Seven Tips For Navigating Networking Receptions
Law is a relational industry. Your relationships can help you get connected to jobs, clients, and opportunities. In your career, you will inevitably find yourself at networking receptions. These can range from cocktail hours hosted by a law firm to happy hours with the local bar association (most of these events center around alcohol). In this post, we will go over seven tips for navigating these types of events so you can come out with a stronger professional network.
If you haven’t yet, be sure to read our general tips on networking.
Seven Tips For Navigating Networking Receptions
1. Set a goal for how many people to meet
Networking receptions can feel overwhelming, especially for introverts. Just imagine, a noisy room full of people you don’t know! You could end up not talking to anyone and leave feeling defeated. The best way to combat that feeling is to go in with a goal for how many people you want to meet. Even if you are introverted, you can muster up the energy to have a conversation with 1-2 people. For your first networking receptions, you can start at 1-2 people, and work your way up as you attend more receptions. But you should still limit your goal to just a handful; it’s better to have quality conversations with a few people than to have brief interactions with a dozen.
2. Come with conversation starters
Networking receptions can feel awkward, so come prepared to break the ice. Are you attending a reception hosted by a firm? Use the time to learn more about the firm, such as their practice areas or how they train their associates. Going to a happy hour with a local bar association? Ask people what they like about the bar association, or how they are involved. These are natural ways to spark conversation since it gets people talking about what has brought them all together in the room.
3. Follow up with good questions to build rapport
After the conversation starter, have some questions ready to follow up and keep the conversation going. Ask open-ended questions that elicit more than a yes or no answer. Instead of asking “Do you like working for this firm?”, try asking “What are some things you enjoy about working at this firm?”
But you don’t want the conversation to feel like an interview. Be sure to add some details about yourself, and answer any questions that the other person asks.
4. Practice your handshake, smile, and body language
You want your handshake to be firm yet approachable. A limp handshake comes across as weak, while a crushing handshake makes you seem overly aggressive. Your handshake should communicate that you are confident yet friendly.
You also want to make sure that you smile naturally and maintain open and approachable body language.
5. Make a clean exit from the conversation
You may find yourself in a conversation that feels dead, or you’d like to go meet someone else. Have a clean way to leave the conversation smoothly. You can say something like “It was nice meeting you! I need to go get some water, but do you have a card?” Don’t feel obligated to follow up with every person who gives you their card, but do follow up if you felt you made a connection and would like to chat more.
6. Don’t just talk to your friends
If you go to a networking reception with your friends, you can feel tempted to just hang out with them. Resist that temptation! You are there to meet new people and expand your professional network. Instead, help each other connect with new people. If you’re in a good conversation and see your friend walking around by themselves, invite them to join in. You will help your friend out and add new energy to the conversation.
7. Don’t eat or drink too much
Most of these networking receptions will have food and alcohol. Enjoy yourself, but don’t go overboard. You don’t want to be remembered as the person who drank too much and said something embarrassing. Remember, you are in a professional setting, and that people you meet can have a huge impact on your career. The legal industry is small, and a bad reputation can come back to bite you.
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