Networking isn’t optional for attorneys who want to grow their book of business, but it can be less than pleasant for a lot of people. Thoughts of networking can often bring up memories of events spent making small talk with people or feeling uncomfortable. Since networking is such a critical part of business development for attorneys, we put together a few ways you can make the experience more enjoyable.
Take a friend
Networking events are instantly less intimidating with someone you know by your side. The ultimate goal is to make new connections, so make sure you don’t spend too much time with your wingperson. Sometimes just having someone you know in the room can make the situation less intimidating, knowing that if a conversation is stalling you have at least one person you can converse with.
Remember, networking isn’t just events
You don’t need to sign up for cocktail hours to engage in networking. No matter where you are, you have the potential to meet new contacts that could turn into clients or referral sources. In the elevator, at the courthouse or at a sporting event – opportunities to make new connections are everywhere.
If you do have to go to a networking event you’re not looking forward to, try to set a goal such as making two new connections. This way, you’ll be motivated to accomplish it and you’ll also know once you hit it, you can leave guilt-free.
Sometimes getting a conversation going can be the hardest part of networking. The best way to get someone talking is to ask them questions about themselves. You don’t need to stick strictly to the professional questions like, “what area do you practice in?” or, “who did you clerk for?”
Branch out into questions that can help develop a more solid connection, including personal information you can use to quickly connect with that person next you see them. For example, you can ask if they have any vacation plans that summer.
Network in your own way
As we said, networking doesn’t happen just as specified “networking events.” If you truly don’t enjoy them, then don’t do them. People connect most with people they feel comfortable around, and if you really don’t want to be somewhere people will pick up on that. So do networking your own way. You can volunteer, organize one-on-one meetings, or any other strategy you actually like.
The internet has also introduced the ability to network online, with professional platforms like LinkedIn offering a way to stay in touch and make new connections all from your computer.
Have a purpose
Without a purpose, networking can feel aimless and that aimless conversation tends to lead to more awkwardness. Know what you want to get out of the conversation. You don’t want to sell yourself, but do you want to establish a connection and determine if there could be an opportunity for a mutually beneficial relationship.
No matter how much you may dislike the idea of networking, you can use the tips above to make it an enjoyable experience – and don’t forget a firm handshake!