How to Connect and Build Business at Conferences: Back-to-Basics Checklist

by JD Supra Perspectives

I have met some of my favorite clients over the years as an exhibitor at a conference and have made lifelong friends on almost every continent as a result. I love to meet new people and look forward to every conference, but it’s important to build a plan, just as you would before you begin any strategic initiative.’s important to build a plan, just as you would before you begin any strategic initiative.

Returning to the basics is the secret to finding success at conferences, and thus making them even more fun and productive. Below is my recipe for those that might not be business development oriented for maximizing the return on what can sometimes be a significant investment. Feel free to add to this list in the comments below!

1. In Advance of the Conference:

  • Conduct market research to determine the following information and whether you can schedule face-to-face visits with clients or prospects in the destination city:
  • Do any of your clients operate in the city where the meeting is being held?
  • Are there prominent companies in industries of importance to you or your organization that you can identify? A few cold calls while in town never hurt anyone.
  • Are there any firms that are regular sources of referrals that you could meet with and stimulate even more?
  • Is your firm a member of a law firm network? Visit the local member firm and learn about their strengths looking for complementary practices
  • Tell your clients and prospects that you are attending the meeting, what your goals are while in town and inquire about any opportunities they are seeking in the region that you might be able to assist with.
  • Be Memorable. Standing apart from the crowd increases your chances of receiving future referrals. Things like designing and printing special large format business cards with space for notes and additional information about your firms’ strengths and practice areas will make you stand out and could lead to future business.
  • Study the attendee list in advance and plan for whom you would like to meet. As the meeting approaches, check the meeting registration site to see who is attending (if that information is provided) and reach out to schedule discussions in advance.
  • Become part of the show. Reach out to the meeting management team to inquire about any opportunities to present or participate in panels during the conference.

2. During the Conference:

  • Is there a conference App? – Conferences today often feature apps that can assist with connecting you to other delegates with similar interests. Some even feature “chat” features that will allow you to connect and schedule face to face meetings.
  • Common or networking areas – Spend time in the common areas of the conference and strike up conversations with your fellow attendees. Simple questions like “How are you finding the conference?” can often lead to interesting conversations about what is going on in their business and can reveal some potential opportunities.
  • Make referrals. Those that make referrals receive referrals. Connect your clients with lawyers and service providers you trust that provide complementary services to your own. What better way to cement your relationship with a client than to ensure that they are receiving “best client service” in all of the areas they have needs?
  • Participate in optional events – Optional dinners and tours are great opportunities to build relationships. Make sure that you are registered to participate in as many optional items as possible.

3. After the Meeting:

  • Follow up – Make sure to follow up with the contacts that you make during the conference with a personal e-mail, or even better, a hand-written note.
  • Start the cycle again – Get ahead on planning for your next conference!


[Tim Shannon is the Chief Business Development and Marketing Officer at law firm network Terralex]



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