// PREPARE BEFORE THE EVENT
Know what you want out of it. Not every event is worth attending, and you’ll get most out of events if you can tell people concisely what you are looking for.
Research who will be there. Targeting 1-2 people provides you with some focus and helps you make the most of your time.
// ACTIVELY SEEK THE PEOPLE YOU WANT TO SPEAK TO
Find one of the organisers and ask them who is there and who they think you should speak to. It’s an easy way to get started and often leads to the best conversation of the evening.
To open a conversation yourself approach a group and ask: “Do you mind if I join you?” Everyone is there to network, so they will be glad to meet another person.
If you’re looking for someone specific, ask: “Are you X?” As long as you are polite there’s no reason for them to be offended if it’s not them.
Don’t creep up on people from behind. If they have their back to you, go around them so you can approach from the front.
// BE INTERESTED AND HELPFUL
Find out everyone’s name, and ask them who they are hoping to meet. Be attentive and ask questions if necessary to really understand them.
If you work out two people would be interested to talk to each other, make the introduction. It makes you look friendly and well-connected, and is excellent at generating a little karma for yourself.
Once you’ve listened to them, it will be natural for them to ask about you. If they don’t it’s fine to just tell them at this point, as you’ve already been polite enough to listen to them!
Be concise about what you are after. Offer just enough informative to pique their interested if they are the sort of contact you are looking for.
// KEEP MOVING
Once you’ve agreed to follow up, or decided that someone isn’t interesting at this point, move on. The opportunity cost of staying talking to the same person too long is missing out on meeting someone else more interesting.
Remember everyone is there to network. Gracefully exit a conversation by saying something like: ‘Well, I don’t want to take up any more of your time – I’m sure there are lots of other people here you want to talk to.”
// FOLLOW UP
After a particularly interesting conversation, step to one side and make some notes on your phone. It’s unnatural to do it whilst you’re actually talking to them, but easy to forget details, so jot down anything essential.
After the event, add people you want to stay in touch with on Linkedin, or send them a quick email to say you enjoyed speaking to them. Another touch point will make you stick in their mind.
Finally, set a reminder in your calendar to follow up with people if there aren’t immediate to dos. Either your or their circumstances might have changed in a few months.