For many lawyers, attending legal conferences is about marking their presence, having snacks and randomly exchanging business cards. While it may lead to a few impromptu connections, a well-thought out systematic plan for attending legal conferences will result in acquiring valuable knowledge and establishing effective business relationships.
Here are some tips to make the most of attending a legal conference:
- Before you plan to attend a legal conference, list down the intended objectives vis-a-vis the takeaways of the conference. Some questions you may ask yourself are:
What do you hope to learn?
Who do you hope to meet?
Read the agenda of the conference. If you have a doubt, talk to the conference organisers, and then select an appropriate conference which would give you the highest return of investment for your efforts, time and money.
- Once you have finalized the conference, curate the list of people with whom you can discuss and explore synergies. Do not hesitate to add speakers to the list; some of them are more accessible than you might think. After preparing the list of people, research on them. It is much easier to start a conversation if you already know about their areas of work, credentials or recent news about them.
- A well-rehearsed introduction is an essential conversation starter. However, it should sound natural. After you have introduced yourself, let the other person speak first. Be attentive and do not interrupt, ever. Keep some back up questions in case, the conversation is slipping into an ‘awkward silence zone’. Though it is not recommend to use your cell phone during the event, unless it is inevitable, you can use the event hashtag to interact with the attendees and speakers before and after the event. This might as well lead to gaining a handful of new followers.
- Bring extra business cards. This is a basic, but one of the most underrated. I stash ten to fifteen business cards in the inside of my suit jacket, so even if I misplace my business card holder, I have some as backup. If you don’t prefer to use a business card holder for some reason, keep your business cards at some place handy. It looks unprofessional to keep the other person waiting, while you are searching for it. Also, do not spam by handing out your business cards to everyone in sight, rather encourage them to ask for your business card.
- During the Q&A session, don’t be shy to ask a question about a point you would like to be clarified; not only will you understand a concept better, but you may also impress the speaker as well as the other attendees, which may prompt them to exchange contact information with you after the session.
- You would perhaps meet a number of people at the conference. It is not humanly possible to remember the important points, and therefore, it is important to make notes about the conversation. I prefer to utilize the back side of a business card to make notes for follow-ups.
- A day or two after the conference, send follow-up e-mails to people with whom you are keen to establish a professional relationship. Personalize each mail and focus on the possible synergies which could be mutually beneficial. You can also send a request to schedule a meeting. However, it is advisable to know the interest level of the other person first before jumping the gun.
Just like any other skill in life, making the best out of attending legal conferences requires practice. So, improve upon the areas where you could do better and plan for the next.
Do not forget to re-order the business cards!
If you have other tips for making the most of attending legal conferences, please share in the comments below.