Networking : Big Events VS One-on-One Interactions

I'm no networking master, so take everything I say on this topic with a mountain of salt, but here's my two cents.

First, I really sympathize with you. I hate any sort of insincere social interaction, with large-scale networking events topping the list. Heck, I'm just not a social person generally. I've always kept to myself and limited my relationships to a very small number of intimate ones instead of a large number of near-surface-level ones.

But, I've come to learn a few things about those large-scale events that makes me value and attend them:

  1. A substantial number of people in attendance at those events feel the exact same way you do. I know it's easy to get the sense that it's just one big group of homogenous people, but most really are just slapping on smiles and hoping for the best. Few people actually look forward to these things.

  2. Even though you're in a room with a bunch of people, the reality is that you end up spending 90% of your time talking to 2-3 people. So in essence, you usually end up getting something close to the sort of one-on-one interactions that you prefer.

  3. Interacting with people superficially generally makes it much easier to later create an opportunity to interact with them at more depth. I've cold e-mailed/called a bunch of attorneys looking for lunch or coffee, and I've also followed up with a bunch of attorneys I briefly met at events looking for the same. For the cold e-mails/calls, I have something like a 30% response rate (seems to be pretty close to random--I've had long streaks in both directions). For follow-ups after a superficial interaction, I have very close to a 100% response rate. For whatever reason, my experience is that people are far more receptive to you if they've seen your face and heard your voice at least once. It's kind of like those studies that bear out that people are far more likely to favor brands they've at least heard of, even if they know nothing about the brand. So events like this are a very effective tool for fostering the sort of one-on-one interactions you're seeking.

  4. To my surprise, I usually have more fun than I anticipate.

That said, people have built practices in all sorts of ways. I think little is mandatory, so you can figure things out for yourself. But at least my experience has been that, despite my strong internal repulsion to large-scale networking events, they're usually worthwhile.

/r/LawFirm Thread