Our latest installment of Wondering Wednesdays goes through my dos and don’ts for conference networking:

Since tomorrow marks the beginning of our 2014 ILN European Regional Meeting, it’s only appropriate that this Wondering Wednesdays addresses the question “What are your dos and don’ts for conference networking?”

In this video, I focus on five, though there are many more.

DO Sit in the Front of the Room

Although many people are more comfortable in the back, the front of the room is where the speakers, VIPs and conference organizers are sitting. It’s much easier to introduce yourself to them during a coffee break or other programming break if you’re already sitting in the front, and not trying to fight the masses as they head in the other direction for their coffee.

Plus, since many people do still sit in the back of the room, you’ll be one of very few in the front, which is a prime position to be in.

DON’T Stick with the People You Know

As an introvert, I can attest to the fact that it’s much easier to find the people you know already at a conference and hang on to them for dear life.  But that’s not the point of networking.  My recommendation is that you should be spending at least 75% of your time either meeting new people, or getting to know people that you’ve only met briefly a bit better. For some people, this comes naturally. If it doesn’t for you, give yourself a daily goal (something like meeting one to two people at each function) and then reward yourself when you’ve met that goal by spending time with the people you know well and like.

DO Hang Out by the Food or Bar

If you want to meet people at a networking event, you have to go where the people are – and the buffet, food station and/or bar are the most highly trafficked. Find a good spot and park yourself there – you’ll be in prime networking real estate.

This also gives you an ice breaker – you can offer to get someone a drink, ask them what they’re drinking or talk to them about the food as a natural conversation starter.

DON’T Talk Politics or Religion

While I have been witness to successful, respectful conversations about politics and religion in my ten years in the legal industry, I can count these occasions on one hand. It’s best to avoid these and other hot button issues. You never know the opinions of the person you’re speaking with (unless you know them very well) and equally important, you don’t know the opinions of those who may be eavesdropping.

Even if you argue your points in a kind and respectful manner, the odds are that someone who hears what you’re saying will disagree with your views, and it may color their opinion of you, rightly or wrongly.  So stick to safer topics, like the weather. It’s definitely cliche, but the weather comes up a LOT at networking events, and that’s because it works. It can be a great conversation filler until you’ve come up with a more interesting topic, so don’t be afraid to rely on it!

DO Be Present

No one wants to compete with your cell phone or your interest in someone else. We’ve all been guilty of speaking to someone while looking over their shoulder to see if someone else we know has come in behind them.

Instead, let go of any distractions and focus all of your energy on the person in front of you – really be engaged with them.  Not only will this make you more memorable, because most people are distracted, but it will also encourage them to want to keep speaking with you – and that’s the goal of any networking that you’ll do: continued desire for conversation.

I hope to see all of my lawyers using these tips tomorrow and in the coming days for the conference! Please add your own networking dos and don’ts below, and if there’s something that you’re “wondering” about, let me know!