Monday, October 20, 2014

Linked In Basics in Ten Easy Steps, Part 2


This is the second in a four part weekly series on the basics of using Linked In for business development.
2.  Personalize Your URL:
You have the option to claim your name as part of your LinkedIn web address, rather than a standard web address with a long list of numbers at the end.  Find this under the Edit drop-down menu on your profile home page, click "Manage your profile settings" then find "Customize your public profile URL" along the right side, as shown here.
Example: "http://www.linkedin.com/in/firstnamelastname"
3. Connect with your Colleagues and Business Contacts:
Take time each week, each month, etc.  to update your LinkedIn Contacts.  On your Home page, you will see People You May Know on the right side of the page.  If you've kept your profile updated with affiliations and groups you belong to, LinkedIn will better be able to suggest people with whom you should connect.  The more experiences you add, even non-work related experience, the easier it will be for LinkedIn to connect you with others within those networks.
Add your colleagues at the firm, along with your professional network outside the firm.  Add new contacts you meet at networking or social events.  LinkedIn is one of the most searched professional sites online.  Just as our in-house CRM shows who knows a specific contact, LinkedIn also shows who you already know that may know a business contact you are trying to connect with, and that can lead to a touch point to facilitate an introduction.

Or vice versa: contacts may find you can help facilitate a business introduction for them.  If you find you need to delete a contact, you can remove them under the Network – Connections tab.  It’s worth periodically culling out connections that don’t augment your profile in some way. Often times, others will attempt to connect with you just to increase the number of connections they have believing that large networks gain them higher rankings in search results. However, the behavior of searching on LinkedIn is really through the process of searching ‘degrees of separation’. Knowing this, it is more important to ensure that the connections you have are of the best quality, have similar good quality connections, are meaningful and offer the potential to help someone out in the future.

4. Add Recommendations:

An easy way to enhance your reputation is to obtain recommendations from quality, well regarded sources. These recommendations add up to social proof that you’re a professional others can depend on. The best way to get recommendations is to ask for them. The Request Recommendations tool is simple to use, but take the time to edit the default message by tailoring it for your audience.  Access this thru your Privacy & Settings page.  Do this sparingly. Target those who have direct experience with you and your work. For connections or clients that you have not spoken with recently, include a point of reference to jog their memory in your note.  As for the message itself, be short and to the point. A good way to start your message is to acknowledge how much you value their opinion.  Start writing recommendations for others you know as well, and you may find many will reciprocate.
If you'd like help using Linked In for business development, contact Eric at eric@groupdeweyconsulting.com. You'll find I'm an eager resource and that it costs nothing to talk.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Forensic Business Development Research

Prospecting for Legal Work by Monitoring Unusual Business Activities


Wayne Gretzky understood the need to anticipate. So have savvy investors and investment and commercial bankers. They have learned the art and science of predicting where problems may occur in a business and they use that information to hedge their bets and protect their assets. The same techniques can help lawyers anticipate where legal issues could potentially develop. 

A Canary in the Coal Mine

Companies who run into legal issues, more often than not, had warning signs which provided clues of these developing problems. If you are informed and attentive to these signs, you can gain a competitive business development advantage and provide distinctive value to clients and prospects.  
What types of legal work can be detected through these clues? Often, you can reveal:


·         Companies who may have an acquisition appetite or be a target.
·         Companies who may need to raise capital.
·         Companies who may experience regulatory investigations or are dealing with compliance issues.
·         Companies who may face various types of litigation.
·         Companies who are potentially facing bankruptcy.
·         Companies who may be thinking about selling key assets.


These and numerous other types of legal work can be revealed through a process called ‘Forensic Business Development Research (FBDR)’. FBDR is a set of techniques and processes to identify and monitor potential early warning signs of legal problems. It monitors unusual business events, activities and indicators reported through a variety of channels which, either singularly or in combination, provide early warning of potential problems in a company.

“What Keeps You Up at Night?”

