Networking is not a four-letter word," says Devora Zack. "It's all about making meaningful connections, one person at a time." Zack, a Washington, D.C.-based business consultant and author of the newly published Networking for People Who Hate Networking (Berrett-Koehler/ASTD Press) offers the following advice for the mingling-impaired.
Arrive early. Get a jump on schmoozing when it's easier to get a conversation going and before people gather into cliques.
Volunteer. Handing out name tags, for instance, is a great way to meet people whom you can later chat with.
Get in line. "Whether the line is for food or drink or whatever, you'll have two people to interact with -- in front of and behind you," says Zack. "Make the most of it."
Be a good listener. Asking questions gives you and your contact something to talk about. Listen carefully and ask follow-up questions. People like people who express an interest in them.