Rainmaking Recommendation # 192: 10 (of Many) Best Networking Practices for Networking Events

Apparently, according to my friend and colleague, Lindsay Griffiths, the Executive Director of the International Lawyers Network, it’s International Networking Week. I had no idea that there even was such a thing until last year.  It is to celebrate how networking helps business professionals grow their businesses. 

Heck, if there can be a National Weatherman’s Day (February 5th) or Tell a Fairy Tale Day (February 26th), I guess there can be a week devoted to celebrating networking (personally, I think every day should be networking day – particularly for lawyers’ business development.)

But it is fortuitous that it is International Networking Week because I wrote this blog to provide you with 10 of the many, many best practices for going to networking events. This isn’t even close to being an exhaustive list.

Even with the rise of technology, even with social media, even with all of the things you can do online or on your smartphone, in-person networking is still one of the best business development activities you can engage in to build your book of business.   

Yet, many lawyers engage in what I call “random acts of networking.”  And when they get the business card from another person, they wind up putting it in a pile on the corner of the desk, or more likely, the skinny top drawer.  It isn’t doing you any good there.  Or worse, they do not engage in any networking at all, preferring to stay behind their computers cranking out billable work.

You cannot build a book of business if you do not meet people.  And while you can meet people online (and this is the subject of a different Rainmaking Recommendation), we are still in a people-to-people business as lawyers regardless of what type of law you practice.   

So, here are 10 best “in-person” networking practices you should start to follow:

  1. Always be networking. Talk to anyone and everyone you can when the opportunities arise. The other day I was in a Dunkin Donuts and shared a table with a gentleman with whom I was able to refer one of my lawyer clients – and this was just from chatting with him for 15 minutes.      
  2. Always carry business cards with you at all times.   I mean this – at ALL TIMES.  This goes along with number 1.  You never know who you are going to meet.

Going to networking events:   

3. Find out where your ideal clients meet and then go to that event.  Every industry, every target market, every niche has a meetup or association; start going to those events to meet your ideal clients.

4. Do your research.  Many times you can find out who is attending by contacting the organizer or looking at the list of members of the group.  When you arrive you can search out the people you would like to meet.

5. Do not give out your card unless you are explicitly asked, but always ask for their card.  You are now in charge of making sure the relationship moves forward.  When you give someone your card, for some reason we tend to think they are going to follow up. 

6. Always follow up! Again, it is up to you to begin the relationship and move it forward.  You never know who they know or if they will ever need your services.

7. Follow up quickly.  You will become a distant memory in a short period of time, so you have about 48 hours to reconnect.  Do so via email or connect with them on LinkedIn. 

8. Always carry a pen with you.  Write down the date and location of the networking event and a few words on the back of that person’s card that will remind you of what you discussed.  Do not rely on your memory.

 9. Try to meet as many people at the event as you can.  While you are not just there to collect cards, you are there to meet people.  Politely extricate yourself from conversations by saying that you will follow up with them and tell them when you will do so.  

10. Do not network with people you already know.  You can acknowledge them when you see them but tell them you will call or email them and try to set up a date to meet to talk more.

And a few bonuses:

Always wear a suit jacket or blazer with pockets.  Put your cards loose in your left-hand pocket and when you collect their cards, put them in your right-hand pocket.  It can be frustrating waiting for the person to pull out their elaborate cardholder or try to find their card in the stack they have already collected.  This way, when you get back from the event, you only have to pull out their stack of cards and start following up (and not have to separate your cards from theirs).

And, if you are an introvert and think to go to networking events is about as much fun as a root canal, remember networking is about meeting one-on-one.  There will be other people there who are just as uncomfortable as you.  Then can usually be found on the outskirts of a conversation, or near the buffet or bar by themselves.  Go up to them.  Both you and they will be happy you did. 

Networking, when done correctly, can become one of your best tools to create relationships.  And relationships = rainmaking. 

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