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Four under-the-radar sources of thought leadership inspiration at conferences

At industry conferences, look past the main stage for sources of thought leadership inspiration.


When attorneys attend industry conferences, it is not unusual for them to draw inspiration for future thought leadership pieces from the panel discussions and presentations they attend.

But beyond those “main stage” discussions and presentations, there are four additional sources of thought leadership inspiration at industry conferences that attorneys should be aware of and should take advantage of.



Under-the-radar source #1: Side conversations

The brief side conversations you have during breaks between presentations are sources of thought leadership inspiration.

Perhaps you chat up a fellow attendee about their impressions of a presentation you both just sat through. Maybe one of you made a throw-away comment about the subject matter of that presentation. Or, perhaps, one of you casually observed an industry trend that was related to the subject matter of that presentation.

Whatever the substance of a side conversation with a fellow attendee might be, there’s a good chance there’s a kernel of a thought leadership piece hiding inside of it.

Under-the-radar source #2: Networking conversations

Your networking conversations at industry conferences are opportunities for you to draw thought leadership inspiration.

Asking your networking contacts about what legal or business challenges they’re facing or opportunities they’re seeing can lead to inspiration for thought leadership content. So, too, can your questions about particular legal or business pain points that maybe aren’t widely covered by attorneys in their thought leadership. Plus, you never know when your networking contacts will connect dots between legal or business pain points and developments in the legal world, in the business world, or in the world world that you hadn’t connected before, sparking inspiration for a thought leadership piece.

When your networking conversations cover what’s on your contacts’ minds about what they’re working on, you not only win points for being genuinely interested in what’s going on in their professional lives, but you’re also drawing thought leadership inspiration.

Under-the-radar source #3: Social events

Your conversations at social events during industry conferences, as awkward as they might be sometimes, are another source of thought leadership inspiration.

At these social events, you’re going to find attendees in a more relaxed and informal setting. This will likely lead to more candid discussions about topics that could be fodder for future thought leadership. Because you’re in a more relaxed setting than in the rooms where the presentations are happening, you’re more likely to hear people’s thoughts (and gripes) about topics outside of the substance of the law, such as the business of law, the practice of law, law firm culture, law firm hiring, law firms’ client service, etc.

But that’s just as well, because attorneys can demonstrate thought leadership to clients and referral sources by discussing the business of law and related topics, showing they have their fingers on the pulse of the legal industry and where it is going.

Under-the-radar source #4: Observations during traveling

Perhaps the most under-the-radar source of thought leadership inspiration at industry conferences is the journey you take from your home to the conference and back.

Whether you took a flight, a train, a boat, an Uber, a Lyft, or you walked to the conference, you will surely make observations about your customer service interactions and your interactions with other people that can inspire thought leadership. Likewise, when you walk around the venue hosting the event, you will surely make observations about the facility and how its employees and staff members are treating guests and each other. You might even come across situations where you say to yourself, “Don’t these people realize they could be sued if they keep doing that?!”

When you open your eyes, ears, and mind to the world around you while attending an industry conference, you will find inspiration for future thought leadership pieces.

A caveat: The burden is on you to draw out thought leadership inspiration

There’s a caveat here regarding these four under-the-radar sources: Most of them require you to engage other people. They require you to ask questions, especially open-ended questions, to get people talking.

Of course, you could piggyback on other people’s conversations. But if you truly want to draw inspiration for thought leadership from a conference, you will need to be outgoing and engaging, talk to people, ask them questions, and sit back and actively listen to what they have to say.

Their responses to your questions, the comments they make to you, and any interactions you have with them generally might be the basis for your next article, blog post, or video.

Thinking about bringing on an outside writer to help your law firm strategize and create compelling thought-leadership marketing and business development content? Click here to schedule a 30-minute Content Strategy Audit to learn if collaborating with an outside writer is the right move for you and your firm.

Wayne Pollock, a former Am Law 50 senior litigation associate, is the founder of Copo Strategies, a legal services and communications firm, and the Law Firm Editorial Service, a content strategy and ghostwriting service for lawyers and their law firms. The Law Firm Editorial Service helps Big Law and boutique law firm partners, and their firms, grow their practices and prominence by collaborating with them to strategize and ethically ghostwrite book-of-business-building marketing and business development content.

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