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Networking 101: Top Networking Tips Learned From WiECON19

By Sarah Ledgerwood

Over the past two years as an eDiscovery Evangelist, I’ve had the pleasure of attending multiple conferences across the country focused on the many facets of a subject near and dear to my heart: legal technology and ediscovery. The opportunity to travel and experience different cities, getting to immerse myself in subjects I’m passionate about, and learning more about legal technology and ediscovery than I ever thought possible, have been among the top noteworthy highlights from my time on the conference circuit. But, even more exciting is the networking opportunities that presented themselves with colleagues, clients, and subject matter experts from across the globe in the rapidly transforming world of legal technology.

Recently, I attended the first ever national Women in eDiscovery conference (WiECON19) in Austin, Texas. Of all the conferences I’ve attended, the positive and impressive women at WiECON19 provided the best master class in how to network and make lasting professional connections. How exactly you may ask? Simply gathering together the best and brightest minds among women in the ediscovery world provided a solid start. WiECON19 turned out to be the perfect environment for attendees to feel comfortable to hone their networking skills amongst a genuinely excited group of empowered female attendees, in no small part due to the supportive and non-judgmental feeling that pervaded the entire conference.

Having this perfect energy at a conference definitely made networking in this case easier, but even when you’re at one of those dreaded conferences where it’s hard to find a friendly face and there’s an air of awkwardness wherever you go, here are a few simple networking tips I learned from the amazing women who attended WiECON19 that can be applied in a professional environment across the board.

  1. Make Eye Contact and Introduce Yourself. You know when you get on an elevator and everyone looks down, at the ceiling, at the elevator buttons, or really anywhere except in the eyes of the people on the elevator? From the moment I arrived at WiECON19, every attendee I encountered, even those on the elevator, went out of their way to make eye contact, say hello, and/or introduce themselves. It set the tone for the entire conference and made everyone feel at ease. During the welcome reception at WiECON19, I saw this in action everywhere I went and I was impressed by how many attendees I saw working the room and getting out of their comfort zone.
  • Have an “Elevator Pitch” About Yourself and Your Professional Profile. Since every conference inevitably involves introducing yourself and providing a quick summary of your experience and your organization many times over, it can make you feel at ease to have an “elevator pitch” prepared in your head. As you become more comfortable, you’ll find yourself more and more able to break out of your prepared bit and able to transition to small talk with ease and without a hint of awkwardness. WiECON19 even involved a great session on the art of networking along with the opportunity to practice and sharpen those skills right on the spot.
  • Ask Questions and Be Prepared. The ultimate key in any environment to feeling comfortable enough to mingle and network amongst a group of strangers is to feel confident and relaxed enough to be yourself. The best way to find that level of confidence is to thoroughly prepare in advance of a conference by knowing who the speakers will be, studying up on the sessions you want to attend, and setting attainable goals as far as what you hope to get out of the conference. I always find myself involved in the best networking conversations at conferences when I’m engaging with a subject matter expert on a subject I’ve studied and feel passionate about. At WiECON 19, these conversations were happening in spades and I may have learned just as much from these informal engagements as I did at the actual sessions.

Networking is a critical skill for success in any industry and can be particularly helpful whether you’re new to the ediscovery conference world or you’re a subject matter veteran who has been networking since the advent of the first Legaltech conference when the industry was brand new. If you want to share any of your networking tips or discuss your thoughts further, please feel free to get in touch at SLedgerwood@lighthouseglobal.com or on Twitter @sarahewood.

Sarah Ledgerwood

Sarah is an eDiscovery Evangelist and Marketing Content Strategist at Lighthouse. She has over 18 years of experience across the legal, technology, and marketing industries since graduating from law school. She specializes in creating digital marketing strategy and content for Lighthouse.

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