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Networking Emergency Tool Kit

Everything you need to make the most of conference season.

Conference season is getting underway and many of us are preparing to make the most of the opportunity to meet face to face with our clients and potential clients.  We can be the best lawyer in the world but if we don’t take advantage of the chance to foster relationships, we may find our dream clients heading to the competition. In this blog post, we offer some tools and suggestions for raising your networking game.

Conversation Starters:

Many of my clients – from the most junior to the most senior – ask me if there are a list of questions to kick-start conversations at conferences or meetings.  For those of you who like the idea of having a list to refer to, I offer the following (for those of you who don’t, scroll down for more tips below!):

  • “What do you think of the conference this year?”
  • “How long have you worked for your Firm/company?”
  • “How large is your department?”
  • “What’s the scope of your role within the company?”
  • “I understand you recently joined the Firm from x Firm.  How is the transition going?”
  • “How are the recent changes in law/regulations affecting your business?”
  • “What issues come up for you most in x jurisdiction/country/area of law?”
  • “Have you always worked with healthcare companies or have you worked in other industries?”

What do all of these questions have in common? They are all “open-ended questions” which commonly start with “what” and “how” (try to avoid “why” because it can make people feel defensive). These type of questions cannot be answered by yes or no and, therefore, keep the conversation going.

In addition to having a few good conversation starters in your back pocket, it is just as important to show up with the right mindset in order to be a networker who sees results.  I offer the following tips in that regard:

    1. Show Up Ready to Connect: No one likes talking to the person who is scanning the room or clearly thinking about something else.  In order to show up ready to connect with others, we must first quiet our own minds.  One effective way of doing so is to use breathing techniques that help us attune to the present and the person across from us as opposed to our own thoughts.  I encourage you to try the 4-7-8 breath exercise (outlined at the bottom of this post) before heading out for the day or before an important meeting.
    2. Find What You Like and How You Are Alike:  People like people who like them and people like people who are like them.  If your first comment can be a genuine compliment on something you appreciate about the person (their company/firm, their role, a speech they gave), do so.  If you can then focus on some insight, passion, obstacle or opportunity you have in common, you will be surprised how quickly you can foster conversation and connection.  Of course, in order to be successful, this must be done genuinely and sincerely and with a willingness to share our own thoughts and opinions (otherwise it may feel like an interrogation!).
    3. Preparation Will Set You Free:  Make sure you have more to talk about then the weather or your trip to the conference.  Any research or thought you can invest in identifying topics/stories/experiences that may be of interest to the attendees, the more confident and at ease you will feel with starting conversations.  For example, I always make sure I read the first few pages of the Economist before I go to an international conference so I at least know the headlines of what is going on in several countries.  It is enough to start a conversation and it is very endearing to people when you know something about their country.  Bonus points if you know a case, development of the law or new product/service relevant to their country or company and of interest to you and your practice.
    4. Show Up Curious and Ready to Listen:  You can have all the tips and conversation starters in the world but if you are not genuinely curious and focused on the people you are speaking with, you can completely fail to make a connection.  These tips on active listening can make all the difference:
      • Pause: Give people room to respond and talk about themselves.  You are not the only person responsible for the conversation.  Silence is the most effective listening skill!
      • Focus:  Put your attention over there on the prospect – not on what you want to say about yourself or the work that is sitting on your desk back at the office (the breathing exercises above will help you with that).  Challenge yourself to find something you have in common (see #2 above).
      • Encourage:  Use verbal and physical cues to add energy to the conversation and show you are interested.
      • Reflect back: Repeat what the other person says in their words so you both can confirm for your self AND show them you understand what they are saying.
      • Clarify: If you don’t understand something, have the confidence to say so.  You don’t need to know all the answers and the person will appreciate the opportunity to expand on their thoughts. People love to speak about themselves.  Take advantage of it.
    5. Know What You Want and Why You Should Get It:  To turn this from an exercise in meeting friends into a successful business development tool, we must take the time to consider what information, connections, reputation, and opportunities we are trying to foster at this event.  In other words, we need a focused and intentional strategy for success. You can see our prior blog post on why creating a strategy is important here and how to create one on the fly here.  Your strategy should include knowing the 3 things that make you the best person to get the clients and work that you want – your unique selling proposition (USP), if you will.  If it isn’t top of mind then how can you convey it?  And if you want to convey it, it is worthwhile preparing some stories, examples, and anecdotes ahead of time.  You will be surprised at how easy they come up in conversation once you have done this.

