This week in Things I Wish I Knew… Joleena Louis talks about how to overcome your fears of Networking in a room filled with potential business.
Ask any solo how they get clients and they will inevitably say through referrals. Personally, I have found this to be true.
And the best way to get these referrals is through networking and networking events. Now, I can easily chat with someone after being introduced one on one. But throw me in a room with a bunch of strangers and things quickly get awkward.
Surprisingly, I am not a super social person. I can speak in court no problem, but talking to strangers outside of the courtroom is a little scary for me. Once I had my own business to run, I had to get over that fear really fast.
In reality, networking does not contain the word work for nothing. It is a job. And you have to approach it as such.
After several difficult and intense networking events, I have compiled a few strategies to help me through these events and make meaningful connections.
The most important strategy is to realize that almost everyone else feels the same way. It makes me feel more comfortable to know that it’s not just me. In addition, I have learned to use the awkwardness as an icebreaker.
I go right up to someone and immediately start talking about how awkward networking events are. This is effective because it is something we have in common. It gets the conversation going and then you can transition into talking shop.
Another thing I found useful was to attend these events alone. If I go worth people I know, I will tend to just hang around the people I came with. There is nothing worse than standing around a cocktail party alone so I force myself to find someone to talk to. Once the conversation starts to die down I move on to new people so I’m not with one group all night.
Lastly follow up quickly. If I really connect with anyone, I follow up with an email the next day. The email doesn’t have to be anything deep. It needs to be simple, just saying it was nice meeting them and I would love to meet for coffee.
Also, I keep track of personal details that arose during the conversation. You would be surprised at how many people don’t really listen. So, when I recall a detail they shared with me, they are impressed.
Finally, and this is a practical tip, scan all the business cards you’ve collected into a program so that you can keep track. I use Evernote, but there are many programs on the market that achieve the same result. I import all the personal details I remember about the contact so that I can continue a meaningful connection.
Networking is an essential part of running a successful solo law practice. It may seem scary at first, but once you realize almost everyone despises networking, the playing field becomes level.
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Joleena Louis is a matrimonial and family law attorney at Joleena Louis Law, a ﬁrm she founded after leaving a boutique matrimonial ﬁrm in Brooklyn. Joleena is a client in Law Firm Suites’ start-up program in Downtown, New York. Her weekly blog series Things I Wish I Knew… explores her thought process and experiences in her transition from small law ﬁrm employee to successful solo practice entrepreneur.