Any lawyer who goes in to a client or prospective client meeting asking ‘what keeps you up at night’ runs the risk of being perceived as not having done their homework. The client knows what keeps him up at night and you should too. Business development works best when you provide value first to establish a relationship. Providing value means telling the client something they don’t already know.  

Forensic business development research allows you to shift from probing for information, to exploring ways in which you can add value to the company- exploring reasons why the company should hire you. It shifts the conversation from ‘What keeps you up at night’ to ‘Let’s discuss how you can sleep better.’

The benefits of FBDR are numerous. This early warning process enables law firms to target their communications and BD efforts to existing and prospective clients in an environment with little to no competitive pressure. It often allows lawyers to engage clients in discussions regarding potential legal issues before they have occurred. The process also helps prepare attorneys for discussions with prospective and existing clients by providing them with specific, well-informed and formulated questions and strategic intelligence on the company and its competitors.

Forensic business development research requires a monitoring of numerous events and activities including financial indicators, managerial developments, operational changes and market conditions. It often requires monitoring over a long period of time in order to detect trends or slowly developing issues. The process is not foolproof, of course. However, even if the process doesn’t reveal developing problems for your list of companies, monitoring and analyzing multiple factors will provide greater business intelligence on these clients and prospects. Because public companies are required to file more information with the government than are privately held companies, forensic BD research among private companies is much more difficult and less reliable, though still not impossible.

26 Early Warning Indicators

Management Practices Indicators:

Review risk factors and management’s discussion of these risks

Every annual report includes information about the most significant risks that apply to the company or to its securities. Companies generally list the risk factors in order of their importance. Some risks may be true for the entire economy, some may apply only to the company’s industry sector or geographic region, and some may be unique to the company.
Company leaders also must discuss their perceptions of the risks that the company faces. Pay attention to the points made in this discussion and determine whether company executives have a firm grasp on the scope and intensity of these risks.

Changes in accounting firms

In and of itself, a change in the accounting firm is not an indication of problems. However, the advantages over time of using the same accounting firm are powerful enough that a change in firms can be considered an unusual event. If the accounting firm has also refused to provide a clean bill of health in the analysis of the company’s financial records, something the accounting firm is required to report, the change in accounting firms is a definite red flag. The explanation for the change should be sensible and pass the sniff test. In other words, if making the change presents significant benefit to the company, the change may make sense. But if the capabilities of the old and new accounting firm are equal, or there is disagreement between the accounting firm and the company’s management, it deserves further investigation.

Lack of a ‘clean bill of health’

Accounting firms are required to state their opinion as to the quality of the financial data submitted for review. In some cases, where the accounting firm cannot validate the source or reliability of the information, the firm will make a statement to that affect in the company’s filing. In some cases, the accounting firm will state that it does not give the company a clean bill of health.  In such cases this is the result of known or perceived improprieties found by the accounting firm. These situations universally require further investigation and very often point to emerging legal issues.

New positions created

Companies often create new positions to deal with key challenges faced by the company. A first time position dealing with issues such as risk, compliance, or other areas can indicates recognition by the company that it has challenges in the area. 

New skills and capabilities in new hires

Similar to when a company creates a new position, a significant change in the description of the skills and capabilities they desire in the candidate can reveal issues that the company is attempting to address in their talent recruitment efforts. This can include new educational or professional certification requirements, experience in particular areas or issues, and other skills and capabilities. Judgment is required to assess whether the change is a response to new market or competitive pressures or whether it is resulting from operational challenges.

Departures of key executives

Companies hire and fire executives for a variety of reasons, but some of these reasons can be indications of internal problems. Executive also leave on their own volition for a variety of reasons. And it is a rare occurrence for a key executive to leave a company for reasons that might lead to legal problems. But, the situation does occur. Taken in combination with other factors experienced by the company, this could be an indicator of developing problems at the company.

Departure of key board members

A change in one or more members of the Board of Directors is a development that requires more research. Research is especially warranted when the exiting board member has a strong reputation and there is a weak explanation of their departure.

