Use these three tips at your next networking event and turn more conversations into profitable referral relationships.
For most solo lawyers, networking is the largest and quickest source of new business.
The problem is that these interactions often require starting in large social engagements, which can be a challenge for introverts or people who don’t thrive in crowded environments.
Social anxiety is a very real thing, and sometimes it would shock you to hear when someone isn’t comfortable in networking scenarios because they do such a great job covering it up.
As a solo lawyer, conferences and networking must be a part of your marketing strategy, and it would be unfortunate to miss those opportunities because you feel awkward making small talk with strangers.
Here are three steps you can take to break the ice at any event that will help you build confidence and impress new referral sources.
Listen More Than You Talk
Don’t dominate the conversation, don’t make it all about you, your firm, and how they can help you, instead do just the opposite.
Ask about their practice or firm and listen intently. For example, get them to open up by asking, “What are your challenges?” Everyone has challenges in business, and someone who cares enough to ask about them is generally someone with whom you should connect. This is a great way for you to build referral relationships or co-counsel opportunities. Listen carefully to the challenges your new peer is sharing, then if you’re able to, try to mention ways that you might be able to assist.
But also be sure to talk about things that are not related to work. Ask about their children or where they went to school, then consider sharing stories about yourself that connect to them. Showing interest in their life outside of work will go a long way towards building a successful referral relationship.
Also, you might want to try adding this little trick to your repertoire. According to Van Edwards, tilting your head slightly when speaking with others is the universal body language sign for “I’m listening. You come across as more charismatic because it shows someone that you are paying attention.
The result is a better connection with that person, which can be challenging at networking events.
Make A Plan Before The Event Even Starts
Just like with studying, when you are prepared and plan ahead, you feel less anxious and more confident when it comes time to take the test. The same goes for networking events. Remind yourself why you are going to the event and prepare in advance.
For example, research on who will or might be at the event. If the event is organized with a Facebook event, you can see who else RSVP’d and plans to attend. Or you can email the organizer of the event to learn more about who is coming and can then prepare appropriately.
This will also help you spend less time at the event. If you know who you want to talk to or meet, then once you have had those conversations and exchanged contact info, then you can leave. Job well done!
Another thing you can do before the event is use social media to look for mutual connections with other event attendees. Facebook and LinkedIn are incredibly useful tools in this regard. Then when the moment is right you can make any connection feel more comfortable with a timely name drop of a mutual friend.
For those who get anxious when it comes to networking, being in crowds can sometimes feel like a battle, so having a plan and an outcome in mind helps to make the situation approachable and tameable.
Know The Host and Know What You Want
The host is sometimes the most valuable connection you can make.
If this is your first time going to this event or meet up, make sure to greet the hosts or the person who invited you. Think about it, in most networking events, the host is the only person either knows everyone or knows how to at least get in touch with everyone. If you can make a good and memorable impression with the host, as new referrals or members come through the group, you’ll stand a better chance of having them sent your way!
But it will also benefit you incredibly if you can be upfront and tenacious in letting people know what your ideal client looks like.
If you beat around the bush and don’t know what kind of referral you want then you are wasting your time and theirs. Plus this also encourages your new referral sources to share their ideal clients with you, building a stranger and more mutually beneficial relationship.