We’re right in the middle of conference season, and lawyers and firms around the country are attending and hosting events as part of their marketing and business development efforts. With varying degrees of success: some will walk away with new clients and new assignments, and others will walk away empty-handed. How to make sure you’re in the first group? Here are some ideas:
1. Don’t Talk Too Much
Yes, you read that right. Obviously you want people to know who you are and what you do. But the real value
in big conferences is finding out who everyone else is. What their biggest business concerns are. What they’re looking for in a lawyer. What they like to do on weekends. And you’ll never find that out if you’re talking all the time. So ask more questions than you might think are necessary. And listen closely to the answers.
2. Do Your Homework
Before any event – and particularly one that your firm is sponsoring – you can generally figure out who’s going to be there and what you have to offer them (whether it’s “companies in the hotel industry” or “Jane Smith, Assistant General Counsel at XYZ Co.”). Figure out what you’re going to say, when you’re going to say it, and how you’re going to follow-up in advance of the conference, so that you only have to worry about execution rather than objectives once the seminar is underway.
3. Be Present and Mingle
You can’t make any new relationships or get any new leads if you’re sitting in your room answering emails. Of course crises happen and of course your clients need you to respond quickly, but if you’re not mingling and talking to people you don’t know, you’ll never have a chance to meet your next #1 client. And don’t be afraid to sit at the “grown-ups” table or introduce yourself to a particular attendee. They’re at the event to meet people, too.
4. Remember: Everybody’s Somebody
Conferences are full of high-level client contacts, GCs, directors, and the like. More likely than not, however, there will be more junior executives than senior ones, people who will get promotions and greater responsibilities, who will be in a position to hire lawyers in the future. Get to know those people, too. They may not be decision-makers now, but it’s just a matter of time before they’ll be calling the shots (and calling the lawyers).
5. Lend a Helping Hand
At a big trade conference, the chances are pretty good that everyone you meet is also looking to make useful connections, get to know some new potential clients, learn something about their industry or their profession that will help them be better at their jobs. So they’re going to remember the person who took the time to make a couple of introductions, who offered them some advice on dealing with a co-worker, who pointed them to a valuable resource. Shouldn’t that person be you?
The bottom line? Showing up and shaking hands is not enough to guarantee that an event is a valuable way to spend your time and money. You’ve got to work at it, too.
[ Lance Godard is a business development manager at Fisher Phillips. Connect with him on LinkedIn. ]
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