Know your target. To make connections, it is important to target multiple types of networking venues. Make sure to attend those that relate to your expertise. But don’t just be content with that. You can attend other fruitful networking events for alumni, recent grads, and others in your area. Look for companies such as Networking After Work, and Net Party — they hold various networking events across the country.
Look and act like a pro. Success includes looking professional and keeping watch of your personal grooming. When storing business cards, keep yours in one pocket and place the cards you receive into a different pocket. The last thing you want to do is pass out someone else’s card by mistake!
Be realistic. When setting goals and expectations, try not to be idealistic. Aim to establish enough of a relationship (that may or may not grow over time)with people that you really want in your network. Think quality and not quantity.
Know your target and have a plan. Before attending a networking event, figure out who you want to speak with. Once you do, be on the lookout at the event. Rubbing shoulders in a room with hundreds of people can be difficult. Devise a plan for how to stand out. If it helps, look at tent cards or the seating chart to give you an idea of where you want to be seated.
Mingle with others. Don’t just stick to one person during the networking event. You’re there to meet lots of people. Have an agenda and don’t take an inordinate amount of time from one person. Keep in mind that like you, each person there has his or her own goal to achieve during the day.
Listen. Paying attention is just as important as speaking well. Be in the moment and look people in the eye in order to make them feel that they’re valued and being heard. (It’s easy to spot whether you’re eyeing your next networking target or you’re just plain bored.)
Be engaging. Engaging in a conversation is different than just speaking to someone (avoid asking awkward questions, or giving people a sales pitch). Don’t be stiff and don’t rehearse your lines as if you’re auditioning for a role.Get to know the people you speak to in some way, even if you only have a few minutes. Be sincere and genuine and your circle will grow naturally.
Practicing these points will help ease your nerves. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to build your network once you get the hang of it.