    Showing up ready to connect with curiosity and open-ended questions can take time and practice.  It also requires us to show some vulnerability.  As lawyers, we are trained to show up with solutions and to not ask any questions we don’t know the answers to.  Workshops and coaching help my clients with this mindset shift. With the right tools, support and practice, you too can be a master networker.  Happy networking!

    How can SC&C help? If you or your team would like help becoming master networkers contact us at kathryn@sccignites.com to find out about our experiential workshops, Firm retreats and one-on-one coaching programs.  We are offering free 30-minute sample coaching sessions to the first 20 people to respond.  Email us with “Sample Coaching Session” in the subject line.

    P.S. The 4-7-8 Breath Exercise mentioned above goes like this.  Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward:

    • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
    • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
    • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
    • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
    • This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

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Presenting A New Formula For BD Success at FICPI

SC&C’s Kathryn Szymczyk Co-Presenting A New Formula for BD Success at FICPI’s 16th Open Forum


Kathryn Szymczyk, Director of SC&C|Taking IP Practices Further, together with Rich Goldstein of Goldstein Patent Law, will be addressing the plenary session at FICPI 16th Open Forum, St. Petersburg, Russia, 5-8 October 2016 with a presentation on Business Development. The session will be moderated by former president of FICPI, Bastiaan Koster of Von Seidels, South Africa. The topic directly follows from the theme of last year’s FICPI Congress “Adapt to Advance” and focuses in on how IP Attorneys can and should adapt their business development strategies to prosper in an increasingly competitive environment.

Kathryn who practiced IP law herself for 12 years before founding business development consulting firm SC&C, notes, “In today’s market, we can no longer afford to limit our business development efforts to showing up at a conference a couple of times a year. We need a shift in mindset in order to continually and consistently win and retain loyal clients and grow”.  In terms of what FICPI audiences can expect from the plenary session, she states, “Rich and I have a formula for success, drawn from other industries and executive coaching, which we will be sharing with the audience. Through directed networking and coaching, participants will also have a chance to test our theories during the presentation. Finally, we hope to send everyone home with some ideas of how they can consistently bring this mindset to their Firms for greater success.”

The session will take place at 9:00 a.m. on October 6, 2016 and will be followed by two days of high level sessions that include best practices and updates on the nuts and bolts of IP law as well as practical business management sessions. The history and beauty of St. Petersburg promises to play an enchanting backdrop for all social events and receptions.

We hope to see you there! Надеемся вас увидеть на презентацию!

About SC&C: Our Team of coaches, facilitators and trainers, work with IP lawyers and IP Firms to build their capacity to bring in bigger and better business, leading to a more profitable and satisfying practice. Based in Canada, with ties around the world, we can help you where you are to build the international clientele that you want. Contact us at info@sccignites.comor visit our website at www.sccignites.com.


Business Development Coaching: The New Weapon of Choice

Do you feel that changes to the market mean that there is increased pressure on you to bring in new clients or “sell”? Do you struggle to fit this in to your “day job” of being a brilliant lawyer? What else is getting in your way?

More and more lawyers and law firms are looking to business development coaching as the weapon of choice to build the capacity of lawyers to bring in new and more business.

In the article I wrote for The Trademark Lawyer Magazine, I explain how coaching works, who it is for, how firms are using it, and what results it can achieve.

What can you expect from business development coaching?

There are many benefits of business development coaching for lawyers, and here’s what you can expect from the process:

  1. Helps identify and tap into personal strengths, interests and comfort zones to personalize and effectively utilize business development skills and techniques;
  2. Gives lawyers the permission to spend time focusing on business development initiatives in a strategic way;
  3. Helps lawyers identify what is getting in the way of meeting their business development goals and develop strategies for overcoming those obstacles;
  4. Keeps business development top of mind;
  5. Holds lawyers accountable to their identified business development goals;
  6. Helps lawyers practice and acquire new perspectives, new behaviors and new habits transforming them into business development innovators.

