You never know where your next client or referral will come from

Have you ever gone to a networking event and quickly scanned the room and decided, “my target clients and referral partners aren’t here.”  This might be prejudging or it might be an accurate assessment, but what you do after that assessment can make or break the event for you.

I recently attended a chamber of commerce member coffee and made such an observation soon after arriving.  Yet, I went on to enjoy conversations with those I knew and others that I was introduced to for the first time.  After the informal networking period was over, we all gathered to give a brief introduction of ourselves and our business.  My introduction wasn’t anything mind blowing, but it did yield me one potential referral partner and one referral for a personal injury case.

Here’s what I said:

“Hi!  I’m Lori Williams and I’m here representing the Women’s Bar Association, which is a

networking group of women lawyers.  I’m also an Ambassador of the chamber and want to

welcome all of you here.  I’ve been in the legal field for 20 years as an attorney and I connect the

right client with the right lawyer in all areas of law around Metro Detroit.  I also connect lawyers

with other referral partners.  If you need an attorney for any reason, come see me.”


The first person who approached me was a personal trainer who works with attorneys and other busy professionals.  He gave me his card in case I heard of any professionals interested in personal fitness training.

The second person who approached me was a physical therapist who had a minor child as a patient/client and that child was injured by broken glass on the premises of an abandoned building.  She was interested in referring the child’s mother to me so I could connect her with an attorney on my team who handled personal injury claims.

I don’t go to an event expecting to walk away with a new client or a referral to a client.  Of course, I’m happy to receive it when it occurs every once in awhile.  As a general rule, when I attend an event I expect to meet some potential referral partners that I can begin a relationship with, or I expect to strengthen my relationship with existing contacts. 

How I introduce myself changes depending on who is in the room.  Having a variety of 30 second commercials is handy because you may say something slightly different to each person you talk to, depending on their profession, or their target client or ideal referral partners.  Finding something you can relate to them about or something you have in common, is more important than giving the perfect 30 second commercial.  That’s just a conversation generator or filler, not the end game.

Tips For Making Your Next Networking Event Worth Attending


Find out who else plans to attend, before you go

This might include getting a copy of the RSVP list from the event host, or a snapshot of potential attendees based on the posts on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.  This can impact your decision to go to the event, and it can give you a heads up on new and existing contacts you may want to connect with once you get there.

Determine what you want to accomplish at the event

I generally like to create a follow-up opportunity with key people I’ve met.  Sometimes its connecting on LinkedIn.  Other times, it includes emailing the person with a contact or other resource we discussed at the event that is meaningful to them.  

Have different 30 second commercials suitable for the various people you meet

This way you don’t sound like a robot reciting the exact same thing to everyone you meet, and your point will be more relevant to each person you talk to.  What you’ll say to them will often depend on what they say to you and where you can find common ground to discuss.  Of course it will include the basics: who you are, what service/product you provide, who you help, how you are different from others in that industry.  But it can also include a common point of interest to make you more memorable and relatable.

Ask them what they are looking for

I like to know what their ideal referral partner and ideal client looks like, so I can form a word picture in my head.  It helps me think of someone I already know, or remember them in the future so I can introduce them to someone who fits that same word picture, in a non-competitive way.

Tell them what you are looking for

Make it easy for them.  Tell them your ideal referral partner and ideal client in as few words as possible.  If it is easy to remember, they are more likely to make an introduction for youi to someone they already know or meet thereafter.

What Doesn’t Work?

The most common scenario I hear from people who think networking is ineffective is that they went to an event, passed out their cards, and waited for the phone to ring.  And guess what?  It didn’t ring! Why?  Because they didn’t have a reason to get back in touch with anyone else, and they were waiting for the phone to ring.  They didn’t find out how they could be of help to others.  They were simply looking out for themselves, and were disappointed when it didn’t work out.

We’ve all heard that people do business with those they know, like and trust.  It’s easier to start that process when you make a good first impression and have a good follow-up process where you provide value to the other person. They’ll remember you and will be more inclined to send you a good contact or client as well.  Take time to get to know them and stay in touch.  The event is only the beginning of the relationship.

Points to Ponder and Share:


Do you sometimes judge too quickly whether or not an event is worth attending? What criteria makes it a good event for you?


Do you ever assume, without having a conversation, that those in attendance at an event aren’t a fit for your business? How do you overcome this and turn lemons into lemonade?


Do you find you get more value from events with less than 25 or more than 50 people present? Why?

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Lori T. Williams is an attorney based in Birmingham, MI, licensed in 1989.  As owner of a legal referral business called Your Legal Resource, PLLC, Lori personally assists individuals and small businesses in need of legal advice or representation in Metro Detroit by connecting them with the right legal specialist to meet their needs. Click here for a pdf of legal referral services. 

Through group training and events, Lori also focuses on referral marketing strategies for attorneys and other professionals. For more information about Lori or Your Legal Resource, visit  For networking events, training programs, and workshop information, visit:


5 responses to “You never know where your next client or referral will come from”

  1. Mike K McClure

    Good thoughts, Lori. Never really thought about networking in this sense. i don’t really go to many events specifically to network, but I go to plenty of events I could network at. Given this context, it’s certianly something I will put more thought into in the future. Thanks.

  2. Molly Macdonald


    Just last week, I represented Shore Mortgage at an event and made that quick assessment of the room, which was, “not much happening here.” Boy was I WRONG. At dinner, we sat next to a woman who has the potential to be a huge referral partner to us in a niche area we are pursuing as lenders.

    We had breakfast with her this morning, learned more about her business, what kind of clients might use her and how we might be able to help her.

    Home run!

    P.S. Your blog is right on and I am forwarding it to all our loan officers.

  3. Hubert "GAM" Sawyers III

    Excellent advice, Lori!

    There are many things that I forget to do before, during and after networking event like contacting a person prior on LinkedIn to get me a better chance at meeting specific individuals.

    As someone that hosts a weekly event, I never assume anything about my crowds. I am always shocked who wants to talk to me about a potential opportunity. It is normally from people I wouldn’t expect.

    In regards to size of the networking group, I prefer smaller to larger, because there’s a greater chance to have a significant conversation with a person without pressure to “move on” and meet someone else. Smaller groups allow for mingling folks to jump in and out of discussions. I find I feel rushed and sometimes trapped at larger networking events.

  4. Elisabeth Garbeil

    Lori, I always enjoy reading your blog. It is always clear and helpful.

    I typically measure the success of a networking event by how much activity I regularly have afterward such as calls to make or appointments to get to know someone better that I’ve met at the event. I also use events such as Chamber of Commerce events as a form of follow-up and relationship-building. Typically, I can expect to see some people regularly and get to know them after seeing them at 3 or 4 events. That way they get to know me as well, and business often develops from that. Networking events are not places to get clients – they are places to get to know people and the clients come afterward. Although you will sometimes get business right on the spot, it’s best to think of the event as a place to begin relationships, not sell.

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