You are definitely not alone in feeling more comfortable being alone or distanced from social gatherings where you are surrounded by virtually nobody you are friends with or have met before. Being shy or introverted is nothing to be ashamed of, you don’t need to become someone else in order to network successfully and gain business relationships.

Whatever you do, don’t hug the punch bowl or people-watch with an intensity that becomes off-putting for the rest of the others in the room. How do you be a more approachable, confident version of yourself? It’s easy if you just remember these basic rules.

A (Wo)Man with a Plan

Go into the event with a goal in-mind, not a “survive the day” mentality. If you know what you want to get out of this meeting, your head is going to be filled with less negativity. Don’t come in the room with an inflated ego nor a sense of inferiority. Nobody creates success out of thin air, you must have help.
If you feel like you might be the person with the least amount of experience at the event, do some 

research leading up to it, read some current events within the industry. These are great conversation starters and provide opportunities to interject, just don’t be too aggressive with those “well, actually” comments. People will smell desperation a mile away.

Sample the Buffet

We’re not just talking about the actual buffet table here, although if the food is good, you might as well. You should attempt to meet and converse with as many people as you can. Try not to cling to the first person who has engaged you in a friendly conversation and resign to not looking uncool. The reason you want to limit your time spent with each person is purely to increase your odds of making an impression on someone who can add value to your business or added to a contact list if there ever arises a time when they are looking for some help.

Try to keep moving after about a ten-minute conversation, if the conversation isn’t specifically pegging any potential business ventures. Listening to what people have to say is often more important that going full-on promotional mode. Always exchange business cards, even if you feel the conversation didn’t go well. It may feel awkward, but, as Wayne Gretzky famously said: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

The Day After

If you felt like you had a pretty good talk with the contacts that you picked up at the event, don’t miss your opportunity to solidify that relationship by following up with an email. If this sounds vaguely similar to the dating scene, well, there are definitely parallels to courting in the professional world. In fact, if you become pretty comfortable networking for business purposes, there is a good chance much of that will translate well when pursuing social or romantic relationships.