Big insider or institutional sales

Key executives in the company and institutional investors have greater knowledge of what’s going on in the company. Executives that begin selling large blocks of stock either in a measured disposal over a short period of time or in one large block can indicate that future problems for the company may be on the horizon.  

Dividend cuts

Companies rarely cut the amount of the dividends that they pay to investors each quarter. Doing so sends a signal to investors that the company needs cash and reducing the amount of dividends payments to investors is one of the last places a company will look for savings. So when this happens, look for more signs of developing problems at the company.

Selling flagship products, equipment or property

Companies don’t sell their prime products, brands and assets unless they are forced to let them go. In some cases, the sale can be calculated to raise capital for new investments but more often than not, it is an indication of financial difficulties in the company.

Significant reductions in people or benefits

If you are going through tough financial times, one of the first things you will likely do is look for ways to cut your expenses. Companies do the same thing. And they will start with the largest expenses first. One of the first large expenses that they will look to cut are staff positions and benefits related expenses. Cuts in staffing, especially those made suddenly vs through attrition, are red flags for problems. In most states it is relatively way to make personnel cuts. The second area often cut is a bit harder. Having reaped all the benefits they can get from cuts in personnel, companies will seek to make deep cuts in their health benefits, pension plans or other benefits. Deep and sudden cuts, particularly when they take place in conjunction with financial indicators are a sign that trouble may lie ahead. Watch for these items to be in a news release or the annual prospectus.

Financial Performance Indicators:

Multiple periods of negative cash flow

When cash outflows exceed cash inflows, the company has what is called ‘negative cash flow’. While it’s not unusual to have a month or two of negative cash flow, a prolonged period or increasing gap could indicate that cash in the bank is running low for a company. Without new capital from sales, equity investors or lenders, a company in this situation can quickly find itself in serious financial trouble.

High debt to equity ratio compared to peers

The debt-to-equity ratio is a handy metric for gauging a company's debt default risk. It compares a company's combined long- and short-term debt to shareholders' equity or book value. High-debt companies have higher D/E ratios than companies with low debt. Comparing the debt profile of multiple companies within an industry helps put the level of debt in context. Some industries operate with a high level of debt so understanding the industry practices with regard to typical debt loads is an important part of the analysis.

Interest payments on debt

A company's income statement will show what it pays to service its debt. The company should be able to pay its expenses and interest obligations from the revenues it is reporting. In fact, there should be a comfortable margin above this level so profits to the company owners can be paid. In companies that are failing or about to fail, this gap narrows and may become negative, indicating the company is on its way to financial distress or failure.  Use the interest coverage ratio to determine the company’s ability to pay its debt obligations. The lower the ratio, the harder it is for the company to pay its debts.

Significant or sudden drop in reserve for doubtful accounts  

Companies dedicate a reserve to cover the cost of uncollected receivables. A large increase in the reserve amount may indicate management's anticipation of collection problems. If the company has only a few large clients, this could present significant challenges. A significant drop without a reasonable explanation could indicate manipulation of revenues since the reserve goes directly to the bottom line. Either is worthy of further investigation.    

Changes in inventory volume

Significant changes in inventory can be indicative of manipulation of the cost of goods sold. If inventories ramp up faster than sales volume, and again there is no reasonable explanation such as new product releases or increased marketing, questions should be asked and further research performed.

Changes in contingent liabilities

Significant or sudden changes in contingent liabilities without a reasonable explanation can be an indicator of financial trouble. Contingent liabilities include significant litigation, or regulatory fees and penalties a company typically experiences. It can also include guarantees made on behalf of associated companies or guarantees made on product or service claims.  Regardless, questions should arise when there is a significant or sudden change in the value of these liabilities.

