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Making Rain: When a room full of strangers freaks you out

Dona Stohler
August 13, 2014
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MakingRain.jpgAs most good rainmakers know, it is all about networking, and sometimes this means talking to people who are total strangers. It can be daunting to attend an event that your firm is sponsoring or a conference that your target market attends and be expected to “go out there and make new friends.” There are ways you can make this easier on yourself and be more strategic about how you use these opportunities.

First of all, it is good to have a purpose. Set some goals you would like to accomplish while you are there. These goals can be things like meet at least two people who I do not know or ask someone I know to introduce me to at least three people they know. By doing this, you will have a goal in mind when you walk in the room and it will distract you from being nervous or feeling awkward about showing up where you may not know anyone.

It’s also good to keep in mind that you are not there to actually hand someone an engagement letter. You are just there to learn enough about someone else that you have a reason to get back together with them or stay in touch with them. So, take the pressure off yourself and just try to talk to people about things that will give you enough information to have a jumping off point for another conversation.

Another idea that may help put you at ease is to think of yourself as someone who is attending to put people together. You are there so that you can help. You are the host/hostess and want to make sure everyone has a good time and meaningful conversations. When you talk to these “perfect strangers,” you will be asking them questions so you can introduce them to others. An example might be that you start talking to Fred. You ask him what he likes to do when he’s not working and he says skydiving. You see another person you want to meet, so you say, “I’d like you to meet Fred. He skydives. Oh, and by the way, I’m Julie.”

Part of your goal setting may be to try to find a particular person you want to meet who is planning to attend. For many events, especially ones your firm sponsors, you can get the attendee list ahead of the event. Look at it and see if any of your prospects are on it. If so, one of your goals is to ask around to find someone who knows this person and can introduce you. If you can’t get the list ahead of time, look to see who is on the organization’s board of directors. There may be some people on their board that you would like to meet. It is a great way to break the ice with someone you don’t know by simply asking them if they know the person you are trying to find.

Have some good questions in mind to ask once you introduce yourself to someone. Chit-chat and talking about the weather might be great for purely social situations, but you are there to meet your next big client. Ask questions that are going to be engaging enough that you have a reason to talk to this person again. Some examples are:

• What is the most exciting thing happening at your company right now?

• What do you like most about what you do?

• What is the most challenging thing happening in your industry?

• What made you decide to attend this event?

• How do you like this event compared to others you have attended recently?

• What is the profile of your typical customer/client?

You also want to have an exit strategy. You don’t want to get stuck talking to the same person for the duration of the event. To avoid this, there are a couple things you can do. One is to approach pairs or small groups, not people standing by themselves. By talking to two people who are already talking, you can easily break away from them without leaving someone standing alone.

If you are stuck with one person, introduce them to someone you know that happens to be nearby and then tactfully excuse yourself and move on. Or if you have asked the right questions you will know what kind of person they would like to meet. Help them find that person and introduce them, then move on.

If you try all this and it feels much better, congratulations, you have survived the first phase of this process. You attended the event and you have made a few connections. It isn’t time to stop now. Ask yourself these questions:

• Did I meet someone who I can continue a conversation with over coffee, breakfast or lunch?

• Did I meet someone who can help introduce me to a prospect?

• Did I have at least one productive conversation that will enable me to contact this person to help them solve a problem?

• Did I find at least one of the people on my prospect list that I was looking for?

Hopefully, you can say “yes” to at least one of these questions. If you can, then the next steps are up to you. Follow up and continue the relationship-building process. Set a time to get back together with your new connections in a few weeks or a month. Before you know it, you will be well on your way to finding a new client or good referral source.

Turning dread into a purpose that you have prepared for will change the way you look at the role you play when confronted with attending your next event. Maybe a room full to strangers won’t result in you feeling excited and energized, but it will no longer freak you out.•

__________

Dona Stohler of S2 Law Firm Strategies provides consulting services on business development and marketing for law firms. Stohler has more than a decade of experience in the legal services industry and is the past chair of the U.S. Law Firm Group marketing committee. She can be reached at dsstohler@s2lawfirmstrategies.com or through www.S2lawfirmstrategies.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. Should be beat this rap, I would not recommend lion hunting in Zimbabwe to celebrate.

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  4. All these sites putting up all the crap they do making Brent Look like A Monster like he's not a good person . First off th fight actually started not because of Brent but because of one of his friends then when the fight popped off his friend ran like a coward which left Brent to fend for himself .It IS NOT a crime to defend yourself 3 of them and 1 of him . just so happened he was a better fighter. I'm Brent s wife so I know him personally and up close . He's a very caring kind loving man . He's not abusive in any way . He is a loving father and really shouldn't be where he is not for self defense . Now because of one of his stupid friends trying to show off and turning out to be nothing but a coward and leaving Brent to be jumped by 3 men not only is Brent suffering but Me his wife , his kids abd step kidshis mom and brother his family is left to live without him abd suffering in more ways then one . that man was and still is my smile ....he's the one real thing I've ever had in my life .....f@#@ You Lafayette court system . Learn to do your jobs right he maybe should have gotten that year for misdemeanor battery but that s it . not one person can stand to me and tell me if u we're in a fight facing 3 men and u just by yourself u wouldn't fight back that you wouldn't do everything u could to walk away to ur family ur kids That's what Brent is guilty of trying to defend himself against 3 men he wanted to go home tohisfamily worse then they did he just happened to be a better fighter and he got the best of th others . what would you do ? Stand there lay there and be stomped and beaten or would u give it everything u got and fight back ? I'd of done the same only I'm so smallid of probably shot or stabbed or picked up something to use as a weapon . if it was me or them I'd do everything I could to make sure I was going to live that I would make it hone to see my kids and husband . I Love You Brent Anthony Forever & Always .....Soul 1 baby

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