* Be authentic. Be yourself. Don't be concerned about what others might think. (That is sometimes difficult, but you owe it to yourself to try it.) Be real. Don't try to be the "want to be" you. Let people see, and get to know, the real you.
* Know what you have to offer. Start conversations with people and tell them what you have to offer. Be bold! Be fearless! Speak intelligently and have interesting things to say (about you, your profession, current events, etc.).
* Have a 30-second elevator speech ready. This is a quick marketing response for the question most often asked (but often not taken advantage of), "what do you do for a living?" Your response to this question needs to clearly describe what you can do for an employer and also let people know that you are currently seeking career opportunities. Remember, you are in a selling position and you are the product. Why should someone hire you? What do you offer that others don't? As an executive, what successes have you had?
* Avoid closed-ended questions. Seek to get the other person to talk and then really listen. Instead of asking, "Do you know anyone who...?" ask, "Whom do you know who...?" This will allow for discussion and problem solving instead of a one-word negative response that stops conversation.
* Use active listening skills. When the other person is talking, do not consider your response in your head. Instead, just listen. Look into the speaker's eyes and give verbal and nonverbal clues that you are listening and understanding.
* Call someone you know and invite them to go with you. You will know at least one person and you won¹t be alone. Make a plan with them to meet two or three new folks. Make it into a game. "You meet two people, and I will meet two - that way we can introduce each other and get to know four people." Check in with each other, support each other and then reward yourselves for going to an event and meeting new people.
* If you are not comfortable with large events, try starting off with some smaller networking opportunities. Maybe it means getting involved with an assn or group of folks where you can be on a council or committee. They tend to have smaller, more intimate meetings. Get to know some folks that way, so that when you do go to the larger events, you already know people.
* Whatever you do, Don't come across as pushy. People sense desperation and neediness. It doesn¹t engage people. Don't be overly aggressive, follow people around or talk incessantly about what you have to offer. And don't just walk around passing your business cards out. Networking is not about how many cards you can pass out. It's about developing relationships with people.
* Great networkers don't just go to events (small or large) to promote themselves. They also contribute something to the people they meet. Be sure to know what you can contribute and listen to what other people need.
If you are attending an event for additional contacts, others might be as well. Perhaps you have a great contact for them. Maybe you know of someone who can help them solve their problem. Share your information with them as well. Consider how you might help others you meet.
The old adage, "what goes around, comes around" has proven to be true. You may not get immediate help, but others will remember that you helped them and will talk well about you.
Your reputation will grow and others will seek you out to help make connections and get information. And they will know whom to call when they discover the perfect job for you. Now, just go out there and do it!