Low price earnings ratio but high book value

Plotting the price earnings ratio against a company’s book value can help you determine the potential acquirers and acquirees in an industry or geographic market area. Companies with a high price to earnings ratio and small book value are companies which are small and fast growing. Typically this growth is the result of a competitive advantage and often is attractive to slower growing, larger players in the market (the low price earnings ratio and larger book value companies). Large companies which are growing slowly often look to acquisitions of other companies to improve their earnings. Plotting the ratio and value on a ‘two over two’ graph of the companies in an industry will enable you to isolate the two types of companies and determine which might be potential targets.  

Operational Indicators:

Significant changes in the cost or availability of raw materials

Companies which are dependent upon raw materials for the production of their goods and services are particularly vulnerable to changes in the cost of those materials.  Monitoring when legislation, market changes or new regulations affect the cost or availability of materials is one way to anticipate potential legal needs. For example, horizontal drilling technologies tipped the economics of fracking and led to huge increases in the availability of natural gas reserves in the U.S. Companies whose futures contracts were tied to oil and gas prices, didn’t enjoy the price drops this new supply created. So companies began to re-negotiate their contracts and untie their pricing contract from the increasing oil prices. This has led to litigation between the contract holder and the supplier.

Changes or loss in key suppliers

One doesn't fire a good client unless that client presents little or no future for the business. If the client has not paid its supplier, the first order of business is to stop doing business with the client. Whether the result of the company’s inability to pay its bills or due to disagreements in other terms in the agreement, there’s a good chance that changes in a key supplier can result in litigation. These situations warrant further investigation.

Significant price reductions

Sudden and significant price reductions are often an indication that the business needs more cash to service its debt or pay suppliers. While sometimes a price reduction can indicate investment in a new product or service line, these changes warrant further questions. And again the answer to why the reduction was made should make sense.

Change in marketing or business strategy

A significant change in marketing or business strategy can indicate a troubled company or, at least, a disconcerting outlook for the company. Companies rarely make an about face on their marketing or business strategy and do so only when conditions or times leave them no other choice. A company that abruptly changes its strategy or business model often are panicking and acting somewhat irrationally. A change in strategy typically requires a significant investment in marketing and operations in order to affect. It brings numerous risks and ‘unknowns’ for the company and many times forfeits loyal customers for the promise of future, more profitable customers. Therefore, significant changes in strategy should be accompanied by a logical and realistic business case. Where the business case is suspect, look further for other developments that can confirm or deny the potential for developing legal issues.

Loss of a significant business alliance or partnership

The loss of a strategic business alliance can indicate problems in the relationship between the two companies. In some cases the benefits to both businesses may simply have run its course. But more likely, a split is an indication of a strong disagreement between the two companies either because they are in competition for the rights to certain assets or technologies or because suspect business practices have wedged the two apart.

Deterioration of product or service quality

Companies that are struggling to pay their bills often look to cut expenses in production and service. This results in the deterioration of product and service quality. With the ubiquity of user review websites and tools such as Yelp, Angie’s List and other rating systems, it’s becoming easier to monitor an uptick in negative experiences. Many big box retailer sites and shopping sites (such as Amazon) include user reviews for the major manufacturers and brands featured on the site. This enables a relatively easy way to compare product and service quality across industry players.  

Market Condition Indicators:

New competitors

Strong, new competitors entering a geographic area or industry can upset the balance of that market and, if not managed well, lead a company into financial distress. WalMart is famous for putting smaller retailers out of business in the markets it enters but even lesser known brands can cause an intensification of the competitive environment that leads some companies toward financial distress.

Alternative providers

The sudden appearance of a new, well-funded or game changing alternative provider can fundamentally change a company’s business strategy and sometimes lead to financial distress in the affected companies. A prime recent example of this was the introduction of Uber and Lyft, applications which fundamentally changed the taxi cab business over the short course of a few months. (In fact, these applications are now threatening to change the fundamental business models of the local delivery service industry and even private ambulance services). Once these services gained traction in a couple of big cities, litigation, lobbying efforts and even taxi cab company bankruptcies quickly followed.

