – People will be tweeting about the conference and you want them to be able to easily reference you in their tweets. Even if you don’t do anything but set up the account, you will most likely get some followers, based simply on your presentation. This is a quick and painless way to gain some credibility quickly on this new (for you) platform.
(5) Tweet in real time about the conference – This is the virtual version of “sit with the cool kids.” It’s really all about connecting with the influencers. Those who are active on twitter will be tweeting about the conference and also looking to see who is doing the same. Publicly saying positive things about a speaker, sharing their insights, and retweeting others’ content is a quick and easy way to create interesting tweets directly relevant to your target audience AND get the attention of those big influencers who might not otherwise notice you.
Let me know how it goes!