One of the most important aspects of networking and is identifying your goals and achieving them—asking for what you want will lead to success.
Have a plan when networking
You will never get what you want from a networking meeting if you cannot identify your goals in advance. If possible, try and formulate your goals as specifically as possible. For example, if you want to gain referral business from someone, know in advance what types of cases (and clients) you are looking for.
The more specific your goals are, the easier it will be to convey to the other side of the table. If you want someone to serve as a reference for you for a job, tell them why you are interested in the job, why you would be a good fit, and politely ask them to talk about your great writing skills, oral advocacy skills, ability to deal with difficult clients, etc. If you don’t tell them what you want them to say, they will never say it.
Your plan makes it easier for the other side to take action
There is a good chance whoever you are meeting with is willing to help you. Make it easy for them to help out by giving them clear and specific ways to help.
I hate it when people ask me to send them litigation cases or “cases involving people in tough situations.” Neither one of those is particularly descriptive or memorable. On the other hand, when someone can give me details about certain types of auto fraud cases, I will remember that, and it will help me ask potential clients the right questions before referring them.
Same thing with asking for a recommendation. If you can articulate 2-3 things you want them to say, they will probably remember that. You can really drive home your goals by sending a follow up e-mail.
Know your goals in advance and convey them to the other side of the table. You will pleasantly surprised by the results.