Holiday Networking Tips
Debra L. Bruce, JD, PCC.
Many lawyers think of December as a time when people are harder to reach, decisions get postponed and less work gets done. That may be true for some, but it’s also a time filled with opportunities for marketing your practice, looking for new career opportunities, and deepening or expanding your network of useful resources.
No, I am not suggesting that you hawk your wares or pass out your resume at holiday parties. I am suggesting that you take full advantage of this opportunity to meet and reconnect with people who you may not have access to the rest of the year.
Whether you just love socializing or avoid big gatherings whenever possible, here are some tips that can make your holiday networking more productive:
1. Plan ahead. To optimize these opportunities, think now about how you might answer some of the typical questions, such as “What do you do?” Re-read my article Get Remembered published in The Practice Manager in June 2007 so you won’t give a dull and forgettable response. Don’t lead with “I’m a lawyer.” People tend to stop listening after that because they’ve filed you in a category in their brain. Lead with who you help and how. Have one or two very brief (two sentence) success stories in mind that you can use to illustrate how you do that.
2. Dress well. If you want to court business and instill confidence in your abilities, look successful and even festive, but not flashy. Don’t wear a slinky, low cut dress if you want people to pay attention to what you have to say. Wear something with pockets, if possible. Store your business cards in one pocket and stash cards you receive in the other.
3. Ask thoughtful questions. People who dread large parties and networking events usually fear awkward or shallow conversations. You can avoid that by thinking ahead about a few questions you can ask to stimulate a more interesting and in-depth conversation. You might ask a variation of one of these:
1) Hurricane Ike;
2) the economy;
3) fluctuating gas prices;
4) the recent election;
5) the holidays: or
6) other current events?
Notice that questions about work or business may lead to information indicating how you can be of service.
4. Have the intent to help someone. You’ll feel more at ease and have more fun if your focus is on being helpful, rather than on how you look to others. You can make introductions, point out the bar or the tastiest hors d’oeuvres, or share information about useful resources when needs surface in a conversation. You can start a conversation with someone standing alone. Imagine that you are the host to get in the right frame of mind for being helpful and at ease.
5. Take notes and follow-up. If someone gives you a business card, discreetly write on the back of it. Occasionally step around the corner or into the restroom if necessary. Write the date and occasion where you met and reminders of interesting conversation. Have your assistant record that information when adding them to your contact database. Hopefully you will be able to follow-up within the next week with an article, a website link or some other useful information relating to your conversation. Then you can include an invitation for lunch or coffee to continue the conversation.
6. Ask for introductions if necessary. If you see someone you want to know, and don’t have an easy way to get into conversation with them, ask a friend to introduce you. You may need to give them some information to share in the introduction that will facilitate the conversation.
7. Scope out future activities. If you are considering getting involved with an organization for business connections, the holiday party can give you a good view of who is connected to that organization. You can ask people about the organization’s culture and their activities. You can ask them what they like most about being involved.
8. Invite clients and prospects to your home. An intimate dinner for six to ten people in your home can really deepen your connection with them. If you just can’t stomach big parties, this is an excellent alternative for getting involved in the holiday. Cook it, cater it, or serve take-out from your favorite restaurant in your own dishware. Just make sure you have plenty of time for sharing conversation with your guests.
9. Don’t conduct business at holiday functions. Don’t spoil the holiday sentiments by selling yourself. Just mention that you have enjoyed the conversation and would like to follow-up for more discussion in the new year.
10. Personalize your holiday greetings. Even if you get sick and miss all the parties, you can still send out New Year’s cards. Be sure to include something more personal than a signature. For ideas, check out my December 2007 article called Send Holiday Greetings That Really Connect.
Don’t miss the chance to connect during the holidays. Accept as many invitations as you can. People are open and receptive at this time of year. May you have some fun, make new friends and renew your relationships with old ones this year!
This article was recently published in The Practice Manager.