Some people are natural networkers. They can walk into a room and immediately talk with people, some they even just met. They seem to love networking. You may call them a 'natural people person'. Many of those people have learned to be a good networker, because they have seen direct value from the networking they have done to grow their business from the connections they have made. Whether you are a natural networker or need to learn how to be a good networker, you need to have a strategy. With anything you do and want to be successful at, you need to set goals for yourself. Set "specific" goals for every networking event you attend; "measure" the effectiveness of each networking group; make sure the goals you set when you attend a networking meeting are "attainable" and "realistic"; if you join a networking group set a "timetable" for how long you will be a member so you can determine if it is truly a worthwhile group to belong to. If after a year, you have gotten no business from the group, maybe it is time to find a new networking organization. Here are some strategies to use, when networking to improve YOUR effectiveness.
Networking is designed to help get comfortable with other business professionals in a social setting. They learn to trust them and then believe them. It is a way to connect people who have a need for someone's services.
The most difficult part is getting out of their comfort zone to meet strangers; once you realize that the goal is to meet people who eventually may have a PROBLEM that your professional services can resolve you can focus on just 'meeting people'. The event is NOT to get a client or customer today.
Prepare yourself with something to say to everyone you meet. For instance, "Hi, I'm ___________________, I see your name is _____________(everyone has a nametag on). I love to learn what people do, so what do you do? You never know I may know someone who has a need for your services."
People are always willing to tell others what they do. Then they will ask you, "What do you do?" Now you are in a conversation.
Don't spend all your time with 1 person. That isn't making good use of your time. Give yourself a time limit of 5-10 minutes with each person. Then say, 'Excuse me, I see someone who I haven't seen in awhile". Collect their business card before you walk over to someone who is NOT engaged in a conversation and start again. "Hi, I'm ___________________". That person is just as uncomfortable as you and you can help him.
Set a goal for each networking meeting you attend to meet 5 new people. At the end of the evening, watch how many new people you have met and business cards collected. Follow up the next day with a short email telling them how nice it was to meet them and learn about what they do.