share TWEET PIN IT share share 0
Connect the Dots!

How to Chat at Networking Events

By Theda C. Snyder

You’ve heard about the elevator speech, the 30-second intro to let people know the benefits of what you do. But then what?

I recently attended a law firm’s annual marketing blowout, a full-day seminar including breakfast and lunch for 400 people. I chatted with two people from a government entity as we made our way through the pastas-and-salads buffet line, then headed to one of the round tables on the hotel’s patio where we joined seven other attendees including two members of the host firm. Throughout the meal, I learned about this entity’s concerns and also introduced myself to my table neighbors on the other side.

The two firm attorneys ate their lunch in silence. I kind of wanted to go around to the other side of the table to shake the lawyers’ shoulders and say, “You’re wasting a golden opportunity here, not to mention your firm’s money.”

I never did learn those lawyers’ names.

People Are Interesting

Chatting — deskside manner if you will— is an integral part of working with clients. How can you represent your clients’ concerns if you have no interest in discovering what those concerns are?

After delivering the elevator speech, spend your time learning about the person you are chatting with. It’s axiomatic that people like talking about themselves. If you are shy, take time to prepare conversation openers ahead of time. A conference is an ideal situation to talk about what everyone is learning.

  • Which workshops did you attend? Tell me about that one.
  • Which afternoon sessions did you sign up for?
  • What did you think of the keynote speech?
  • How many years have you been coming to this conference?
  • What are your biggest challenges these days?
  • How did you get into this field?
  • What do you do in your spare time when you’re not attending law firm seminars?

What if your conversation partner is the shy one? Share your own experiences and expertise in this area with the people you meet at coffee breaks, meals and cocktail parties. Recent developments such as a court decision or a bill pending in the legislature are excellent topics.

Speak Up

Shared experience can always provide conversation openers. For many people, starting conversations with strangers (in safe situations) comes easy. Do it often enough, and it will be your habit, too.

Related: Four Tips for Meeting Two People in the Room

Illustration ©

Categories: Business Development, Daily Dispatch, Get to the Point, Networking for Lawyers
Originally published December 29, 2015
Last updated April 28, 2018
share TWEET PIN IT share share
Teddy Snyder Theda C. Snyder

Theda “Teddy” Snyder mediates civil disputes, workers’ compensation and insurance coverage cases, including COVID-19 related coverage disputes, in person or by video. Teddy has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She was a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and is the author of four ABA books, including “Women Rainmakers’ Best Marketing Tips, 4th Edition” as well as “Personal Injury Case Evaluation” available on Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at and on Twitter @SnyderMediation.

More Posts By This Author
MUST READ Articles for Law Firms Click to expand

Welcome to Attorney at Work!

Sign up for our free newsletter.


All fields are required. By signing up, you are opting in to Attorney at Work's free practice tips newsletter and occasional emails with news and offers. By using this service, you indicate that you agree to our Terms and Conditions and have read and understand our Privacy Policy.