Networking can be for the purpose of building short or long-term relationship and for social or business reason. Personally, I believe the most effective networker is committed to developing long term relationships that are mutually beneficial. Far too often one approaches networking opportunities as a shaking of hands and distributing as many business cards as possible. The goal should focus on the quality of the friendships your attempting to foster and not the quantity of casual acquaintances you have in your contact list. Besides needing the skills and personality to effectively network one must also be genuine and avoid exaggerating.
The old adage, you have one chance to make a first impression, should be burned into your conscience because that is the lasting impression others will have of you. In order to make your mark and begin developing those beneficial relationships I suggest the following:
Plan ahead, know as much as possible about the circumstances of the meeting or event in respect to who may be attending, appropriate attire, etc.
Set goals for who you would like to meet, know background information about them and leverage opportunities to be introduced to those individuals. Self-introductions are fine but sometimes appear awkward unless you have the personality to make it comfortable.
Be able to articulate a brief concise explanation of your business or service when asked for the information.
Expect to listen more than speak, unless you are the expert on the topic of discussion.
Be passionate about who you are and what you do.
Find commonalities to discuss and compare.
Above all else be genuine and don’t pretend or exaggerate anything. Remember you are not a salesperson but someone that wants to kindle a long lasting friendly relationship. This means it is acceptable to discuss the forbidden topics of politics and religion when your networking to become friends and not only fostering a business relationship.
Once you made a connection agree to subsequent discussions over the phone or email. These contacts should occur with some assemblance of regularity or you have not developed a meaningful and mutually beneficial contact.
One final thought I recommend is to focus on giving versus getting. Yes, there will be times when you are the recipient of the benefit but you should also expect to be a resource and aid others, without keeping score as to who helped who the most. If you appreciate being mentored or benefitting from a contact then you should also expect to be the mentor or graciously connect others when you receive no reward. One will be amazed at the amount of reciprocation that will occur and prove advantageous as you develop long lasting relationships without expecting to be rewarded for your efforts.