In conclusion

Once again, it’s rare that a single indicator will reveal significant legal problems. More often, the indicators build over time, the evidence revealed as the issues become more severe. Developing the analytical abilities to assess indicators early enables firms to get the earliest shot of helping the client with these issues. Monitoring these general areas of your clients' and prospective clients' businesses can provide you with a significant advantage in your business development efforts.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Linked In Basics in Ten Easy Steps, Part 1


LinkedIn is where your clients, business associates, referral sources, and prospective clients are networking.  Media Post reports nine out of ten (88%) business executives use LinkedIn ‘often’ or ‘very often' and 73% said LinkedIn is their favorite network for social networking.  As of September 2014, there were more than 47,700 profiles on Linked In with the words ‘General Counsel’ in their current title. Another 7,700 profiles have the words “Chief Legal Officer” in their current title. The business development benefits of LinkedIn are numerous, including:

  • Find who you know that can introduce you to who you want to know.
  • Demonstrate the depth of your knowledge, relationships, clout and experience through the quality of the people in your network.
  • Use it as an unobtrusive way to stay in touch with people in your network.
  • Stay informed of important career changes for people in your network.
  • Share your knowledge and expertise with potential clients outside of your network.
  • See who has viewed your profile to provide you with a potential early warning of clients considering you for their projects.

1.  Create or Optimize Your Profile:

If you don't already have a LinkedIn profile, the site does a great job of guiding you thru the process of completing a new profile. 

Create your new account by adding basic info: name, job title, company.  Then follow the prompts to choose to add email contacts, follow "Influencers", Companies or Group, or skip these steps and go straight to editing your profile.  

Start editing your profile by answering the question prompts in the blue box, like in the picture below.  This will take you thru your education, previous employment, skills, and job descriptions.  It will also ask you to add a photo.  Please contact the Marketing Department if you do not have a copy of your professional photo from our website.

If you already have a profile, optimize it.  LinkedIn guides you thru improving your profile with the click of a button – you will find a prompted series of questions in a blue box at the top of your home page.  This will ask you to fill in a series of questions where it finds missing or incomplete information in your profile.

Photo:

Make sure your headshot is high quality, with good lighting and ultra-sharp focus. LinkedIn is not the place to run a casual snapshot. You not only are representing yourself, but the firm as well.  Your personal page is (or should be) connected to the firm, so you want to make sure it reflects the most professional image possible.  If you have a professional photo that is displayed on the firm’s website, ask to use that photo on your linked In profile.

Professional Headline:

When you add your employment information, your profile's Professional Headline will automatically default to your current job title. You can edit your headline to be more descriptive of your practice, or specific areas of expertise, but don't make it hard to understand. This headline is listed with your name everywhere you appear on LinkedIn, so make sure it describes you and includes the company.  Example: "Senior Intellectual Property, Copyright and Trademark Attorney" rather than "Attorney” or “Partner”.

Summary: 

Use the summary as a place to answer a simple question — Why do you do what you do?  Why should someone hire you?  Think of your summary as the human element of who you are, the backstory to everything you’ve done so far.

Details:

A new feature of LinkedIn is the Add Sections tool— a way to modify your profile with additional details about your qualifications from other online sources.  You have the ability to add content from Twitter, and WordPress, etc.  Give your LinkedIn viewers a well-rounded sense of your digital presence.
Want to know how to use Linked In to capture new clients? E-mail Eric Dewey at eric@groupdeweyconsulting.com.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Assessing the Client Bonds of Lateral Candidates

Note: This article first ran in The Recorder, an ALM publication, on October 8th, 2014.

The promise of new client relationships is driving the vast majority of lateral partner movement today. Lateral acquisition is a primary growth strategy for many law firms. But both the new firm and the lateral are often surprised by how few clients actually move to the new firm.

It's easy to assume a lower rate platform or expanded capabilities will attract clients to the firm. But the depth and scope of the relationship are the strongest predictors of movement, especially among practices which are more commoditized.

