Don’t be nervous. If you find it hard to break through your limitations, the most important thing to do first is to consider some assistance from a cognitive behavioral therapist or counselor who specializes in social anxiety. Once you have worked to conquer some of your basic fears, you can then focus on the following guidelines to make new connections at your next industry conference, association meeting, or business event.
- Send a note to others you know who may be attending the event. Highlight your specialties and emphasize your desire to connect during the upcoming meeting.
- Know your own brand and your firm’s brand and be able to articulate it in an elevator pitch, which succinctly articulates who you are and how you can add value to someone in need of your services. Make sure you know your pitch well enough so that you can weave it into the verbiage of your conversation at the appropriate time and without sounding forced.
- Don’t wait for introductions; introduce yourself. This sends the message that you are friendly and are open to communication. In addition, use yourself as a catalyst to introduce those you know to one another. Be sure to explain how you know each person and what business affiliations they both share.
- Lead conversations though the use of close-ended questions such as “Did you come to last year’s conference and open-ended questions such as “What do think of this year’s conference versus last year’s conference?” This encourages dialog and let’s your listening partner know you are interested in what they have to say.
- Have something positive to contribute about the event, speaker, or relevant topic. Steer clear of negative or controversial topics and refrain from long-winded stories.
- Use your conversational partner’s name often as it makes them feel important and heard. Methods of remembering names can include: thinking of someone you know who might have the same name, rhyming their name with words, or coupling their name with a physical feature on their body.
- Maintain eye contact and use non-verbal gestures that include smiling, standing or sitting in an open manner, learning slightly forward without getting into a person’s personal space, and nodding occasionally so that your conversational partner feels heard.
- Listen more than you talk. Capitalize on hot topics that are important to your listening partner and pay attention to “free information” that helps to fuel the conversation.
- Get your conversational partner’s business card at the conclusion of your conversation. If it is not immediately useful, it may bear fruit in the future.
- After the event, find ways to stay in touch with your new contacts: send relevant articles pertaining to their business goals or introduce them to people they want to meet.
By implementing the suggestions above, these types of business events will get easier and easier the more you do them.
Written by Sheryl A. Odentz president of Progress in Work LLC, a career management firm for attorneys. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.progressinwork.com . This article was published in the June 2011 issue of Law Practice Today (The Monthly Webzine of the ABA Law Practice Management Section).