The article also includes excerpts of interviews with my clients on how coaching has worked for them. For example, Geoff Mowatt a partner at Dimock Stratton shares why he thinks coaching worked to prepare him for 2015 BIO

“[Coaching] made me turn my mind to the approach I was taking and resulted in the formulation of a strategy based on what I knew had worked in the past and where I could be the most effective based on my strengths. I was much more deliberate at the conference and, without a doubt, I built the strongest relationships I ever had at a conference.”

Julia Matheson, a Partner at Finnegan, said:

“Anyone who thinks they don’t need business development coaching is getting ready to retire! Even if you are a successful business developer, the truth is that the market is constantly evolving and what you do has to also constantly evolve.”

Get started with business development coaching

If you are thinking about coaching, either for yourself or a cohort of lawyers in your firm, I offer these tips in my article:

1. Hire certified, experienced coaches: Coaching requires a very specific skill-set that helps people to move from ideas and plans into action. Look for coaches that are accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and/or can point to extensive experience and good references.

2. Embrace virtual coaching: To keep costs down and to ensure you have access to the very best, consider coaching by telephone or via video call services. Coaching is just as effective, if not more so, by these methods.

3. Consider group coaching: If your BD budget doesn’t allow for one-on-one coaching for all your lawyers, consider group coaching for a cohort of lawyers. Group coaching also helps to foster collaboration and cross selling – two key elements to bringing in the big deals.

4. Integrate coaching into your BD program: Coaching for individual lawyers is great but can be even more effective when it is part of a BD program for a cohort of lawyers. Design your program around specific business goals and include an information session, incentives and competition among lawyers as well as group coaching.

5. Establish metrics and measure results: Although new business is difficult to attribute directly to coaching, you can track increase in BD activities. It is a pretty sure bet that if your lawyers are engaging in more face time with clients, raising their credibility on line or any other such activity, they are increasing their chance of bringing in new business.

My clients have reported that receiving business development coaching, when it supports a concrete business development strategy for the firm, has increased their return on investment from conferences by at least 20-30%. Individual professionals report feeling less stressed and more focused and having greater clarity about their goals.

Want to give it a try? SC&C has a cadre of certified coaches with the right experience to help you. Contact us for a 30-minute sample session. Don’t yet have that business development strategy for your firm in place? We can help you with that too.

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Attending a Conference? Answer These 4 Questions To Dramatically Increase Your ROI

Attending a Conference? Answer These 4 Questions To Dramatically Increase Your ROI

Conference season is already under way. Perhaps you are reading this from a lecture hall or hotel lobby and asking yourself how you can make the most out of the next few days. The answer is, you need a business development strategy. In his article in Forbes Magazine, conference networking guru Mike Ambassador Bruny notes “many rely on serendipity when it comes to making connections at conferences – and if you don’t know what you are looking for, serendipity can become a missed opportunity.” Don’t have a conference strategy? Just taking the time to answer the following four questions* will result in a mini-strategy that will increase your chances of seeing a return on your investment from conference attendance.

1. How Do You Want To Show Up? Take a few minutes to consider which of your intrinsic qualities, characteristics and traits would lead your ideal client to choose you. Then, make sure the way you dress, act, communicate and connect at a conference reflect those things. For example, if you pride yourself on being very responsive to clients, arrive early to events or meetings. If you have a superior attention to detail, let your attire reflect that as well. If your creative solutions set your work apart, gather some people from the conference to join you for a unique experience in the city you are in. The truth of the matter is that people notice these things.

2. What Role Will You Play? Decide what your primary purpose for attendance at this particular conference is and then ensure you play a role to support that purpose. For example, perhaps you are looking to expand your practice into a new area or new market. This may lead you to take a more passive role to gather information from people you meet. Alternatively, your Firm may have just changed names, partners or direction. In that case, your role will likely be much more about meeting as many people as possible and getting the message out.

3. What Are The 3 Messages You Want People to Hear About You/Your Firm? Although it might seem contrived, taking the time to identify and write down the three messages you want people at the conference to hear will not only focus you but also allow you to be more relaxed and authentic. As anyone who has prepared well for a speech will know, the more preparation you do in advance, the more natural and persuasive you can be.

