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Networking and Business Development

Rainmaking at Conferences: Easy Tips for Connecting With New People

Even the biggest introvert can use this simple plan.

By Roy S. Ginsburg

Back in the day, conferences were perhaps the most popular networking activity for lawyers. Today? Not so much. Many lawyers, especially younger ones, turn to social media as a substitute for in-person networking.

Even with lower attendance numbers, however, conferences still provide excellent networking opportunities. More specifically, they are a great place to meet new people, thereby expanding your network and broadening your opportunities.

How to Meet New People at Conferences: Try This Simple Tactic

I know that meeting strangers is not in most lawyers’ comfort zones. If you’re more introvert than extrovert, however, there is a simple tactic to meet a dozen new people at a one-day conference that won’t give you sweaty palms.

Let’s assume the conference you attend has one plenary session, four breakouts and a sit-down lunch. To meet the 12 new people, all you need to do is deliberately sit next to strangers during each of those. In doing so, there should be two people you can meet comfortably at each: the person on your left and the person on your right.

In these situations, it’s not that hard to strike up a conversation. A simple “What do you think of the conference so far?” or “ Why the interest in this topic?” should do the trick.

If you’re really rolling, why not meet the presenter, too? After the talk is over, go up to the podium, compliment the speaker and have a question ready to go.

Betting on the Longshot Can Pave the Way for Bigger Opportunities

Lawyers being lawyers, most are skeptical whenever I provide this advice. The thinking goes as follows:

“So I can get 12 to 15 business cards in one day. No problem. But give me a break. What are the chances that any of them will actually lead to a business development opportunity? Talk about longshots!”

Are the skeptics right? To a certain extent, yes. It is a long shot. But talk to anyone who bets on horse races. They will tell you that betting on longshots can be a successful strategy, but only if you bet on a lot of races. In other words, bet on a longshot for one race and you will likely go home a loser. Bet on longshots across 10 races during a full day at the track and your chances of going home a winner improve significantly.

What does all this have to do with rainmaking? Talk to any successful rainmaker and they will have a story about getting good business from a seemingly casual act — such as meeting a stranger at a random conference breakout session.

In other words, if you meet only one stranger at a one-day event, the odds of getting a good lead are slim to none. Increase the number of new people you meet to 15, and the odds improve substantially. Trust me —  you will encounter at least one person whom you will be glad to have met.

It’s Easier and More Profitable Than You May Realize

Think about it. How much effort does it take to meet all of these new people? Not very much, considering you’re already in the same place at the same time. And while this networking approach may not be a critical component of your marketing plan, I can assure you that every year or two you will have a payoff that will have made it all worthwhile.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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Roy S. Ginsburg

Roy S. Ginsburg is an attorney coach and law firm consultant who has practiced law for more than 30 years. He works with individual lawyers and law firms nationwide in the areas of business development, practice management, career development, and strategic and succession planning. Learn more at www.royginsburg.com.

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