INTA contacts accounted for about 47.5% of my billings over the course of my career as a trademark attorney...
In my last blog post, I mentioned that over the course of my career as a trademark attorney, I estimate that INTA contacts accounted for about 47.5% of my billings. Of course, one can always do better, but I think it’s fair to say that I found ways to get “my money’s worth” from attending the Annual Meeting. I can also say for sure that it wasn’t luck, because over the years, I did develop a clear strategy for INTA.
Here are my top 5 tips for getting the most out of the INTA Annual Meeting:
INTA is all about the meetings. That’s not a given, because there are some conferences that have a completely different vibe. One such conference, in my experience, is VPP in Germany. I attended that conference a few times and found it very dull, to be honest. I got the impression that most of the attendees were there only to listen to the lectures and had no interest in making connections. That’s fair enough, but just not what I am looking for in an IP conference.
But back to INTA…
Most importantly, use data to set up your meetings. Data can help you find out which firms or companies have the most cases in your jurisdiction and are therefore high-value meeting prospects. INTA is great for making friends around the world, but don’t forget that we go there for business, so don’t feel guilty about prioritizing the clients with the most cases.
If you’re looking for a way to get relevant data, our free Client Rankings tool is a good place to start. You can use this tool to generate a list of the top 20 law firms with the most Madrid cases in the jurisdiction that you practice in, all of which would be high-value potential clients for you.
Every year I meet some people at INTA who tell me that they hardly schedule any meetings at all - only a few meetings with their closest friends, because they prefer to network casually. By all means allow yourself to be impressed by such people, even try to emulate them, but note that these are usually slightly older attorneys, who are in the enviable position of running their own successful law firms. I hope to be in that position at some point in my career, but I’m not there yet, so until then, I’m going to keep my nose to the grindstone and schedule my 50 meetings at the INTA Annual Meeting. By the way, these attorneys who go to INTA to chill… I bet you they were hustling in their younger years too. Success very rarely comes without hard work. I also imagine they wouldn’t be too happy if one of their employees went to INTA without any prep, planning to simply network “casually”.
I have written a “Guide To Scheduling Meetings at the INTA Annual Meeting” in a separate blog post, so please check it out here, if you are looking for more detailed insights about setting up meetings at INTA.
The first few times I attended the INTA Annual Meeting, I was a junior attorney at a big firm, so I just tried to slot in and go with the flow. I didn’t have the experience to come up with my own INTA strategy, and my firm was quite rigid in the way it went about the INTA Annual Meetings. We had meetings throughout the day, and in the evenings, we were free to attend receptions and parties.
In those first few years of attending INTA, when I would ask people what their evening plans were, some people would say that they were having dinner with a few friends first, and would then go to this or that reception. At the time, the folks with dinner appointments seemed like the “cool guys”, whereas I was one of the squares who just had meetings and then attended a few receptions.
So when I left that firm in 2015 to join a new firm as a partner, when the INTA Annual Meeting rolled around, I made sure that I had lunch and dinner appointments every single day! It was fantastic for business. Here’s how you do it:
Don’t be shy. I have very rarely had people turn down invitations to lunch or dinner. I got the feeling that I wasn’t the only person eager to join the ranks of the “cool guys”. I wouldn’t try to schedule a lunch or dinner appointment with someone I’ve never met before, but if we’ve had at least one prior meeting, say at the previous Annual Meeting, then I would consider the relationship close enough for lunch or dinner. Another great tip is to invite several people to one lunch or dinner. That way, it’s unlikely to be awkward for lack of conversation, because there’ll probably be at least one extrovert in the group. Everybody present will appreciate it, because it turns the lunch/dinner into a mini networking event.
The burning question is - who pays for the meal? Since we’re dealing with people from many different countries, all with different cultures and rules for who pays when, my policy was always that (1) if I arranged the lunch or dinner, I would pay and (2) if someone else arranged it, I would offer to pay or split the bill, but allow them to pay if they insisted.
This has been my mantra throughout my 10 years of attending the INTA Annual Meeting and other conferences as well. It just makes sense. People want to work with people they like and trust. People like and trust their friends. So friends will become clients eventually, when the opportunity arises. Furthermore, it’s much more difficult to fire a friend than someone you don’t care about, so your business relationships will be much more stable with this approach.
It also makes the INTA Annual Meeting pure fun, because you’re basically just there to meet old friends and make new friends. That doesn’t sound like work to me! What can be more enriching than having a group of friends around the world. As mentioned in my last blog post, I have made great friends around the world, in countries like Brazil, Mexico, the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Canada, Qatar, Spain, Italy, China, and India, and I’ve even been invited to weddings by two of my INTA friends. These are experiences that will stay with me for a lifetime.
Over the years, I’ve been an active member of an INTA running group, two cycling groups, and one swimming group. I’ve also been invited to an INTA climbing group, a group that goes on a bike trip (usually stopping off at wineries along the way) every year after the INTA Annual Meeting, as well as surfing and skiing groups. I’ve also heard rumors of an elusive group called the “Cannabis Bar”, but I have yet to receive an invite to that one. The fact is, there are a bunch of groups that get together during INTA to pursue an activity they all share a common passion for. You just have to find them. How do you find them? Just ask around. In your meetings, mention that you have this or that hobby and are looking for like-minded people or groups at INTA. Eventually, you will find them.
Why do I recommend this approach? Bonding over a common interest is the best way to make new friends, both in life and at INTA.
Has it worked for me? Absolutely, I’ve made many great friends in these groups, and many of these friendships have turned into fruitful business relationships.
This is another great way to make friends in a more relaxed setting, over a drink perhaps. Once you have a few INTA Annual Meetings under your belt, you will receive invitations to more receptions than you can attend. In your first year or two, however, you probably won’t be invited to many, if any. Don’t let that put you off, because most receptions and parties are open to all INTA attendees. Ask your meeting counterparts which receptions they’re attending and ask them for the details. If I’m feeling confident, I even ask them to forward me the invitation! My strategy is usually to make an appointment to go to a reception with someone I know, because I’m an introvert and dread the thought of entering a room full of strangers alone.
Business cards! Don’t obsess too much about business cards. If you have a pre-arranged meeting, then you have the person’s contact information anyway. If they offer you their business card, of course you should give them yours as well. But you’ll always come across as slightly cooler if you’re the one being asked for your card rather than being the one initiating the exchange.
Name badge etiquette is crucial. At the INTA Annual Meeting, you get a badge with your name and company name on it, which you wear around your neck with a lanyard. Don’t be that person who recognizes someone, but doesn’t remember the name, goes up to the person, looks down at their name badge and then says “Hi, Christian!” Not cool at all. Instead, try to catch a glimpse of their badge from afar, before you approach them. Once you’ve mastered this trick, you can consider yourself an INTA pro!
I hope you enjoyed this article, and if you want to learn more about how to get the most out of your INTA Annual Meeting, you will probably find my “Guide To Scheduling Meetings at the INTA Annual Meeting” useful as well.
If you are looking for data to help you fill your 50+ INTA meetings, WeCrest has created a free tool specifically for attendees of the INTA 2022 Annual Meeting. You can use this tool to generate a list of the top 20 law firms with the most Madrid cases in the jurisdiction that you practice in, all of which would be high-value potential clients for you.
And if you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line using our contact form. Good luck!
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