Listen More, Talk Less

This post originally appeared in Susan Kostal's Legal Marketing Bits & Bites Newsletter. Sign up for more content here.

I recently returned from Las Vegas where I attended the Legal Marketing Association’s annual conference. In preparation for legal marketing’s hottest event, my colleague organized a conference tips list on Twitter. I submitted the shortest tidbit—quite a feat for Twitter!—Listen more. Talk less.

Linus takes copious notes when he's talking to colleagues.

Those four words are at the heart of how to use professional conferences to focus your content and choose timely topics. What are people talking about? What panels promote the most engagement? What are you overhearing in the exhibit hall? These are the topics for your next articles and blog posts. Sometimes topics don’t naturally rise to the surface. That’s when you need to prompt discussion to reveal what’s in the minds of your readers and other decision-makers. The key is asking questions. And from what I learned from decades of reporting, questions don’t need to be particularly sophisticated (mine certainly weren’t). Try these:

  1. “What's the most interesting thing you are working on?” Whether it's a colleague, competitor, client or potential client, this is a great conversation starter. Pose the question and then listen attentively. If it’s important to them, it’s likely important to others.

  2. “What problem are you trying to solve?” This makes people feel that what they are working on has value, and is sure to provoke lively discussion.

  3. “What’s the best article you’ve read in the last month?” It could have nothing to do with what this person is tackling professionally, but it gives you insight into their interests and reading habits. This kind of market information is invaluable.

  4. “Why are you here?” This simple question may stump your conversation partner initially, but will often provoke very frank answers that touch on the three previous questions and point to the heart of what they are trying to get out of the conference. And that’s a perfect topic for a post.

Here’s the point: Ask. Pause. Repeat. Enter each discussion with what Buddhism calls “beginner’s mind.” Affinity is great, but often affinity conversations cover information you both already know. Be a reporter with beginner’s mind. See what answers you get. Your content is there. Go forth and listen.

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