For most practices, assessing the depth of these relationships is an important, though infrequent, part of the due diligence process. Short of asking them directly, how can you predict which clients are likely to port over to the new firm?

There is no way to guarantee a lateral's clients will move. But a series of questions can help suggest the quality of these relationships and the likelihood that the client will move with the lateral candidate. This analysis assumes that the attractiveness of the firm to the lateral's clients has already been positively answered, and the new firm offers a price or platform advantage for the client. But because price and platform advantages alone don't reliably predict client portability, a deeper dive into the strength of the relationship between laterals and their best clients is warranted.

Questioning the quality of the relationship falls into five main categories: relationship dynamics; business reach; practice importance; incumbent firm reach; and competitive alternatives.

Relationship Dynamics
The dynamics of the relationship is a strong predictor of whether clients will likely move with a lateral. This line of questioning should seek to understand the duration of the client relationship, the volume and consistency of work over time, how and where the relationship began and the social activities and personal relationships between the attorney and each client contact. Frequent, non-business related social activities can indicate relationships which both parties will likely avoid disrupting.

Business Reach
This line of questioning attempts to understand the reach into the business the lateral has built. Does the lateral have only one person he works with at the company or are there multiple relationships with a cross-section of lawyers and business managers. Laterals with strong company ties tend to have multiple relationships with several non-lawyer business leaders in a company. This makes these relationships not only enduring, but provides the attorney with better and more accessible information about the company. This is also an indication the lawyer is an adviser to the company, something most company leaders are reluctant to lose.

Practice Importance
Understanding the importance the work the lateral does for the company is the third line of questioning. How strategically important is the legal work to the core drivers of the company's business? Special care should be paid to ensure the analysis is from the client's perspective, not the attorney's. This line of questioning can reveal not only the importance of the work to the company but illuminate how well the attorney understands the client's business. The more strategically important the legal services are to the company's success, the more likely the client is to travel with the lateral.

Incumbent Firm Reach
Companies that use multiple practices of the incumbent firm—the firm from which the lateral partner is leaving—and have multiple relationships with other lawyers in the incumbent firm are far less likely to move that work. In this line of questioning, the objective is to quantify the types and depth of relationships that others in the incumbent firm have with the client company.

The questions should attempt to understand the import and export of work in and out of the lateral's practice within the incumbent firm, as well as the diversity of the various practices used. Client companies that use multiple, diverse practice areas of the incumbent firm and with whom there are relationships with attorneys in the incumbent firm are generally less likely to move.

Competitive Alternatives
Lastly, how many other law firms does the company work with and in which areas of the law? Are there firms well positioned to take on this work? Does the company have in-house counsel? If so, what is the level of experience and expertise among the lawyers in the lateral's practice area?

This line of questioning is intended to understand, from the client company's perspective, the attractiveness of alternative providers for the work. From this analysis, a firm can begin to answer the question, "What will the client gain or lose with a move to a new firm?" This analysis should be performed for each of the key clients in the lateral's book of business.


Client companies with long and strong relationships who are relying on the lateral for strategically important work, who know multiple people in the company, who serve client companies in a narrow or limited number of areas and who have little competitive pressures on the relationship are most likely to move with the lateral to the new firm.

Need to improve your assessment of a lateral's client book? Call Eric at 502-693-4731. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Making Strangers into Client Bedfellows

One of the most difficult tasks in business development is the challenge of starting a brand new relationship with a total stranger. Figuring out who you’d like to talk to is easy. But figuring out how to get their attention and talk to you is quite another thing. This is often a major stumbling point and a mental obstacle that can inhibit business development progress.



A Crack with One Whack?

In developing relationships, it’s helpful to adopt the mindset that you are not going to ‘break the ice’ in the first attempt. Instead, it’s more like chipping away at the ice over time using small but substantive gifts of information, resources, insights and connections as your ice picks. The trick is to present relevant, timely and valuable offers that position you as a true resource and selfless giver.

