Network for maximum effectiveness. One-time events are not as good as ongoing participation where people will see you again and again. Going to five cocktail parties is less effective than attending five meetings of the same association; just showing up at an association event is less effective than taking a leadership role.
Prepare. Put your analytic skills to work, and take just a few minutes to prepare. Why are you attending the event? What goal/s do you have for the event? Who do you want to meet?
Listen about 80% of the time. When meeting people for the first time asking questions and being a good listener are what is most important.
Prepare three good questions you can ask to get the conversation started and be ready to answer those questions yourself.
Make sure to bring your business cards with you.
Begin by scanning the room to get a sense of who is attending and who you would like to approach first.
If you are new or uncomfortable with networking find the people who are standing alone. Introduce yourself and ask a question to get the conversation started. If you are a more experienced networker approach a group with three or more people. More people gives you a better opportunity to meet a person who might have a business problem you or a colleague could help with.
Keep your attention on the person you are speaking with. If you want to scan the room for people you know then do so when you are between conversations.
Get organized. Jot down important information about the person you have met on his/her business card and store the information in a contact management system.
When you return from an event invite the people you met to connect on LinkedIn and keep in touch.