May 2, 2022
It is Time to Go Back into In-Person Conferences and Meetings
By Liza Vasquez ICF CMC and Jeffrey F. Silber CPA MBA CMC
Certified Master Business and Life Coaches
Have you seen that there has been a resurgence of live, in-person meetings of associations, chambers of commerce and conferences?
The new technologies that we embraced in the last two years are never going to disappear. They are highly efficient ways of communicating and promoting ourselves. What we have noticed as we are beginning to poke out heads out of caves, is that many of our lawyer clients have lost some of their important interpersonal skills that they had before the pandemic made them take shelter.
Did you ever read the 1883 classic adventure novel, or see the movie version of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson? In their search for the treasure on the island, they find a fellow by the name of Ben Gunn. He had been marooned on the island all alone by another pirate’s crew many years earlier. When they found him, due to his long years of isolation, he had lost any ability to carry on a normal conversation with other human beings.
That is our concern for you.
During Zoom calls from your home, and your appearances on webinars where you were wearing your pajama pants that no one could see, perhaps you have lost some of your social skills.
Do you know what you need to do in order to re-enter the world of in-person, live meetings with other people who are also emerging from their caves? Let us see if we offer you some tips to help you get back into your best pre-pandemic networking form.
Every activity you undertake will have these three phases:
Preparation, Execution and Follow-up.
Know Why You Are Going to this Event:
· What Are Your Objectives. What will happen if you accomplish everything you hope for at this event. This will help you keep focus on what you are doing at the event.
· New Clients. Research shows that on average, it takes six contacts with a potential client to convert them into a fee-paying client. Have a realistic expectation that if you meet several new people with whom you will follow up over the next few weeks and months, that will be a successful out.
· Speed Up the Process. If possible, review the list of attendees in advance.
o See if any of your current clients will be attending.
o Check to see if people you met in the past will attend so that you can reconnect.
o Scour the list for potential dream clients who might be attending. For these people, do your research about their company, their industry and even about them (on LinkedIn) This way you will be able to have more meaningful conversations. If you do not already know what they look like, find their picture in social media so you can pick them out of the crowd.
· Let’s Have a Coffee. You will want your time to be as productive as possible, therefore, prioritize the people you already know, and work your way down the list inviting them for a coffee or cocktails. Caution: do not overcrowd your agenda. Leave some openings for spontaneous meetings.
In discussing the execution of your plan, let us first take a look at the techniques of attending conferences.
Elevator Pitches Do Not Work. Do not bother polishing up two or three slick sentences to grab the attention of someone you just met. There is nothing you explain to someone you just me in the elevator between the lobby and the eight floor that will convince them to hire you.
Getting Ready to Attend a Conference, a Meeting of a Chamber of Commerce, or an Industry Association. Doing your homework and advance planning was the key to your success in law school and as a lawyer, and it is still the same. Here are some ideas about what you can do in advance of attending an in-person event.
· Attend Relevant Presentations. At conferences there will certainly be some presentations on a variety of topics. Choose the most relevant ones, and attend. This way you will increase your chances of meeting like-minded people. Familiarize yourself with the conference activities. Plan your days so as to maximize your time during the conference.
· Your Nametag. Do not forget to wear your nametag on your right side, if possible. Check to see the name of your new contact and address them by their name.
· Preparing Your Materials. This is not like it was in the pre-pandemic days. You longer need to take a box full of your brochures nor even a box of your business cards. You can take with you a single plastic card with a QR code that will connect this person to your website and all your contact information.
o Be sure that all your online information, such as your profiles and your picture, are up-to-date on your website, in LinkedIn and Facebook and that they are current with all your latest accomplishments.
Now, let us discuss the important human elements that will make attending conferences more successful for you.
The Human Connect. Everyone you are going to meet is just another human being even if they are the chief in-house counsel for one of the world/s largest companies. They have a mate, perhaps children, and they have all been through the pandemic, and obviously they have survived.