While we all would like to make one call to a prospective company, crack the ice and get a meeting, it rarely happens. Studies show that it takes multiple approaches to generate interest or build a sense of reciprocal obligation in your prospect. Many professionals quit the process after only one or two outreaches. Yet, it can take as many as eight to ten approaches before you generate a serious discussion. That’s without providing value in your approach. Add relevant, timely and valuable offers to your outreach and the number of initiatives to get a response falls dramatically. But it’s still more than one or two.
I like to follow a rule that’s something similar to carpenter’s advice, ‘measure twice, cut once’. Provide value twice before testing for reception to your services. For most business people, two gifts can usually get someone on the phone. But don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t. It can take numerous outreaches to generate an initial discussion.



Added Value Marketing

What types of value can you provide? Here’s a list of some ways in which you can provide value and generate interest in a conversation with you.

  • Offer to co-author an article or interview the person for an article you write
  • Provide audits or checklists of risk avoidance issues
  • Send informative articles, client alerts or white papers (these are best if customized to the particular needs of the business or its industry)
  • Introduce to people in your network of connections
  • Provide information of competitors and alternative providers
  • Conduct proprietary research and analysis and provide executive summaries of the findings
  • Provide executive summaries of industry trends and the likely trajectories of those trends
  • Provide potential business leads
  • Use the target company’s products or services and provide testimonials of the quality

Researching the company and thinking creatively about their needs, risks and objectives can reveal additional ways to provide value. Focus on the companies and contacts in which would be the best fit with your services. The develop a strong understanding of the business, write out a plan to provide value to that business and set out a schedule on your calendar to deliver on your value creation plan. This process, done consistently with appropriate targets, will generate new work from strangers.

Monday, September 29, 2014

maximizing Conferences and Seminars, Part 4


This is part four in a four part series about ways to make the most of your attendance at a conference.

Step 3: Follow up after the conference

If you had a good conference, you most likely came home with several dozen business cards or names of individuals with whom you will want to follow up. Initiating contact within the first week or two is important. Plan your schedule to be able to accomplish this. Any longer than two weeks and people’s memories begin to fade. The glow of meeting you will have worn off.

You’ll also want to follow up with those that you were unable to connect with at the conference. Plan time to send notes to these individuals as well and send a nice note apologizing for not connecting with, offer your insights on the conference and offer to meet them at a future date.

Lastly, add the new contacts to your address book and plan out on your calendar when you will reach out again to them.

Everyone in the firm should benefit from the knowledge that you gained at the conference. Write a brief summary of the most important information gleaned from the conference and share it with others in the firm. In addition to key learnings, share the names and positions of the people you met at the conference. Often times, others will know the people or companies you met and new opportunities will develop through these conversations.

A successful conference takes effort. But those that put the time into it will more likely reap the rewards.


If I can help you get the most out of your event attendance, give Eric Dewey a call at 502.693.4731. You'll find that I am an eager resource and that it costs nothing to talk.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Maximizing Conferences and Seminars, Part 3


This is part three in a four part series about ways to make the most of your attendance at a conference.


2. Make the most of your time at the conference

Attending a conference is not a vacation. It is work. In fact, if you execute your conference experience correctly, you’ll find that you are more tired and mentally drained than you get during a normal work day. At a conference, you are constantly ‘on’. That takes energy and discipline to stay focused like that for 10 – 15 hours a day for several days in a row. So be sure to eat healthy foods in moderation, get plenty of rest and don’t drink too much while at the event.

Arrive early and stay late

Arrive early and be prepared. Have a way to take notes, bring business cards, an extra pen, mints, the conference schedule and attendee list, your name tag or badge, and anything else you think you might need during the day. Getting to sessions a few minutes early enables you to get a good seat, speak to others beforehand and sometimes get time with the speaker before they go on.

