Six basic rules to effective networking
1. Take plenty of business cards
These are the staple of networking events and you need to have a good supply to hand out. You might want to consider using both sides of your business card so that you give out not only your contact details but a bit about what you do which prompt people and help them to remember you after the event.
2. Positive body language
A firm (but not vice-like) handshake is essential and do make good eye contact. And if you struggle to remember people's names repeat their back to them when they say it and during the conversation to help you remember.
3. Ensure the conversation is 2-way
Do be attentive to the person you are talking to and ask lots of questions. And if you attend networking from the perspective of 'how can I help people' this will enrich your conversation and people's perception of you. But also make sure you can sum up what you do clearly and succinctly.
4. Focus on building relationships, not sales
If you attend a networking meeting for the first time and expect to get a new customer prepare to be disappointed. Networking is about developing contacts and getting to know, like and trust people. Many people who attend networking events will often refer their contacts to each other so consider networking as a long term investment.
5. Follow up
Do follow up with people you have met for example through Linkedin or by following them on Twitter. And if you've promised to send something through then make sure that you do.
6. Find the right format for you
Different networking events take different formats with some meetings having a formal structure with others are more relaxed. And meetings held at different times of the day may also work better for you than others. Every networking event I have been to I found people to be welcoming, friendly and supportive. If you go to an event and find this isn't the case then don't give up, try another until you find the one that is right for you