It was easy in law school. Meeting fellow students involved quaffing a pint of the cheapest Bud Light the host could afford, then slurring some comment about how much Property Law stank. "Rule against perpetuities? Whatever bro. I ain't got no property anyway."
Now, networking involves a little more effort. Bar events are full of pompous and/or supposedly mature adults and the drinks are bit pricier. Plus, you don't have the fallback "law school stinks" small talk. Networking with said mature adults can be difficult, but here are a few tips, adapted from BuzzFeed's excellent list, to make it less awkward:
1. Names, Introductions, and Bad Memory
I’m terrible with names. I’ll meet someone sixteen times and unless they are particularly humorous, their name will escape my memory. Personally, I like to go over-casual, say, “How’s it going man?” like we’re old friends, and then pull the one-sided introduction to a group of other people.
“This is Jim, John, and Josh.”
And 99 percent of the time, No-Name will follow up with their actual name.
If you want to avoid this entire awkward scenario, you can try another trick to remember their name initially, one that we learned in social psychology. Upon initial introductions, use their name immediately and repeatedly.
“Hey John. My brother’s name is John. Now, do you spell John with an ‘h’ or no ‘h’?”
Bonus point: using their name immediately also makes them like you more.
It’s not networking without a little social lubricant, right? First of all, keep your drink in your left hand. That way, your right hand is ready to shake hands, sans wetness.
As for choice of drink, that shouldn’t matter as much, so long as you don’t have too many. We steer clear of red wine to avoid the blackened gums and teeth look.
And if you want to escape the conversation from hell, try the old, “I’m going to get another drink. Would you like something?”
3. Small Talk
This, for many, is the hardest part. What the heck do you talk about with strangers? One great tip, per BuzzFeed is to ask “What do you like to do?” (as in hobbies) rather than “What kind of law do you practice?”
Yeah, that latter question is even more annoying than Property Law small talk.
Questions are always better initially than stories, as most people prefer to talk about themselves. However, if you are telling a story, watch the faces in your audience. Hand gestures, and avoiding a monotonous tone, will help to keep their attention, but if they begin to look around, that means it is time for story time to end.
Those are some quick tips. Try them out, and if you have any to share, give us a shout out on Twitter.
- The Rules of Business- or Dress-Casual (For Guys) (FindLaw’s Greedy Associates)
- Fake It ‘Til You Make It: Networking for Introverts (FindLaw’s Strategist)
- Twitter and Google+ Can Help Your Legal Practice (FindLaw’s Strategist Blog)