Elephant Post: How Do You "Socialize" At Conferences?

Image [cc] University of Denver
We wrote last week about a suggestion made at the AALL Futures Summit on improving ways for newbies (and introverts) to better socialize while at conferences. Some thought that the current methods were adequate and that the introverts and new members should suck it up and adjust to the way we do it. Others thought that a change was in order and whether it was Speed Networking, or some type of small group social activity, the old way of networking through the reception environment just doesn't cut it in this day and age. I do have to say that I've been known to open up the conversation with a variation of the Animal House line of "Hi, I'm Greg Lambert, House President, damn glad to meet you." (see Anonymous below) However, not everyone is as cool at social gatherings as I am… that is cool, right?? So, we asked for your perspective and experience on how you overcome the obstacles of meeting new people at conferences. My favorite is probably the Karaoke Night social… but, not everyone has the ability to hit those Maria Carey high notes like I can, so there may be other suggestions below that work for you.

As we are winding down the Elephant Post Series, we are going to start looking back on some of our old posts (good and bad) and bringing back some of the issues we think were not answered fully, or that we'd like to just bring back because they were so good. However, next week's question is based on a recent blog post that suggested that law firms aren't primarily sellers of legal services, but rather they are marketing machines that just happen to sell legal services. We want to know if you think you could sell that idea (or insert your department in that statement) to the partnership at a law firm. Is it a brilliant idea, or one that sounds invented by a marketing team? We look forward to seeing what you have to say.

Thanks to everyone that contributed. I enjoyed reading them… I think you will too.

Library Director

While I love my core group of peers, I try to identify people in the crowd from my less core group of peers (for lack of a better phrase).  They are usually talking with people that I don't know yet so I just sort of walk over and say hi.  More often than not, a round of introductions usually takes place.  Another thing I do is seek out someone who isn't talking with anyone.  I do this because I am long with experience and feel it is part of my mentoring duties and I love learning from our newly minted colleagues who have wonderful ideas.

Sarah Glassmeyer
Director of Content Development, CALI

Honestly, if I had my way, I would just hide in my hotel room the entire time at conferences and never talk to anyone ever, only emerging to attend programs.   BUT, if I *must* be social...  For me, I've found that Internet/Social media has made it a lot easier to get to know people before a conference.  Pre-gaming, if you will.  Even if it's not someone I've interacted with, maybe I'm FB friends with them or see them on twitter or even see them post on law-lib and I have some idea of what they're about and that makes it easier to talk to them.  And, conversely, my own strong web presence has made me familiar enough to some people that they just come up and start talking to me, which is sort of nice because I'm also pretty lazy and meeting new people does take some effort.   I'm pretty happy with my core-group of people, although everyone's pretty busy and it's hard to get to see each other.  However, despite my introversion, I'm always happy to meet new people.  Caucuses/SIS meetings have been the most effective way for me to find people that I share interests with.  It would never occur to me to start talking to someone sitting next to me in a program and I usually end up just staring at anyone who tries that tactic with me.   If you want to actively attract people, a few years ago Jason Eiseman and I made badge ribbons to hand out to people as an ice breaker, and that was surprisingly effective.  Although as the first year we did it they said "Cool Kids" and that was perhaps misinterpreted by some as being snobby.   So be careful you don't have anything that makes you sound like a stuck-up jerk, because apparently some first impressions stick.


If you are familiar with the movie "Animal House," then you'll understand my philosophy towards socializing at conferences.  I take the Eric "Otter" Stratton approach of, "Hi, Eric Stratton, Rush chairman, damn glad to meet you."  Obviously is not what I say verbatim, rather it's the channeling of that character that gives me the confidence to function in these social-professional situations.  I'm not like this in my "normal" non-conference life.  This practice has resulted in people I meet becoming friends and/or professional acquaintances.  What's the point of going to a conference with so many colleagues, if you aren't going to get to know any of them? (Toga! Toga! Toga!)

Ken Hirsh
Academic Law Library Director and Geek

Of course, to begin with I invite everyone to join me at Karaoke night during the AALL conference, one of several I regularly attend.  But beyond that, I am a firm believer in the lyrics of the traditional song, "Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold."  I enjoy both hanging out with familiar friends and meeting new ones, especially younger members of our professions.  I find I always learn something useful from members of both groups, and it is a boost to self-esteem to have them listen intently to something I want to say.

Joyce Brafford
The New Person in my Department

The fist thing I do is figure out where the people I want to know will be (particular CLE, meeting, etc) then I find a reason why I need to be there, too. Once there, I try to find a person I know to make an introduction for me. From there, I start making introductions to people around us. I ask about background and professional interest. I then use that info when introducing others. I look like I am in the know, while expanding my network. Afterwords, I follow up on Twitter, LinkedIn, G+, or where ever they are located. If appropriate, I mention then in my social networking feed.

Toby Brown

I utilize a modified random sniper technique. Giving it this name makes it sound sophisticated. What it really means is I watch for interesting people at seminars and conferences . And once I find one, I make a point of connecting with them. I have good friends who use more of a shot-gun approach - talking with many people, building out a volume of relationships. Although this can be effective, I prefer getting to know people a bit better. Especially those that make me think.  It's actually how I meet Geek #1. So it must work.

Next Elephant Post
You're Not a Law Firm; You're A _______ That Sells Legal Services. True or False?
When Gerry Oginski wrote a post entitled "You're Not a Law Firm; You're a Marketing Firm That Happens to Sell Legal Services," he hit a nerve with a number of people. Now, you can go read that post (go ahead, we'll wait for you to come back), but quite frankly, I'm sure that you've already decided that either this quote hits the nail on the head, or the hammer must have hit Oginski's head right before he wrote it. So, let's think about this for a minute and determine just how influential we think we are on the administrative side of the law firm. If we had to go tell the partners of our law firm, could you sell this idea that although we are a law firm that sells legal services, if we were just a bit better in _____ it would make us a better firm — sell it as in "if you were better with marketing/research/fee negotiation/IT/KM/etc..., you'd make more money at the end of the year."

Let us know if the partnership actually thought of itself as a __________ that sells legal services, could that actually make for a better and more profitable firm? Let us know if you think that could be the case.

Bookmark and Share



© 2014, All Rights Reserved.