Penelope Trunk has a good article entitled on “Networking for People Who Hate Networking”
Networking is a vital skill and shouldn’t be shirked. Of course, it seems to come easier to some people. But that’s partly a mental attitude. “What if they don’t want to talk to me or don’t like me” or “we have nothing in common” are common concerns/fears. But let me make the following observation – most people will talk about themselves if given the opportunity. So, if in doubt, ask questions about them to get the conversation going.
You can have enormous fun and learn a huge amount doing it. Walk into a room of people you don’t know – well that represents a lot of new stuff you’re going to learn and new potential friendships.
I’m a strong believer that you must network only on the basis of a fair trade, which I’ve blogged about before. By this I mean you can’t go into it expecting to be “taking” from everyone you meet. Sadly too few people adhere to this and go into conversations along the lines of “how can you help me”.
As a minimum you have to “give” something too and it may be you spend a whole evening just “giving” e.g. introducing people to each other or making suggestions as to who a person should contact. Let me assure you, this is a great reputation to have and the returns normally come back several fold.