4. What Concrete Outcomes Are You Looking For And By When? Conferences are expensive and time consuming. Of course they have the side benefit of being fun and a great opportunity to meet with old friends. At the end of the day, however, you have a job to do. Identifying 2-4 concrete and time bound goals for yourself is highly likely to lead to success. Studies have shown that when we set goals, we automatically act in a way that is in furtherance of those goals. Give it a try!

Of course, in order to see significant results, a complete conference strategy needs more lead-time and should be part of a larger annual business development strategy. And don’t forget, your strategy shouldn’t stop when you leave the conference. See our past blog posts on the importance of follow up and how to do it effectively.


Thought these great Tips on Working the Room from Kintish with some amusing visuals might help too!

Enjoy conference season everyone!  Hope to see you out there.

*The origins of these 4 questions come from Mary Murphy, Global Conversations, an inspiring coach and mentor. Try them out when preparing for any meeting, event or conversation – whether it be professional or personal. You will be pleasantly surprised with the results.

BLG-Szymczyk-2694-By-Valerie-Keeler-Valberg-Imaging-copyHow can SC&C help?

Do you want to increase your return on investment from conference attendance? Do your Associates or Junior Partners need training and coaching on business development? SC&C can help. Contact me at kathryn@sccignites.com or on +1 647 978 5502 to find out more.

As always, we would love to hear from you! Please leave your comments below. Feel free to post this article on LinkedIn, forward it or tweet it using the icons below.


Top 5 (BD) Reasons For Joining A Committee

Top 5 (BD) Reasons for Joining A Committee.

NCC-tips-for-INTA02The International Trademark Association’s (INTA) Committee selection is now open. You may have received the email invitation and despite all of the noble reasons for signing up, you have decided you just can’t afford the time. From a business development strategy perspective, can you afford not to be a Committee member? Here are five reasons you should consider joining a Committee and some information on how best to do so:

1. Expanding Your Network.

Are you in a business development rut? Do you keep speaking to the same people from the same organizations and geographical regions? Networking is, of course, an important part of any business development strategy. Carefully considered participation in a committee will give you an easy and natural way of expanding your network beyond the usual suspects.

2. A Chance For People To See You In Action.

With so much competition out there in the IP legal services industry it is difficult to find a way to differentiate yourself from your competition. As in so many other industries, law firms are seeing a lot of success with content marketing – instead of TELLING people how great you are SHOW them. Participating in a committee that deals with a subject matter you are experienced in and passionate about will give you a chance to showcase your talents to a new group of potential clients and contacts.

3. The INTA Leadership Meeting.

Only INTA volunteers, which include committee members, may attend the INTA Leadership Meeting held in November each year. This means that the meeting has fewer people and, as such, arguably more opportunities to make more substantive connections. At the very least, it is another chance to take advantage of the opportunities outlined in points 1 and 2 above.

4. Speaking/Moderating Opportunities.

By being on an INTA Committee you are more likely to hear about – and take advantage of – speaking and moderating opportunities. There is nothing like a speaking engagement to raise your credibility and profile – provided it goes well, of course. SC&C has another list of tips for that!

5. Increase Your Credibility/Visibility.

Underlying all of the above is the fact that active membership on a committee in an industry organization will necessarily raise your visibility and credibility in the community. It will take some investment of time but, if you choose the right committee, the work you do can also enhance your day to day practice and other business development activities: Something you discuss on your committee may inform an opinion you write to a client. That opinion may form the basis for a report you write/present to your committee which can, in turn, be re-purposed into a blog post or a LinkedIn post. Before you know it you are on a business development roll!

If you are convinced, go here to apply for an INTA Committee today. The Deadline is June 30, 2015. Before completing your application, we recommend reading the post on the INTA Blog entitled Getting Selected for an INTA Committee—My Top 10 Tips by Laura Castle, Snr. Membership and Business Development Coordinator, INTA.

Of course, a number of other IP organizations also have opportunities for committee membership. Which committee you chose, within which organization, will really depend on your business development strategy.

How can SC&C help?

Need help formulating a strategy for the best use of your business development hours and dollars for the biggest impact? SC&C can help. Please contact me at kathryn@sccignites.com or on +1 647 978 5502 to find out more.

As always, we would love to hear from you! Please leave your comments below. Feel free to post this article on LinkedIn, forward it or tweet it using the icons below.