I have owned my own law firm for about ten years now and one thing I have learned is that my networking style has evolved over the years. At the outset of my career as a lawyer, I attended different events with no clear-cut goal or plan in mind. In fact, I figured “being out there” was enough. I came to realize that I only had so many hours in the day for networking, that I wanted to spend some of my free time enjoying family activities and other social activities. Over the years, I have learned how to spend my time more efficiently and productively for business networking. Networking and business development are a part of my business plan. They are two very distinct concepts with different formulas for execution.
For pure networking purposes, I pick out strategic events and plan accordingly. The events and functions I go to become part of my business development schedule. I pick a certain number of events or functions per week that relate to the development of my business. For example, if I am interested in meeting more diverse individuals who live in Center City, I attend certain events that are not just for attorneys. If I would like to test the waters on a new development idea, I try out events in that topic area. Those become my “topic specific” networking events.
No matter what your plan or goal, we never can completely and accurately predict where business is going to come from. I have found that if I am out there enough and give out enough business cards, one of those contacts comes to fruition.
But lets face it, networking is awkward. Even to an extrovert, speaking to strangers can be quite daunting. But what is really the worst thing that can happen? You will not get an F on your report card. If it’s difficult for you to make conversation, think in advance of easy topics to discuss. Keep it light.
My final point is even if I am not in a perfect mood for networking that night, I put on “my happy face.” I can make my time spent at the event brief. If I decide to go, I am pleasant to others I meet. I don”t know how many friends I have acquired at this point just through networking, but it is more than a few.
Good luck with it all and always remember one bad event or experience means nothing in the long game.