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"Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning" - Thomas Edison

With conference season seemingly in full swing (didn't I see you on my return flight from Chicago last week?), I thought I'd take a moment to walk through some of the ways Navigator can help lawyers prepare in advance to make the most of those in-person networking opportunities that make such a big difference to business development. 

Thomas Edison once said: "Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning" - and, in that spirit, here's how to use Navigator to plan for the best BD opportunities at your next conference:

1. Be a Matchmaker Between Your Clients and People Who Can Become Their Clients

Conferences give you the ideal setting to bring together clients who should know each other. When you set out to help others to grow their own businesses, most individuals are naturally inclined to help you grow yours! They’re are eager to reciprocate this type of thoughtfulness. 

Review the conference registration list, look for people who would benefit from meeting one another. Consider creating an event to bring them together, like a cocktail reception or dinner that you host, or simply organize a meeting between key people during a coffee break. 

Use Navigator to build a quick briefing on the people you're connecting - study their credentials, read up on company news, etc. – and find  information you can later use to help them start a conversation. (Don't forget to save them as Leads in Navigator and get email alerts when they post new information ahead of the conference.)

Once you've done your homework, roll up the most important points about each person into an email that you send to those you've arranged for them to meet. It doesn't have to be long, just a brief paragraph explaining why you're making the introduction and a few bullets that provide background and context. Your clients will appreciate the insight. 

2. Identify People You'd Like to Meet in Person (And Reach Out In Advance)

Go through the registration list again to pick out people who aren't already on your BD radar but should be – companies based in your geographic region, suppliers to your main clients, and the like (you may find them instead on the speaker list, or even sharing updates about the conference on LinkedIn). 

Narrow the group down to a manageable set of "must-meet" people at the conference. Keep the list short: you'll have a hard time meeting more than a few new people each day. 

Then, dig into Navigator to find any connections you have with each of them – a person you both know, an activity you both do, a city you both lived in – that you can use as the basis for initiating a conversation. Familiarize yourself with strategic and business challenges they face, key developments in their industry, and their products and markets. 

To ensure a positive first impression, prepare a short written brief on each person you plan to meet. Include the names of common relationships, key facts about your prospect and their company, the points you'll raise and the questions you'll ask to get them talking. It's ok to include both professional considerations – how they're responding to Europe's GDPR or the impact of California's recreational marijuana use law on employment policies and procedures, for example – and personal issues they share on LinkedIn. 

Navigator is a great tool for arming yourself with an in-depth understanding of what’s important to people...

3. Collect Conversation Starters - Serendipity Matters

Navigator is a great tool for arming yourself with an in-depth understanding of what’s important to the people you might randomly meet at any networking or industry event. 

Use Search for Leads to find out at what conference registrants are posting on LinkedIn – about their businesses, their industries, and their interests. Review the posts of Recommended Leads at their companies to see what their colleagues share. Look at the activity of other industry and market leaders who do business in the same space. 

Compile the insights you glean and concerns you identify into a bullet-point list of conversation starters: issues that you know are top of mind for anyone you meet at the conference. Turn them into questions to get clients and prospects alike talking about challenges, risks, and what keeps them up at night. Revise the list regularly when you learn of new considerations.

Good Networking Starts With Focusing On Others

The common theme in all of these scenarios? A meaningful connection at a conference does not begin with you handing your business card to a stranger and stating your name, title, firm, and practice area. It starts with you turning the intelligence compiled on Navigator into prompts to get people talking about themselves and their businesses. 

The common benefit? Happier connections: because you're interested in them, because you understand the issues, and most of all because you let them talk first. They'll appreciate that, and will reciprocate with questions of their own.  

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[Samantha McKenna is Head of Sales, Enterprise, NYC at LinkedIn. Follow her for her latest writings on law firm BD on JD Supra. Connect with Sam on LinkedIn to see how Navigator can transform your firm's growth efforts.

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