Saturday, October 25, 2008

Making the Most of Your Next Conference

Before long, you will be attending a voluntary bar association conference or seminar. It will be a great networking opportunity, particularly if you consider the following advice.

Due your due diligence. Before the conference, procure a list of attendees. Reach out to everyone you know either by e-mail or preferably a handwritten note, letting them know you will be there and suggesting you meet for a meal or drinks. Breakfasts are great for networking - they give you a jump on the day and are less expensive than other meals. Leave yourself some time open for impromptu meal plans with new folks you will meet. Also, plan on meeting any existing clients in the area.

Arrive early. Flying in and out of a conference as quick as possible is not productive. Work is work, but to the extent possible, arrive before the first cocktail party and leave after the last one. The longer you are there, the more people you will meet.

Attend everything. Go to every cocktail hour, meal, special event and everything else on the agenda. Arrive early. It is easier to network when there are fewer people in the room. Also, the conference's staff will be there meeting and greeting and will introduce you to the organization's leadership. Also, arriving early does not mean you leave early. Stay until they close the bar.

Target your networking. It is important to meet as many people as possible, but you should also have a plan of meeting three to five specific individuals who will help you develop business. It may be a certain in house counsel, or someone in the organization's leadership. Figure out where they will be, find them and introduce yourself. Treat them to a meal , get to know them and lay the foundation for a long term relationship.

Always be on. Every minute you are at a conference, you have the potential of developing a relationship that may result in business for your firm. Keep that in mind with every interaction you have with everyone you meet. You should always treat everyone the same anyway, so this is good practice.

Follow up with personal notes. After you return home, look at the attendee list and circle the names of those whom you met, had meals with or goofed off with (yes, occasionally playing hooky with another attendee may from the basis of a lasting personal friendship and business relationship). Write them handwritten notes and invite them to look you up if they are ever in town.

Conferences are a great way to develop lasting relationships that may result in referrals. It just takes a little planning to make the most of them.

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