Networking: Planning, Persistence, and Practice

Vanessa Hill

Do not just attend an event – attend with purpose.  To go with purpose means setting goals.  Clearly, you want to enjoy your time but you hope to have ROI too.  Look ahead to see what you need to accomplish before, during, and after the event and determine if it is a worthwhile investment of your time, money, and energy.  Attending the actual event is just one piece of the master plan.


Plan ahead and set goals

An often overlooked but very important step is research.  Consider looking into:

  • Who are the sponsors?
  • Who is on the Board?
  • What is the reason for the event?
  • What kind of individuals will be attending (i.e. attorneys or sales people)?

With this information, you can be strategic.  Think about the persons from your firm who should attend the event and whether you should invite others to sit at your firm’s table.  While you are in the planning stages, keep your team (marketing, legal assistants, etc.) in the know.  They may be able help you with some of the pre-event to-dos.

Goals may be simple:

  • Meet someone new.
  • Talk to at least one committee member or honoree.
  • Talk to people standing by themselves (be that lifesaver!). 

You will make your goals a little more targeted if you have pre-identified marketing targets.  Then a goal could be to introduce yourself to a business development target you know will be in attendance.  (Because you did your research, you know who will be there). Many goals will require you to get up from your firm-sponsored table and mingle.

Add your goals to your Outlook calendar as a friendly reminder.

Know your elevator pitch for this crowd

Should we play Darth Vader’s entrance music for this tip?  Everyone at your firm should already have an elevator pitch, a succinct description of your firm and your role.  Use the research you did to fine-tune your pitch.  It may only need tweaking depending on the specific event or a recent development at your firm (i.e. an award, a new practice area, a recent public trial in the media).   

Know where you are going

When you have a free moment a few days before the event, look up the location and what the parking situation will be.  Knowing this in advance will make it easier to schedule the right amount of time for the drive and the parking.  It will help you to feel less stressed and ready to be a networking rock star. 

Eat a snack before you go

Yes, really.  Don’t show up hangry.  You are there to socialize, which means shaking hands and talking with others.  You cannot do this with an appetizer plate in your hand and food in your mouth.  If it is a sit-down dinner, you never know how long it will take for the food to reach the table.  Your brain needs fuel to stay sharp and focused on your conversation (not on how hungry you are).


Name tags

Name tags are your friend.  They serve a purpose, so use them well.  Always place the name tag on your front right side.  Why? Because when you shake someone’s right hand, the name tag is then in their line of sight and allows them to easily read your name without making it obvious or awkward.  Another reason is some event organizers leave the name tags laid out on the check-in table throughout the entire event.  You do not want your name or the firm’s name to be sitting there as a “no show.”

Hold a drink in your left hand

Some people find comfort in getting a drink and holding it throughout the networking event.  That’s fine if it helps you interact with more people.  However, always hold your drink in your left hand.  This will keep your right hand free for handshake and avoid that weird moment of having to wipe your hand on your clothes from holding the cold/wet glass.    

Business cards

Some think business cards are old fashioned, but some fashion makes sense and never goes out of style.  Have plenty of your business cards easily accessible.  No digging through your purse or pocket and handing off a card that looks like it has been in there for weeks.  Also, be sure you ask people for their business cards; they will appreciate it.  


Never make people compete for your attention with your Smartphone.  It’s rude.  Some may think it makes them “look important,” but in reality, the important people are too busy talking to groups of attendees to peek at emails.  The only time you should have your phone out is to take pictures, jot down a quote or note about the event, post on social media about the event, or in an emergency (of course). 

Don’t just talk about yourself

People love to talk about themselves, so encourage them to do so. A good way to start is to compliment them on something, or ask simple, open-ended questions.(Avoid religion and politics!) Questions like:

  • What made you come to this event?
  • Did you see (sports game) last night?
  • How did you hear about this event? 
  • How are you connected with the organization? 
  • Are you from this area? 

Always try to repeat the person’s name during the conversation. This will help you remember the name, plus, it shows you care.

Simple table etiquette

Let’s not forget that our non-verbal actions sometimes speak louder than words.  Practice the good table manners your mother taught you.  

Image Credits: Eating icon made by Freepik from, okay, water, silverware, clock made by


Write notes on the back of business cards

This system works well.  You think you will remember specifics about the people you engage at an event, but some details will be forgotten unless you jot them down.  Notes on the back of business cards may also serve as a reminder for you to follow up with your marketing team about the people you met.

Thank you notes come in all forms

Take the time to hand-write a thank you note and send it through the mail, type up a timely email, or even send a public or private thank you message on social media (when appropriate).  A simple thank you in any form will be noticed, appreciated, and may even be shared with others in your network.

Take on social media

Your go-to follow-up goal should always be something social media related. Share pictures from the event (organizations love when guests do this), connect with someone you met at the event, like or share posts from those who already posted, etc. It’s easy, fast, and effective.

Inform your marketing team

Use your marketing team as a resource. Set up post-event meetings (just 15 minutes will do) to discuss how they may help you and the firm gain the most from your efforts.  They can help you plot out your next steps.  They may even suggest new items to help you connect with organizations or key targets from the event.

Armed with these helpful tips and tricks, you are ready to attend events with purpose.  Make each event a success.  And one last tip…don’t forget to enjoy yourself. 

About the author Vanessa Hill

Vanessa oversees and implements the firm’s marketing programs and keeps partners abreast of current trends and strategies in legal marketing.  She serves as event coordinator for all firm events at Levi Stadium and the SAP Center of San Jose.