People in marketing, advertising and communications are typically pretty extroverted. We have no problem walking into a room full of people we’ve never met and coming out with a new group of friends. It just comes naturally, and for that, we’re usually a well-connected bunch.
Perhaps it was for that reason I was asked to do a short presentation on networking at a reception for young lawyers at the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges in Tampa this week.
It’s easy to coach the extroverts – approach individuals, ask about their ideal client, invite them for a follow-up coffee – there is rarely a situation that makes them uncomfortable.
But our poor, poor introverts. We have to start with the basics. Here is a bit of the homework I created for them:
- Smile! Watch your body language. Don’t cross your arms or put your hands in your pockets. Put your phone away.
- Ask questions and LISTEN – get your ice-breakers ready. One of the best networking questions is, “what kind of client is a good fit for you?”
- Prepare ahead of time if you don’t think quickly on your feet – anticipate questions you’ll be asked and have answers ready
- Introduce people who may not know one another, then ask for introductions
If you’re naturally introverted, find ways to get comfortable with networking outside your practice area so you can give and get referrals. Become a well-rounded professional with participation in other business associations and civic organizations.
Throughout life, you have likely heard, “you only get out of it what you put into it.” This is particularly true of membership in organizations. You will always find the most value when you serve as a leader or part of a committee. The time and commitment is always worth it.
- Bar Associations / Sections
- Professional Associations (NACBA, ABI)
- Local Business Groups and Programs
- Chambers of Commerce
- Leadership Programs
- Young Professional Associations
- Alumni Associations
Non-Profit and Social Organizations
- Animal Welfare
- Community Service
- Sports Clubs
Particularly with non-profit service, it is important to select organizations and causes you are passionate about. Authenticity is essential and will allow you to stay motivated to serve.
Many people believe networking is simply attending events and collecting business cards. The best way to build a network is to become a connector. By looking for opportunities to connect others, people will begin to see you as a well-connected and trusted advisor.
- Write a few notes on the back of their business card
- Hand write ‘pleasure to meet you’ notes
- Connect on LinkedIn
- Invite to coffee (“I’d like to learn more about what you do so I can keep my ears open for opportunities”)
- Send articles, reports, links and invitations to other events
Diane Darling’s How To Work a Room is a particularly nice graphic to illustrate how to network effectively. And one of my favorite books is, Never Eat Alone.
Then again, I’m an extrovert.