A topic that never seems to get old... How can I be better at networking? Here are a couple quick tips.
You're not there to talk about YOU, you're there to learn about them. The best conversation starters are good, thoughtful questions (not intrusive, just intrigued). Follow most of their answers with other questions about them (only occasionally bouncing back with something about you that their answer reminded you of). Follow on questions ideas might be: "So what did you like most about living in Maine?" or "Did you always intend to major in chemistry or did you change your major three times as the average suggests?" Remember the ear to mouth ratio...
2. BE RELEVANT
Never lead with an elevator speech. Always wait until you're asked what you do. And don't let it sound like you're reciting an elevator speech either. It's best to wait until you've learned enough about them to make your answer to "so what do you do?" relevant to who they are and what they do. In fact, you shouldn't have just one pre-designed elevator speech. You should have a different descriptor of your work for each type of person you serve or situation that you assist in. Then you stay meaningful and relevant. And less canned sounding.
3. DRAW CONNECTIONS
If you know who will be at an event in advance, look them up in LinkedIn and on Google first. In LinkedIn, see if you have any mutual connections and try to learn a little about their jobs, backgrounds, and interests. In Google, look at their companies--what do they do? What are the industries? Anything interesting going on in those fields? Don't be stalker-ish, but a little knowledge goes a long way. You could say something like, "I heard from Becky* that you'd be here and I was glad because I've been looking forward to meeting you. I think we both know Bill Smith... he's a good friend. Have you known him long?"
*say this even if "Becky" merely emailed you the attendee list. It sounds better than "I studied and researched the attendee list and..."
Happy "more-fruitful" networking!!