Do not try to sell legal services when you meet someone new. Be friendly and present yourself as a knowledgeable, trustworthy person who is genuinely interested in this person. You have so very much in common to talk about long before you get to discussing their legal needs and how you can help them.
If you need a goal, it should be to leave the conference with several new friends, people with whom you were able to create a pleasant chemistry.
What Do You Learn When You Are Speaking? Nothing! You are learning only when you are listening and taking ideas onboard. When you meet people, follow our 80/20 rule. You should be listening 80% of the time and you should be speaking only 20% - and even when you are speaking, you should be asking questions.
You want to ask open-ended questions that get them talking. Be a good listener, agree when you can and ask follow-up questions. Get this person talking.
· Be Positive. Everyone likes a smiling person with a positive attitude. Engage people.
· Social Distancing. Do not assume that all people are back to hugging and shaking hands. Approach people cautiously because many people still prefer to keep their distance. Start with a fist pump and see how they react.
· If the Conversation Turns to You. Be enthusiastic when talking about your practice. Show passion for what you do. But most of all, your comments should revolve around what you just learned about this person, their company, and their needs. This is why you wanted this person to speak 80% of the time. There is no point in talking about aspects of your practice or about your law firm which do not relate to this person and their needs.
· Rescue a Loner. Start with the idea that everyone who comes to these conferences is there to expand their network, to meet some new people. Sometimes it is difficult to break into a group of two or more people who already know each other and are engaged in animated conversations. Look for someone standing alone. Unattached individuals are often shy and will welcome meeting a friendly stranger – in this case – you.
Walk up, stick out your hand and say: “Hi, I’m John/Mary. What did you think of the speakers in this morning’s sessions?” It really does not matter what you say after you introduce yourself. You have broken the ice and a conversation will follow and that is what matters.
There is no Small Talk. Make notes about everything you discussed because no matter how small any particular detail may have been, you can use it as an excuse to send an email or a message to this person as part of your follow-up work.
There is not enough space to write on the backs of their business cards all the things you discussed. Therefore, when you are walking away from this person, take out your mobile telephone and leave a message for yourself with all the details you just talked about.
Follow-Up. Where lawyers tend to fall-down is after the event when they fail to follow-up with the people they met. Here are some suggestions:
· Do not contact the new people you meet at a conference until 3 to 5 business days after the conference is over. Contacting them sooner shows desperation, and that is the last thing you want them to think about you. Stay away from phrases like “How can I help you?” That is also a sign of desperation. If they know what you do, then they already know if you can help them; and they will when they need you and not a day sooner.
· Send a warm personal email referencing some of the things you talked about. If possible, attach some value-added information, such as an article you wrote on a subject you discussed.
· Go to Google Alerts (and other alert services) to notify you about any relevant business information about this person/s company. These alerts will give you excuses to get back in touch with this person with some meaningful conversation so that your email does not seem like a desperate way to stay in contact.
· People Who Did Not Attend. Perhaps some of your current clients or potential clients who might have attended the conference did not. Contact them. Send them a summary of some of the highlights of the conference, some of your favorite sessions, share something humorous that happened or tell them about a great restaurant you ate in. Then suggest you get together on Zoom (if they are not in your city) or that you have a coffee together (if you are in the same city).
· Do a Post-Mortem on Your Conference Performance! The only way to improve is to take a hard look at your performance so that next time, you will be much better. Review your activities and performance. Did you achieve your goals? If not, what can you do better the next time around?
Coaching and Support in 2022 and Beyond
The post-pandemic world is going to be a great place to be a lawyer. Get ready for tomorrow now. Make yourself and your law firm ready for the post-pandemic world. What we have discussed in this article is only a small fraction of what we teach our lawyer-clients in how to attract more new clients and bring more important new matters to your firm, in our coaching course. For specific questions about this article or about the coaching program we have for you and/or your law firm, please email us at:
© Copyright 2022. All Rights Reserved. Any unauthorized distribution or reproduction of this material in print or in any electronic form is strictly prohibited. Persons or organizations desiring to use this material, must obtain the prior written consent of Silber, Vasquez & Associates.