The IP Lawyer's Guide to Networking in a Virtual World
As 2020 changed the shape of most (if not all) industries, the expected move into a more digital workspace came at a faster speed, with most events and conferences moving to virtual, due to the pandemic, there was less of a want and more of a need for digital connections over physical. A commonly asked question in what is now the "new normal" is how can you network effectively to secure new clients for your IP law firm virtually
The simplicity of attending online events means that most lawyers find themselves attending a plethora of virtual events; after all, it takes only a click to register and another click to join. The results can often mean leaving these events exhausted with no new leads or prospective business opportunities.
A common mistake may be someone thinking they are not visible enough and pushing to make their voices heard during the virtual events they attend. They ask a lot of questions, make remarks in the comment section, all to be visible. Yet, they end up with no results.
Networking should be about engagement, interaction and discussion, what do you bring to the table? Are you interacting or just simply speaking to be heard?
In his book, Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi described networking as simply generosity. In his words, “real networking [is] about finding ways to make other people more successful…It’s a constant process of giving and receiving – of asking for and offering help”.
Also, John Naisbitt, in his book Megatrends, wrote: “Networks are people talking to each other, sharing ideas, information, and resources… The important part is not the network, the finished product, but the process of getting there – the communication that creates the linkages between people and clusters of people”.
How do you translate these ideas of networking into your next virtual event?
Essentially, networking relies on the law of reciprocity. If you do not participate in the conversation and freely give your time and resources or offer relevant referrals, you can't expect others to do the same.
Virtual Networking Events
Like every valuable life skill, networking is a skill that can be learned and mastered through practice.
You may be wondering how you can practice this skill when you're not able to attend in-person networking events. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about networking, online networking is just as important as offline, it also often opens up global connections that wouldn't otherwise be available.
It's good to think of networking as being any time you meet with another person in a business capacity. This could be in-person, on social media, in virtual events, or via email!
Since you never really know who needs IP services, and you shouldn’t assume someone may understand the ways you could help them, it is good to approach most people you interact with, within a work environment as someone who could be a potential client.
In addition, you can also take a narrower approach. Focus on your niche, is there something that makes you stand out? It could be your type of client, your unique skill set or sector focus... It's important to ask yourself, what type of clients are you searching for? Try to be very specific about this. Where could you connect with them? Use Linkedin’s search function and platforms like Event Brite and Meetup.com to strategically find events where your type of clients will be in attendance.
How do you make the most of these events?
Audio Business Card
Your audio business card is your elevator speech, but for virtual events. It is a short response to the question, “Could you kindly introduce yourself?”
This can be an easy way to stand out in itself, as the majority of people don’t know how to properly articulate their key focus and service benefits. They ramble something along the lines of “I’m an IP lawyer”. and with more than 1.5 million people in Europe that can also say this, this doesn't feel unique or memorable. your introduction is where you need to stand out, make yourself memorable, confident and approachable. A great introduction should answer the following questions:
Who am I? Where do I work, study, live?
What do I do? What are my client focus points, where do I stand out
Who are my ideal clients? What does my future client base look like?
Virtual Networking Best Practices
Ironically, networking is less about you but more about others. To get the best result, connect with people on an emotional level. Be present, respectful and engaged, give your full attention when someone else speaks.
When you actually take the time to properly listen to others, they tend to naturally like you as a result it also helps to build trust in you.
Listening is a skill that can be learned and, when used effectively, creates a relationship with the speaker that can morph into business.
After connecting with a person at a virtual event or on social media, the most crucial aspect of building a network with that person is to keep the connection, this is as easy as just following up. Invite them to a one-on-one meeting to show you are interested in learning more about their needs and how you could potentially work together. Following up means keeping in touch in meaningful ways that will benefit the person. Introduce them to a potential client for their business, provide useful information to them, send an article that is of interest to them, invite them to a webinar or a virtual networking event.
Networking is not always about how someone can directly meet your needs, it is just as important to create meaningful connections that can lead to future partnerships and collaborations, these can sometimes be referrals or even just by working to build a reputation for being an understanding and caring individual, about understanding someone within your network's needs, and helping where you can, this in itself adds tremendous value.