IP networking for introverts
Have you ever attended a large networking event and felt like you lost a couple hours of your life that you’ll never get back? Not all IP networking events are horrible. Every once in a while, I would truly enjoy meeting someone who would later become a friend and business contact. I’m grateful for those encounters and fully aware that they would not have occurred had I not gone.
Nowadays I spend very little time in large networking events. Smaller group settings are my preference, where you don’t feel like you’re speed dating. I may occasionally invite a few different friends, who don’t know each other, to a meeting so that I can introduce them to each other. They might discover that they have common business interests or opportunities to collaborate.
If you attend a networking event, make it your goal to be attentive and helpful to the folks you meet. Most networking gurus would tell you to look for ways you can be a helpful resource to the people you meet. It also helps to simply be genuine. People may find honesty refreshing.
Host a small party with good food
If you have any clients in the food business, you can host a little party at your office and invite a few close colleagues and clients. It’s a win-win for everyone. You showcase your representation of a wonderful business that is gaining exposure by providing tasty treats to clients who are meeting each other and possibly exploring business opportunities. Nothing livens up conversation like good food.
Trade shows can be quite enjoyable. You get to see new products and meet their innovators. Entrepreneurs love talking about their innovation and we, as IP attorneys, are in the business of protecting innovation. At trade shows, there are plenty of opportunities to strike up interesting conversations about the technology being displayed without coming off as “salesy” or pushy.
If a product incorporates a piece of technology familiar to you, you can go into full nerd mode in talking to the exhibitors. Whether or not you gain a client, stepping out of your comfort zone will help you feel emboldened. One of the most practical benefits I’ve received from attending trade shows is the broadening of my horizons – seeing that there are many opportunities out there and feeling inspired to capture some of those opportunities.
Attending a trade show does require some sacrifice. You may have to skip work for a few days, and incur travel costs. Perhaps you can pick the one trade show where you know at least a few contacts are attending. You can plan to meet up with your contacts at the venue and ask them if know anyone else exhibiting at the show.
The only IP legal conference that I commit to attending each year is INTA. You can’t beat the efficiency of meeting IP practitioners from all over the world in one place. A colleague once asked – if everyone here is selling, who’s buying? The thing is, you never know. You may meet an IP attorney from Asia who one day may have a US matter to send you. And you might need to send a case to Asia, unless you decide never to deal with international IP matters.
The INTA Annual Meeting can be exhausting and fun at the same time. It helps to have a game plan so that you can schedule meetings with the folks you want to connect, or reconnect, with. At the same time, you also want to leave some flexibility to have meals with old friends and attend evening receptions to make new friends.
Many of the international friends I’ve met through INTA have contributed articles to this blog with helpful insights of IP developments in their countries. Nearly everyone attends a conference like INTA to sell, but you get the most of such meetings when you explore ways to give and not just receive.
I once heard of a non-IP attorney who committed to attending INTA and thought it was brilliant. Imagine being the only corporate attorney, for example, in a conference center full of IP attorneys. Perhaps you can find a non-IP legal conference and plan on being the only IP attorney there.
Networking with other IP professionals
If you’re developing a particular niche in IP legal services, it may make sense to network with other IP practitioners who would complement and not compete with your niche. Relationships with non-competitive IP professionals can lead to cross referrals.
If you feel like you don’t know anybody in IP, send me a LinkedIn invite.