Stay off the smart phone

You can’t meet people if your head is buried in your iPhone. Studies show that most people check their phones about every 6 minutes. Look around the room during a presentation and you’ll see just how tied to their phones most people are. But the time that you spend on your phone is time that you are not spending making new connections. Sure, there are times when you have to take the call or answer the e-mail. But these are really pretty rare instances. Set up your out of office message to explain that you will only have period access to your e-mail and then live by that. Check your e-mail no more than three times a day. 

Introduce yourself effectively

When you meet someone for the first time, greet them with a smile, look them in the eyes and show genuine interest in meeting them. Avoid talking about yourself until you are asked. And even then, keep it brief. The less you say about yourself and the more you ask about them, the more curiosity is built to learn more about you. Ask easy questions that anyone can answer. Listen to learn what they like, where their interests lie, which aspects of the conference is most intriguing to them and why.

Socialize with people you don’t know

At all types of events, its human nature to gravitate toward those you know well or in whom you have things in common. Resist the temptation to (what one of my managing partners used to call) “clump with your buddies.” One of the greatest values of a conference is the opportunity to meet people you might not otherwise have the opportunity to meet. These opportunities don’t come along often so make the most of it. Go out of your way to strike up conversations with strangers.

Make the effort to initiate conversations

To establish a new relationship, you have to find common ground on which to start building the relationship. You don’t have to find someone that like your hobby of skydiving. Simply being at the same conference is enough common ground to start a relationship. While you are mingling in the halls or prior to the start of the presentation, is the perfect time to initiate meeting someone.

Be matter of fact and ask simple questions that anyone can answer. Did you travel far to get here? Is the hotel what you expected? Is this weather a break from what you have at home? Once you’ve broken the seal, offer something of value such as an interesting session you attended, news of a recent development in the industry or the best ideas that you plan to take back to the office.  Watch their body language and be prepared to exit the conversation politely if they don’t appear interested. Follow the flow of the conversation and stay focused on what they are saying.

Stay in the flow of traffic.

People who hang out in the corners send a signal that they don’t want to engage with others. It’s not typically true, but people who are not proactive connectors won’t approach someone standing by themselves. If you see someone standing by themselves, do yourself and them a favor and approach them and start a discussion. Everyone is there for the same reason and most people will appreciate the chance to talk to someone and not look like they are by themselves.  If you have time to kill, stand near the food or beverage tables or where people are congregating.  Gravitate toward where there is activity. This is where you’ll also most likely find natural connectors.

Introduce others

Adding value to a new relationship leaves a strong impression. One way to add value is to share your network with others. You never know how others will benefit from knowing one another. More often than not, especially at conferences, people you introduce will benefit from the introduction. If they do, you will as well. Make an effort to invite others into your conversation, introduce them to one another and mention how you know each other. If you can, mention something interesting about both people, whether it is personal or professional. Often, other will find something in common and it can provide energy and interest for the conversation to develop.

Watch body language

Before approaching a group, be sure to check out their body language. Groups of two or three who are facing each other may be in a private discussion. If they have a more open stance, they are in a casual discussion and will typically welcome another person to the conversation.

Take notes

If you are good, you’ll meet dozens of people during the conference. Recalling the particulars of the conversations you had, their interests, information on their family or other key information will be difficult in the days after the conference if you don’t take good notes immediately following your discussion. Always ask for a business card and write notes on the back of the card. For some that you meet, you may even feel comfortable writing a note while speaking to them. It’s flattering. It shows that you value having met them and want to continue a relationship. Record as much information to make a future contact easier nad show that you were listening.

Be present and listen

Once you have engaged in conversation with someone, be ‘in the conversation’. There’s a lot of activity at conferences and most people have a tendency to keep one ear on the discussion and one eye on who is walking through the room. This sends the impression that the person you are talking to is not really that important. And it is off-putting. You will set yourself apart by being present in the discussion, looking them in their eyes and truly listening to what the other is saying.


If I can help you get the most out of your event attendance, give Eric Dewey a call at 502.693.4731. You'll find that I am an eager resource and that it costs nothing to talk.