When you attend a networking event, your networking opportunities begin as soon as you get out of the car. Start conversations with people as they enter the building with you. Being pleasant, warm, and friendly doesn’t cost a thing and can produce huge returns.

First thing, head for the reception table. Sign in, get your nametag, and pick up any other materials they may be distributing. If there is a line, being introducing yourself to those nearby. Start a conversation by finding out who they are and telling them how much you are looking forward to this particular event. After you’ve made your first contact, it usually gets easier to meet others.

Do not ignore the reception desk personnel. They are often volunteers and key people in the host organization. Aside from saying hello, thank them because they are frequently ignored or treated indifferently. They will appreciate and remember your kindness.

Arrive early to all networking events. By arriving early, you can have time to talk with the sponsor organization staff. This is also a good way for you to be able to talk one on one with the other early attendees getting you warmed up and in the networking mode.

When the event begins, I advice people to “act like a butterfly”. When you meet friends at events, it is not the appropriate time to involve yourself in prolonged discussions that go into the intimate details of their lives. Invest time in the people you don’t already know at these events. I believe networking events are primarily to meet new people. Although I love the social aspect of seeing old friends and catching up, the purpose of networking events is to make new contacts.

I like to approach people first who are standing alone because that usually means that they do not know what to do next. Since networking is extremely easy and comfortable to me, I will go over to them, try to make them feel comfortable and escort them over to groups that I feel they can enter and be a part of.

Networking and building relationships takes time. Relationship building starts the moment you see a target – even before you say a word or say hello. When you approach targets, your primary purpose is to make contacts with the best people that can bloom into strong relationships, not sell your product or service. Make a strong initial impression.

Things to remember when you are ready to start networking:
Be direct and honest.
Explain precisely what you need.
State how your contact can help.
Inquire if your contact knows other who might help.
Point out what you have to offer.
If your contact gives you a lead, request permission to use his or her name.
Ask how you can repay or help your contact.
Express your gratitude!

Author's Bio: 

Jill Lublin is an internationally acclaimed speaker and best selling author of the books, Guerrilla Publicity and Networking Magic. She is the CEO of the strategic consulting firm Promising Promotion and founder of GoodNews Media, Inc. Jill hosts the nationally syndicated radio show Do the Dream, has a TV show called The Connecting Minute, and is working on her third book, Get Noticed…Get Referrals, to be published by McGraw-Hill in June 2008. She can be reached by phone at 415-883-5455 or by email at info@promisingpromotion.com.