Connect the Dots!
How to Chat at Networking Events
Cat got your tongue? Our special two-week holiday series, “Connect the Dots: A Lawyer’s Guide to Networking,” continues today with good tips on starting and sustaining conversations.
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.
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.
Theda “Teddy” Snyder mediates workers compensation cases throughout California. She is also available for legal freelance writing assignments. An attorney since 1977, she has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and the author of four books published by the American Bar Association, including "Women Rainmakers' Best Marketing Tips, 3rd Edition." Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at WCMediator.com and on Twitter @WCMediator.
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