Conferences! Do you get excited or do you dread them? Do you get business as a result or not so much? Do you identify goals in advance or do you wing it? Chances are… you are like some lawyers and the later is true… You dread them, you get no work and you have no plan.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Most importantly you need a plan. Here are six tips to help you succeed at business development the next time you attend a conference… ABA or trade association.

Let’s face it… at the core, conferences are about building relationships and acquiring knowledge.

In Advance

  1. Call colleagues and referral sources you think may be attending the conference. 1st…  It gives you an excuse to call them regardless of whether or not they are attending. 2nd… Pre-schedule meetings, it would be great to have a drink or a meal, but if that is not possible… plan to sit together at a session so you have a few minutes to get caught-up.
  2. Make a list of your goals and objectives. This can be a wish list. Who would you like to see? What would you like to learn? What connections would you like to make, etc.?
  3. Don’t set out to meet tons of people. The objective should be to get to know… and get into relationship with 2- 5 people (depends on how many days the conference is.)  NOT to collect a stack of business cards!
  4. Think about how you will follow-up with people you meet. Send an article, send something personal, call, email, etc. if you plan before you go to the conference… when you are there you can gather information that will help you with your follow-up. For example if you have a conversation with a prospect about golf… you might send him a book on golfing in your state. 
  5. What information would you like to acquire that will help you in your practice? Talk to people about issues you would like input on. Ask the same question of many and you will have gathered useable data.

Upon Your Return

  1. If you have prepared in advance the follow-up will be easy and painless. You have a plan of action. Remember it’s about relationships… so even if you connect with only one person that will add value to your practice in some way… it will have been a successful conference.

If you don’t plan in advance and follow-up… all the time and money spent is wasted. Maximize your efforts… you owe it to your firm and yourself.

P.S. This may sound obvious but DO NOT forget to pack plenty of business cards. I can’t tell you how many times I have been at conferences that people tell me they forgot their business cards…. don’t let that be you!