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1. Don't arrive late.
To make things easier on yourself, time your arrival so you can maximize the interactions you're most interested in having.
"Especially for people who typically shy away from networking, the inclination is to arrive on the later side," says Ms. Zack. "The opposite is a much better strategy. Being the first person there, it's calmer, laid back, and people haven't yet settled into groups. You won't feel like there's no one to talk to."
2. Don't just stand there.
This is not the time to wait around for people to approach you. You need to work the room—even if you're on the shy side. There are ways to step outside your comfort zone and avoid awkwardness.
Start off by asking questions, Ms. Zack suggests. And don't worry about impressing the person you're speaking with—just act naturally.
"Many people think they're bad at networking," she says. The key is to work with, rather than fight against, your natural communication style. That way, "what were liabilities become your greatest strengths," she says.
3. Don't feel like you need to talk to everyone.
As a budding business owner or executive, you might enter a networking event with a "more the merrier" mentality when it comes to making new connections. However, it might be advantageous to take a "less is more" stance instead.
"It's better to meet fewer people and create a deeper, lasting connection than simply talking to everyone in the room," Ms. Zack says.
Instead of going to a networking event and grabbing 40 business cards in two hours, speak with fewer people for a longer period of time. Give each person you talk to at least five minutes to get to know you—and you them—before you move on, she advises.
This way, you'll leave networking events energized by new, true connections rather than tuckered out from meeting too...