I recently got on my first flight since the pandemic. I had been avoiding travel and conferences for many reasons, but it’s time to stop hiding at home and behind my computer screen.
Over the next few weeks I am speaking at several lawyer retreats and industry conferences – I’m excited but nervous.
I feel like a fish out of water (I accidentally let my TSA pre-check expire as well as my passport during Covid). It’s also the first time I’m leaving my pandemic puppies (I think it’s more traumatic for me than them).
I’m looking forward to seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones, and getting to know my clients in a setting other than Zoom because human connections are important and powerful.
In-person networking is essential – it is the secret sauce to building long-term and meaningful relationships. Those relationships can lead to opportunities of all kinds.
Even as an extroverted extrovert, I’m a bit rusty on networking.
I have been doing countless presentations to a computer screen since March 2020 and so being able to see and interact with real people is a much welcome change. A return to “normalcy.”
But after years of being an “expert” network, I’m not actually sure what to do when I actually see people again in a profesional group setting.
Do I hug? (I’m Italian, we like to hug) Shake hands? Fist bump? Just smile and nod? So glad we aren’t bathing in hand sanitizer anymore or cloroxing everything with which we come in touch.
Many of us are in the same position after the past few years, and we don’t feel like the same person we used to be. But that’s okay. Let’s collectively give ourselves a break (and some grace). We are all in the same boat – together.
Here are 12 tips for effective in-person networking I plan to use:
- Ask people about themselves more than I talk about myself.
- Practice active listening.
- Say someone’s name a few times when talking to them – it helps you remember them and makes people like you more.
- Write notes after each meaningful conversation.
- Exit conversations gracefully.
- Follow up and connect on LinkedIn with new and renewed contacts.
- Put my LinkedIn QR code on my iPhone home screen to facilitate easy networking. Here’s how.
- Add new contacts to my CRM.
- Immerse myself in the programming. I am not going to check my email every second or do unnecessary work.
- Write a key takeaways blog and LinkedIn post from the sessions I enjoyed and tag the speakers.
- Create an email OOO message that supports my brand and business (see example from Paula Edgar).
- Have an intimate dinner with my clients/colleagues to get to know them better.
Will you try these tips for in-person networking in the post-pandemic environment?
I am happy to report that the speaking engagement was a success.
To be able to see the faces right in front of me, to engage with them, to tell jokes (and actually have people laugh), to have audience participation and to make real human connections is just powerful and exhilarating.
- My advice – even if you’re busy, make the time for in-person networking. There is no better way to make and strengthen connections.
- Go visit your clients in person.
- Make the time to go to a conference and interact with people.
- Take your clients to golf outings and dinners. Golf is a great relationship development tool because it takes a good amount of time, which can give you a lot of opportunities for one-on-one interaction.
Making new connections and reinforcing old connections is so important for your marketing efforts as well as community building.
People want to work with those they know, like and trust – and there’s only so much they can learn about you if your relationship is virtual.
And when you are at these events, really commit to being present at them. Put your phone away. Guess what? Your work with still be there, I promise.
Don’t just sit with the people you know, get uncomfortable a bit and introduce yourself to someone else.
Write a takeaways piece from what you learned during the conference and use that as a blog post or social media post, which further maximizes your investment in attending.
I’ll be speaking at several Legal Marketing Association Regional Conferences in the next few weeks – LMA Northeast Region and LMA Mid-Atlantic Region, and several lawyer retreats. I can’t wait to see you all in person.