Where to sit

Despite the fact that the purpose of a networking event is to meet other people, many people who show up just sit and wait for the networking to happen to them. Rather than being proactive and initiating conversations, they sit down and wait for others to approach them. If this is your tendency, catch it early and do something different.

If you arrive early at an event, you may notice people scattered around the room, one lone person in each row of chairs or at each table. Instead of doing the same, choose one person, approach and say, “Do you mind if I join you?” Then introduce yourself and you’re off into conversation land. (And if not, read on for what to say.)

If it’s a presentation where you may have a chance to ask questions, sit near the front. That way, the presenter is more likely to call on you and you may even have a chance to tell the group who you are and what you do.

If it’s not a sit down event, stand by the food or an information table. Make it your business to move around so you can meet as many people as possible.

If you go with someone you know…  It sometimes helps to attend an event with a friend or colleague – but once you’ve got your nametags on, go your separate ways. If you don’t, it’s too easy to stay clumped together, which discourages others from approaching you too. Many opportunities to make new contacts are lost because people sit with their cohorts or with the same “safe” buddies every time. Make it a habit to sit with people you don’t know. And if one of your important clients or contacts is at the meeting, sit with him or her but make sure you are seated at the table with “strangers” also.

If you do bring a friend
, split up to meet people and then introduce those people to each other. Or you can stay together and approach loners in the room and say, “Have you met [friend’s name]? She has this great company, etc.” It is easier to brag about your friend as a way to introduce them. Being introduced by someone else makes conversation easier. And be sure to give quality introductions to your colleagues as well. Practice them in advance.

Be one of the hosts. Once you’ve started attending a particular meeting regularly and you feel comfortable, take a more active role as one of the hosts. All you have to do is stand near the door so you can greet people and introduce yourself as they walk in, making them feel comfortable and welcome. Or if you’re at a table with others, designate yourself "table moderator" and suggest that everyone introduce themselves and exchange business cards.