My name is Ginny and I am an introvert.
Up until recently, the thought of going to a networking event and “working a room” made me just a little bit nauseous. What happened that changed all that? I think I just had enough practice. Whether you are a solo practitioner or big firm lawyer, business development is part of the job, and for solos, required for the survival of your firm.
Business development means many things from providing impeccable client service to attending conferences and other networking events. If you think that the latter is not for you, I am here to tell you that if I can do it, you can do it. Here’s a few thoughts on how to get started.
Understand what being an introvert really means.
Introverts “refuel” by being alone, so choose networking events wisely. On days when I have a morning, lunch and evening event, I am exhausted by the end of the day. But I only schedule those kinds of days when the events are too important to pass up. While extroverts get energized by being around others, introverts need time to reflect and think. (We need quiet.) Schedule your day appropriately.
“Introvert” does not always mean “shy.” We just don’t talk for talking’s sake. So arm yourself with a few questions before attending your event and ask away. If the person you are talking to takes the conversation down another road, ask follow up questions. They say that the person who did the most talking in a conversation will walk away feeling the best about it. Not only will you survive your event, but you will quickly build rapport (a.k.a. make friends) with the people you meet.
As Susan Cain mentions in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Won’t Stop Talking, one meaningful conversation and connection at a networking event is worth more than 10 fistfuls of business cards. Attend the event with the plan of connecting with one person and then give yourself the permission to go home.
Do something with the information you learned.
Follow up is key. Did you find out that a person you spoke with is hoping to rebuild their website? Introduce him to someone in your network that may be able to help them with this project, or follow up by email with an article that might be useful. Did you meet someone new to the area who needs recommendations for babysitters? Send her the names and numbers of a new people you trust. Yes, this has nothing to do with your law practice but networking is about solving people’s problems so that when they do have a legal need, they will come to you when they are looking for answers. (At a minimum connect on LinkedIn.)
Be on a mission. (Even when you really have no idea what to do next.)
We’ve all been there – standing on the edge of a roomful of people with no idea who to talk to or where to go next. What do you do when there are no familiar faces? Give yourself a “mission.” Stand in the drink line – the longest drink line. Go back to the front of the room and glance over the name tags of the people who have not arrived yet like you are looking to see if someone you are expecting has arrived. Go to the restroom on the other side of the venue. All of these will give you a “purpose” and the opportunity to see other groups or individuals that may be easily approachable.