Networking 101: Two simple ways to start a conversation


So there you are at your bar association or chamber of commerce mixer. Lots of people you don’t know but would like to meet. “I should talk to them. . .”. but you don’t because you don’t know what to say. So you find a familiar face and talk to them instead. Sadly, another networking opportunity has passed you by. Oh well, maybe next time. . .

If this sounds familiar, I’m here to rescue you. I’ll share two very simple ways to initiate a conversation with someone you don’t know.

Before I do, I should point out that if you are at a function where the attendees are expected to mix and meet, like a bar association or chamber of commerce meeting, talking to people you don’t know is expected and not at all hard to do. Just introduce yourself: “My name is David, what’s your’s?”


After that, ask them what they do. Let them do the talking. Ask more questions. Ask for their card.

Of course they’ll ask what you do and ask for your card. Presto-chango, new contact.

What about when you’re not at a mixer or other organized function where meeting new people is part of the agenda? How do you start a conversation when conversation isn’t expected?

This is also easy. You can either,

  1. Ask a question, or
  2. Pay a compliment.

“Do you know where the rest rooms are?” “Hey, I like your tie?” “Is that a Coach bag? It’s gorgeous.” “What time does the program start?” “Do you work near here?”

Either way, you will get a response and a conversation will have ensued. What to do next depends on the circumstances. When in doubt, another question usually keeps the conversation going.

What do you do to break the ice with people you don’t know? Please share your experiences in the comments.


Attorney Marketing 101: Networking with the Right People


For many lawyers, networking is a great source of new business. Referrals are given, ideas are exchanged, doors are opened.

Most attorneys network by default. The local Chamber of Commerce advertises a mixer, a friend invites them to a Rotary breakfast or their local bar association announces their annual meeting, and that’s where they go. But these groups may not be the best choice.

When they don’t get a lot of business from one networking group many attorneys join a second group. Before you know it, some attorneys attend so many networking events each month they have no time for anything else. And because they aren’t networking with the right people, they still aren’t getting good results.

The right people, the ones you want to meet and network with, are those who are likely to know and influence a significant number of your ideal clients. No matter what your networking skills might be, your odds of success are much better when you network with groups comprised of a high concentration of these individuals.

Where do you find these groups? First, define your “ideal referral source”.

Start by looking at the referrals you received over the last twelve months. Who sent those referrals? What is their profession or background? What industry are they in? What other demographic factors stand out?

Look for patterns. If you see you got twenty-six referrals from real estate brokers last year, it probably makes sense to put real estate brokers on your list.

Then, put on your thinking cap and brainstorm other categories of prospective referral sources. Who sells to or advises your ideal clients? Who might have a big list of your ideal clients or influence in your target market?

Make a list of five to ten categories of promising referral sources. Depending on your practice area and local market, two or three categories may be enough (and all you can handle).

If you’re a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney, your list of categories may include obvious choices like insurance agents and brokers and physicians. It may include some less obvious choices, however, such as high school principals or pastors.

If you’re a consumer bankruptcy attorney, obvious choices might be real estate and mortgage brokers, accountants, and hairdressers.

Consider also including categories of people who influence your ideal referral sources. For example, if you want to network with financial planners, networking with accountants or non-competitive attorneys who represent financial planners would make sense.

Once you have defined your ideal referral sources, the next step is to find out where they congregate.

There are directories and web sites that list countless associations, networking groups, and referral groups (groups that meet specifically for the purpose of exchanging referrals). An hour or two will allow you to make a list of “candidate” groups. Note where they meet and when, and other pertinent information, e.g., how many members, requirements to join, do they allow outside speakers, etc.

A simpler way is to ask your existing referral sources what groups they belong to. Not only can this shortcut your research time, your contact will probably invite you to attend a meeting as his or her guest.

Having a friend on the inside, someone who can introduce you to the right people and provide information about committees, speakers, and group dynamics is invaluable.

If you don’t know people in the right categories, or the people you know don’t do any networking, you can ask people you know for a referral to someone who does. Call and introduce yourself, mention your mutual friend, and tell them you’re looking for a networking group you could attend. I’m sure they will have recommendations.

You’ll still need to attend a few meetings to see if a group is a good fit. The good news is that once you find a group that is, you may not need to find a second.

When it comes to networking, most attorneys are “a mile wide and an inch deep”. The most successful networkers focus their time and effort in a limited number of groups of “the right people”.