Face-to-Face Networking—Why & How
“Are you ready?” Lance Lawyer asked his sister, Linda. “I have to be there early to help set up.”
Linda sighed, “I’ve been talking all day. I don’t have any words left.”
“You’ll be fine. You like these events and you said you want to meet the new probate judge,” Lance said as they headed to a bar association networking event.
Lance was right. Linda was the type who enjoyed face-to-face networking, while Lance was more comfortable when he had a task to perform. Both, however, realized the importance of attending networking opportunities.
Why You Need to Network In Person
Lawyers, like most humans, are social beings. Despite all your internet social networking efforts, you must get out of your office and go out into the world.
Meeting people face to face and sharing experiences, ideas, and interests is a valuable opportunity to keep your name and practice visible. Meeting people in person lets your online acquaintances put a face and personality to the name they see on the blog or e-mail or website and helps build trust while creating a positive rapport for future discussions.
Your reasons for attending an event will vary. Lance and Linda are attending a bar association event. As elder-law practitioners, they get referrals from other attorneys and make referrals to lawyers in other practice areas. Their goal is renewing old acquaintances and meeting new members. Were they attending a community event, they would want to meet new people and offer assistance to the group.
How to succeed
Once you’ve decided to attend an event, here’s how to make the most of your time:
- Pinpoint your networking goal.
- Find out who will be there, whom you want to meet, and what you want to know about them.
- Prepare a 10-second introduction. People want to know your name and practice area.
- Think about what you have to give to others.
You’re at the event, it’s the cocktail hour, and people are milling around. Some are naturals at these events—they can schmooze with the best of them. Others need help. People like to talk about themselves, so consider a few questions to get the conversation going.
- How long have you been a member of this organization?
- What keeps you busy outside of your practice?
- What got you interested in ________________?
- I read your book, blog, article . . .
- I just saw on LinkedIn that we went to the same college.
Don’t monopolize the conversation and leave with grace. Introduce the person to a new arrival or simply comment on how much you’ve enjoyed talking with them and excuse yourself, and move on.
You aren’t done when the event is over. If you promised to follow up, do it within a week of the event or you will lose credibility you can never get back.
A healthy network is comprised of contacts from all parts of your life. Face-to-face networking in addition to your internet campaign will help your practice grow.
After years practicing law, Roberta Gubbins served as editor of the Ingham County Legal News. Since leaving the paper, she provides writing services to lawyers ghostwriting content for websites, blogs, and articles. She is editor of The Mentor, the SBM Master Lawyers Section newsletter.
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