Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of speaking with a Canadian reporter who is doing a series of stories about the importance of networking for lawyers. She wanted to get my thoughts based on my eight and a half years of networking experience with the lawyers in the ILN, and I thought I’d share some of those tips here on Zen too. These are all tips I use myself, as well as recommending them to our attorneys!
- Have a plan: It’s important to have an overall plan for your business development activities, but also one for each activity that you do. The overall plan should be a written one, that you check in on quarterly – this allows you to review what you’ve done over the past three months, as well as set up in your calendar the activities you’d like to commit to over the next three months. For individual networking activities, you should set up goals for yourself for the event, so you know in advance what you’d like to achieve.
- Use Social Media: I’m not saying this simply because I’m a lover of all things social media, but because I believe it’s a great facilitator of relationships. Let’s say you’re going to a conference for the first time – when you register, you should find out whether there’s a conference hashtag set up for Twitter. You can then follow this hashtag, and it will give you an idea of who will be there – start engaging with those people, and it helps to create a relationship with them before you even arrive at the conference. Use the hashtag during the conference to arrange to meet up with people there for dinner or lunch or coffee. Use the hashtag after the conference to share any relevant blog posts or articles (your own and others) that you think would be of interest. Connect to conference speakers and people that you meet on LinkedIn. If someone is local to you, arrange to meet with them in a few weeks for lunch. Look for a LinkedIn group dedicated to the conference, and engage with people through that as well.
- Never Eat Alone: I’m an introvert, so my preference is to hide out at conferences and eat solo whenever I can. But this is a big no-no for effective networking, so it’s something I strive not to do. As an introvert, social media is a huge help here for a few reasons – one, you already share a common bond with someone when you meet them for the first time, so those initial introductions aren’t as difficult. Two, you can reach out to people on Twitter leading up to a meal to make sure you have someone to sit with at lunch, or a group to meet with at dinner – everyone is very friendly that way, and it takes some of the awkwardness out of having to approach a table full of people you don’t know. If you’re an extrovert, you’re likely already chatting with people you meet during the coffee breaks and in sessions at a conference, so keep the conversations going over a meal.
- Take Online Relationships Offline: We all travel these days, either for work or for pleasure. When visiting another city, I always instruct my attorneys to look up the local member there and have coffee with them. But this doesn’t have to be limited to ILN members – if you’re a member of an association, look up a local person in the city that you’re visiting and reach out to them to meet up. Check your LinkedIn connections and see who might be nearby. If you don’t want to invest the time to research it, you can just put up a post that says when you’ll be traveling to that city, and invite people to reach out to you if they’d like to get together. There’s no reason not to add a networking component to all of your travel.
- Add an Extra Day: Along those lines, someone once suggested to me that adding an extra day to your travels is an excellent way to fit in some time for networking. Our trips are often so crammed with meetings that we don’t have time to breathe, let alone meet with new people. But if you add an extra day to the beginning or end of your trip, it’s a minimal time and financial investment that can pay big dividends in your networking efforts. But make sure to use that time for networking!
- Accountability is Key: For all of us, having someone to be accountable to can make a big difference – it’s the reason why people post their workouts to Facebook or go to a trainer, and why weight loss companies like Weight Watchers are so effective. It can work wonders for networking too. If you know that accountability is something you need, you can either seek out the marketing professionals at your firm or a rainmaking coach to help you craft and stick to your business plan or you can arrange to bring together a group of your colleagues for monthly or quarterly networking progress lunches. These groups can give you new ideas for networking activities that you may not have previously considered, and they’ll also motivate you to stick to your own plan.
There were a number of other things that we chatted about in our hour long conversation, so I’ll make sure to share the article when it’s published. But in the meantime, what are some of your tried and true networking recommendations?