Host your own networking events

J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of Law Publicist Communications, an ALR/PRA, Incorporated agency.  Law Publicist Communications is a public relations agency also offering coaching and consulting.  Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations, marketing and practice management.  Nick shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.

Attorneys in transition should consider hosting their own event.  At first glance it looks like a much bigger production that it needs to be.  I learned a few things from a New York lawyer who is successful inviting like-purposed professionals to social events.  Friendships and opportunities grow organically.

You too can host an event that your friends and colleagues will enjoy and remember.  You need to identify people you would like to group together.  Next, pick a venue that makes sense.  Events can be free with sponsor donations to cover costs, or you can host the location only and guests pay for their own entertainment.  Planning ahead and staying organized are important to your success.

When planning the guest list, consider already organized groups of people.  Alumni events can be easy to organize on small scales, and can be promoted in cities through social media.  If you want to hold an attorney-based event specific to your practice area, the invitees might include third party professionals with whom the lawyer makes and receives referrals.  If your event is a fundraiser or informational event your guest list can be broad and you can invite a mix of people who may hit it off.

Selecting a venue is as easier once you have a guest list.  Pick a venue that will appeal to your guests and the social atmosphere you want to create.  Events based around sporting events are good for competitive businesspeople; the group dynamic and team atmosphere causes people to remember your event and tell people about what a good time they had.  Contrast this with an event based around food and drink; where people are in comfortable surroundings and are eating and drinking, they are more likely to engage in a more interpersonal manor.  They will probably interact with fewer people, but spend more time and energy in each conversation.  When selecting a venue, picture the type of people at the event, consider how you want them to interact, and then select a handful of venue options.

Sponsor donations are a great way to fund the event.  The host looks great and the sponsors receive notoriety and should have signage at the event.  Professional networking events where, for example, the personal-injury attorney mingles with the surgeon, are often appropriate for law firm or surgeon sponsorship of the event.  A few sponsors who offer a few hundred dollars can easily finance your event.  Your other options can be negotiating group rates and discounts at the venue.  If everyone pays $10 to $20 to attend, and you have an early headcount, you have room to negotiate some deals.

A third option is to hold the event at a location where guests can pay their way for food, drink and entertainment.  This is a really good option if you want to host and invite people to a low key event where they can mingle as they see fit.  Pre-printed peel and stick name tags are a good way to identify who in the crowd is part of your event.

Planning your event in advance, and in stages, increases your chances of success and future event attendance.  If you approach event management in stages and allow yourself enough time to plan and promote the event you will enjoy the experience.  When promoting the event, consider a one page PDF invitation you can send by e-mail and follow up with a few phone calls.  Again, social networks are great event promotion tools.  When planning for the event date, make sure you have someone with a good camera who is ready to snap some pictures you can later share with attendees.  If you build hype into your events and plan to host them frequently, people will start talking about you and your events.  Have fun and make some new friends and build some new professional relationships.

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