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Networking for the Chickenhearted

Some lawyers would rather face a root canal than a holiday party. It's not that they lack holiday spirit but that they fear forced networking. Still, networking helps keep the clients flowing, so whether it is something you relish or fear, it is undoubtedly something you will encounter in the coming weeks. For the socially squeamish among you, there is help. In three recent posts at her Legal Ease Blog, marketing consultant Allison C. Shields offers what amounts to a minicourse in the fundamentals of networking.

Lesson No. 1 begins with Shields' Holiday Networking Tips, her 10 steps to effective networking. She recommends, for one, that you focus on quality, not quantity:

"Networking isn’t a race to collect the most business cards. It’s about making connections. Remember: people do business with people they know, like and trust. Focus on meeting one or two people and establishing an initial connection, rather than just collecting a bunch of business cards. Make sure to learn something concrete about each person you meet."

Easy for her to say. But what if you are innately shy? Then move on to Lesson No. 2, Networking for Shy People. Acknowledging that socializing can be particularly daunting for shy people, Shields offers several suggestions for breaking the ice. Among them, arrive early:

"When you arrive early, you're not as likely to be intimidated by a room full of people who are already talking, laughing and sharing inside stories. If you're one of the first to arrive, chances are that you'll have an easier time striking up a conversation with the other earlybirds. Don't be afraid to tell them you're new to the group and that you're looking forward to meeting other people."

Yes, but even after you've arrived early and sidled up to the hors d'oeuvre table, there is that inevitable moment when talk turns to the much-dreaded topic of last night's game. Is admitting your ignorance about sports akin to confessing you are unlettered in the law? In Lesson No. 3, Networking: What Do I Say?, Shields suggests you use your lack of knowledge to your advantage:

"If you're not a golfer, try asking someone in the group (or the group as a  whole) what it  is about golf that they enjoy so much. Ask them how they got started in the sport. Ask how often they play, or how they manage to fit golf into their schedules, or how they use golf as a business opportunity."

So fear not the holiday party. Pour yourself an eggnog and pore over Shields' tips.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on December 12, 2006 at 05:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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