Conferences, Holiday Parties, and Networking: A Lawyer Checklist to Maximize Your Time

Dec 7th, 2023 | Law Firm Marketing

Whether you are a social butterfly or are looking to step out of your comfort zone, attending networking events is a great way to develop new connections and expand your contact network. However, time is valuable, so while it is important to socialize and be seen, it is more important to be strategic about the types of events you attend and who will be at each to maximize your efforts.  

 Your network provides you with three things – referrals, access, and information. Creating a solid network of contacts is about putting yourself in front of people who all know you and don’t know each other. Unfortunately, most of us do not plan properly before an event – we get caught up in work or meetings and run out the door without really knowing where we are going or why.  

 Thoughtfulness and meaningful marketing are crucial to any lawyer’s efforts in building lasting relationships.  Help yourself by taking 15 minutes to plan for events using our checklist below. 

 Before the Event: 

1. Set Your Expectations – Understand the purpose of the event, and why you are attending and set clear objectives. Do you have a certain number of people you would like to meet? Or do you want to learn more about a specific topic that is being presented? How does attending this event help you further your professional development? 

2. Review the Attendee and Speaker List – If you do nothing else in advance of the event, make sure you do this! Look at the attendee and speaker list to see if there are people that you would like to meet. Having a short list of contacts you are interested in meeting will help you use your time best while on-site and can help you stay on task.  

3. Leverage the Host – The host, the administrative team, the group leadership, and whoever is holding the event can be a great resource, especially if you are new to the group or don’t know who to meet. Ask them who you should meet first. They can help you get a head start on the lay of the land. 

4. What Do You Do? – Knowing the event and the type of people that will be in attendance, develop a clear and concise introduction that will resonate with the various audiences about what you do and how you could potentially help them.  

5. Business Cards – Don’t forget to bring them! 

6. Schedule Follow-Up Time – Before you go to the event, block out time on your calendar for follow-up 24-48 hours (about 2 days) after the event. Following up is important and many times goes undone.  

 During the Event: 

1. Engage & Be Present – Try to initiate conversations. Everyone is there to network. Don’t be afraid to join a group or be the first to introduce yourself to someone else. Simple phrases like “may I join you?”, can help you gain access to conversation circles. Insider Tip– look for conversation groups with an odd number of people, like 3 or 5, as even pairs of people are usually engaged in conversation with each other while the third person is looking to chat with someone new.     

2. Actively Listen – Ask questions of others and show genuine interest and curiosity. Give some thought to a couple of discussion prompts and then let conversations flow organically.  3.

3. Find Commonality and a Reason to Follow-Up – Explore work, family, and personal interests to discover something you have in common with other attendees. Asking the right questions will help with connection and relationship building, but also helps with knowing things that can help you connect with them later. There are three “Ins” that you can look out for that can trigger meaningful follow-up: 

    • Invite – Is there another event you could invite this person to that would be beneficial to them?
    • Information – Is there information you could send this person that would be beneficial to them?
    • Introduction – Is there someone you know that this person should meet?   

 4. Stay Professional – It should go without saying but monitor alcohol intake and keep conversations respectful avoiding controversial topics.  You want to be remembered for the right reasons.  

 After the Event: 

1. Reflect – In the time you set aside to follow up on the event, use some of that time to review your initial expectations. Did the event meet your goals, or did it miss the mark? Is it an event you would attend again? Is there anything you would have done differently that would have improved your experience?  If you have marketing inside your firm (or outside consultants), set a time to debrief with them on these questions to better the tracking and return on investment! 

2. Follow-up – Reach out to the people you met within 48 hours (about 2 days). Each follow-up message should be personalized. Think quality over quantity. If you uncovered an “In”, make good on your offer and extend a formal invite to the event you referenced, send the information you mentioned, or make the introduction.  

3. Organize and Connect with Contacts – First, send invites and connect with everyone you meet on LinkedIn! Also, update your contact management system (CRM) or firm database with those contacts and note where you met them. Categorize new contacts based on potential collaboration and indicate what each contact should expect to receive from you such as holiday cards, event invites, and other marketing materials.  

4. Summarize and Present What you Learned – Did a superior approve your attendance or suggest you attend the event? Demonstrate the value of the event by summarizing and presenting what you learned for the benefit of others at your firm. This is especially important if there is a CLE component at the event. Even a short presentation can go a long way in justifying your time away from your office.  

5. Identify What is Next – Is this a recurring event? Or is it a part of a group you participate with or should participate with? 

 Remember, networking is not just about expanding your contacts but building meaningful and mutual relationships. Being genuine and authentic will always leave a lasting impression. Be unselfish about helping others and you will ultimately develop contacts that will help you get what you want.  

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