By Miriam Low of Byfield Consultancy 
Networking events are a vital part of business development in legal and professional services and can be a great way to meet interesting people and prospective clients. Just like any other business development activity, it is a good to approach networking events with some prior consideration and planning.
Here are some dos and don’ts to get the most out of your networking activities.
1) Forward planning – Prior to the event, try and obtain a list of attendees. Use the list to identify three or four people that you would like to speak to and, if you have the opportunity before the event, try and research their areas of work and expertise.
2) Share good contacts – If you think a colleague would have a lot in common with the person you are speaking to at the event, try and introduce them. The more people who do this, the better an event flows.
3) Allow for follow-up – This can be in any form: a meeting, phone call, e-mail or via social media like Twitter and LinkedIn.
4) Build rapport – Find out what interests the person outside of their work.
5) Prepare your ‘elevator’ pitch – If you had 30 seconds to present yourself, your firm and what you do, what would you say? This is referred to as an ‘elevator’ pitch and it is a useful exercise to help you prepare for your networking events. Have in mind three key messages you would like to get across.
6) Enjoy yourself – Networking events are meant to be fun and productive at the same time. Act natural and slightly less formal than you would be in a meeting in the office.
1) Feel you need to talk to everyone there – Longer, in-depth conversations with fewer people are often more valuable for making contacts than a number of short conversations with many.
2) Be negative about your work or firm – Even if you have had a bad day at the office!
3) Be too pushy – Although it is a networking event, nobody likes a hard sell – especially over a glass of wine!
4) Spend the entire evening speaking to people you know – Although it is good to catch up with contacts you already have (and often easier), the purpose of such events is to meet new people.
5) Just talk about work – It makes conversations more interesting and increases the likelihood of ongoing working relationships if you talk about what interests you outside of work.
Hopefully with the above points in mind your next networking event will be a success, you will come away with two or three useful contacts, and you would have enjoyed yourself at the same time.