10 Tips for Better In-Person Networking

The Bencher—January/February

By Joshua O. Hess, Esquire

Making a good impression is not always easy, but it is the central component of networking. For the most part, networking, or “working a room” is all about people remembering you in a positive light. Generally, networking is meeting new people who share some sort of interest with you, or they would not have found their way into the same room as you at that moment. There are innumerable ways to network in this modern world, but there is no substitute for pressing the flesh, flashing a smile, and getting your voice heard. Frankly, the author would not be writing this but for the advice received from David Sherman, a more experienced attorney whose guidance helped land a job at a law firm.

1. Find happenings that interest you and GO: You cannot network where you are not, so go to events and wear a nametag. Find some events that meet your professional or personal interests and sign up. Do not be hung up on only going to bar association or other legal shindigs. Contacts and clients come from all walks of life, so go to that local dog adoption day, garage sale, or bicycle fix-up and mingle. Have a coffee, soda, or even just some trail mix beforehand for energy.

2. Get there early: Be the first one there so you can get a jump on working the room. You have a chance to meet almost everyone that way. You may even be able to talk with the people who scheduled the event, and they might know some not-to-miss attendees. This might sound crazy, but if there is no one else, talk to the staff at the event, such as waiters and bartenders. If nothing else, it will get you warmed up for mixing, like a light jog before a workout.

3. Do not talk just to your friends: Networking is a calculated endeavor to meet new people, which gets you out of your comfort zone. It is not a bad idea to go with a friend, but stick to walking in and out together. Most people have some trouble just walking up and saying hello to new people, so if you take the initiative, you can put others at ease by simply introducing yourself. Remember, they are at least open to meeting new people or they would not be wherever you are.

4. Be brave: Do not be afraid to go right up to a stranger and introduce yourself. It is bold and people respond. Keep doing it, because practice always makes perfect. Try to meet as many people as possible without hurrying. Five minutes can be a long time if you spend it right.

5. Ask questions, but not just to ask questions: Talking about yourself is for interviews. At a networking affair, you want to learn about others and pique their interest in you; people do this best by asking questions. You make a good impression and leave your conversation partner wanting more. Make sure to listen to the response. Really listen and you will know what to ask next and the other person will feel heard. Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

One caveat is to make sure you tell them what you want, for example that you are looking for a job if you are. If you fear that expressing your desires will make you seem shallow or a pest, ask yourself, how else will they know what you want if you do not tell them? Do not make people guess. They will appreciate your upfront honesty.

6. Have a drink, but just one: Alcohol will make you more social, but drink too much and you will look like you did, and it is never good to be the one at the party who had too much. No one wants to be the drunk at the party, especially among other professionals. But go ahead and have one for courage.

7. Be positive: Everyone responds to upbeat, positive attitudes. A surly expression and discouraged demeanor turns people off, and alone is the one thing you do not want to be when networking. Here is a life hack to keep you rosy: for two full minutes, stand with your feet shoulder width apart, put your hands (they don’t have to be in fists but can be) on your hips with your elbows bent, like a superhero staring down a villain. This posture increases your testosterone and decreases your cortisol levels.

8. Stay late: Be the last to leave if possible. A firm’s managing partner may have missed the beginning of the event. That person may be just grabbing his or her first drink or snack as the bar closes. This comes from personal experience, and it really does make all the difference.

9. Follow up: If you make a contact, get the person’s card or contact info so you can send them an e-mail and tell them how nice it was to meet them and how you look forward to seeing them again. Send them an invite to connect on a social network. There is no point in meeting someone great if you never see him or her again. Ask for business cards from anyone you connect with and later, go through them to see whom you want to invite to lunch. Do not forget to bring your own business cards.

10. Do it again and again: Keep going to events and building your network. The work of networking is never over. There is less traffic on the extra mile, so keep going, get to know everyone you can, act like a superhero, and enjoy the journey—you only get to go on it once.

Joshua O. Hess, Esquire, is an associate at Christovich & Kearney, LLP in New Orleans, Louisiana, practicing mainly workers’ compensation defense. He is on the executive committee of the Thomas More Loyola Law School AIC.

© 2017 Joshua O. Hess, Esq. This article was originally published in the January/February 2017 issue of The Bencher, a bi-monthly publication of the American Inns of Court. This article, in full or in part, may not be copied, reprinted, distributed, or stored electronically in any form without the express written consent of the American Inns of Court.