1. Get into the right mindset. Remember this is a friendly audience. People at the event want to meet you and need to hire a new class of law students. And they were in your shoes at some point. They remember what it was like to be nervous, ambitious and hungry (both figuratively and literally).
2. Dress accordingly. You want to make the best impression possible so others take you seriously. Prepare an outfit that is free of wrinkles and can be adapted for different temperatures. The building you’re in could be overheated or have powerful air conditioning. You will be standing for multiple hours, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes.
3. Be conservative when joking around. Not everyone has the same sense of humor and they do not know your background. You absolutely can joke around, just pay attention to your audience.
4. Don’t talk only about yourself. Ask questions about the other person and balance how much you speak about yourself with how much you listen to the other person. You don’t need to dive too deep into firm information, but check their homepage, twitter, LinkedIn, etc. for recent announcements before an event.
5. Be present. Make eye contact. Smile. First impressions count. Don’t look around the room while you are speaking to someone else to hunt for your next conversation. And please stay off your cell phone; your focus should remain on the people you are meeting, not a screen.
6. Don’t be a clinger. Meet people other than the person that you came with, but make sure you meet more than one of them. You need not introduce yourself to everyone in the room. A respectful goal is to leave a networking event with three to four new contacts.
7. Don’t over drink. Many people feel more at ease when alcohol is served, but it can be easy to let the celebration get out of hand. Be mindful of your intake when you are at a business networking event. Eat something before or at the beginning of the event. And remember, you are there to network.
8. Bring a friend. Networking is always easier when you are accompanied by a friend. You and a law school classmate might find navigating the evening more comfortable as a dynamic duo.
9. Bring business cards. You want to be able to exchange contact information with those you meet. Don’t bring your entire resume, and don’t play a numbers game and hand out your contact information to all attendees. If you don’t have business cards (many students do not), don’t worry; but feel free to ask for a card from those with whom you make a connection so that you can follow up later.
10. Don’t expect instant results. Many professionals get frustrated when they start networking because they want instant results. Remember that networking is about relationship-building and naturally takes some time. Consider each networking event simply the start of a longer-term strategy to build your professional network.
11. Don’t hesitate to ask for introductions or advice. Don’t feel like you need to do all the work on your own. The person you just met can also introduce you to someone else that would be a good contact, or provide advice on how to break into their network.
12. Follow up with those you meet. Make sure you plan time after the event to follow up as appropriate, whether it’s with a phone call, email or connection on LinkedIn. It’s not successful networking if you collect business cards that then just sit on your desk collecting dust.
13. Trust your gut. You are the expert in your product (you!), and you have to sell yourself. If you truly feel like something will, or will not, work for you, go with your intuition. And if you don’t trust yourself, ask a friend, perhaps a new one that you meet at a networking event.