Work the Room Comfortably at a Conference

networking-lawyer-conferencePerhaps the most effective networking is a one-on-one setting over coffee or lunch. That is usually within most people’s comfort zone. But how comfortable are you when attending a conference with a room full of strangers. Can you “work the room” without breaking into a cold sweat?

Here are a few simple tips to keep your palms dry.

You do not have to meet everyone

While hundreds of people may be in the room, if you meet 10-20 new people, you are doing great. Even if you only meet 5, that is 5 more people than you knew before.

Look to meet someone new who is talking to someone you already know

An easy way to meet a new person is when you see someone who you do not know, talking with someone who you do know. That should be in your comfort zone.

Look for someone more uncomfortable than you

For those who want to stretch the limits of their comfort zone, introduce yourself to someone who looks more uncomfortable than you. Trust me, there are always lots of them, and they are very noticeable. They will be grateful for your initiative.

Sit at the table where you know the least number of people

When eating a meal, sit with as many strangers as you can. It’s very easy to meet two people; the two who are sitting next to you.

This is not the time to catch up with people you see regularly.

This is the time to meet new people and expand your network.

For those reading this who are attending MinnCLE’s solo/small firm conference in Duluth this weekend, I hope I get the chance to meet many of you.

(photo: transitionus)


  1. Sam Glover Sam G. says:

    Thanks for the tips! While I am perfectly comfortable behind a podium in front of hundreds of people, I tend to turn into a wallflower when I am just a part of the crowd.

    I am also looking forward to meeting new people at the conference in Duluth, and in putting your tips to good use!

  2. Timely advice before Duluth, Roy! I have often thought to myself that if I have one good, in-depth conversation with someone I didn’t know at a conference or other event, that was a successful networking experience. I agree that hanging out with people one sees often is a wasted opportunity, but reconnecting with folks one only sees occasionally is also a good way to network.

    One tip you left out, which I think is kind of your trademark, is don’t forget your “elevator speech.” When someone asks you what type of practice you have, tell them in a way they can remember.

  3. Avatar Nena Street says:

    Great tips. I find the strategy of striking up a conversation with someone who looks more uncomfortable than you to be a great tactic. I use it with success often. This can also be a good way to start a group conversation or fill a table with people you don’t yet know.

    Here is how: you strike up a conversation with that first person and then you identify another person on their own (walking by perhaps) and you invite them to join the conversation, then the three of you invite the next person. By doing this, you establish yourself as the facilitator/greeter of the group, which highlights your leadership, conversational and facilitation skills. Not a bad way to impress and leave an impression. This tactic also helps increase the number of folks you meet and allows you to allocate your attention so that you can focus on talking with the person who you most want to get to know.

    A follow-up post that could be very useful is how to end these encounters. There are graceful ways to do this and the skill is essential or you will only meet one new person at each event . . . . .

  4. Avatar Jake says:

    Hi, what’s going on in Duluth?

  5. Aaron Street Aaron S. says:


    Minnesota CLE’s annual conference for solo and small firm practitioners is this week from Sunday–Tuesday in Duluth, MN. A number of Lawyerist contributors will be there.

  6. Avatar Susan Gainen says:

    Thanks, Roy for reminding us that we don’t have to meet and greet EVERYONE in the room.

  7. Avatar Oscar Finley says:

    Never had much use for conferences. Prefer to read the obits.

  8. Avatar Wally Figg says:

    Oscar: You never earned one dollar from trolling the obits. Your time is better spent waiting for car accidents out front of the office.

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