I’ve never been great at networking.  I understood the importance of it and often found it quite fun, but just never actively did it.  More recently I’ve started to really push myself into the networking world and here are 4 things I’ve found to be of great importance:

Don’t go into networking events thinking only about yourself.  If you look at each person and event only as how they/it can benefit you or your business you will miss out on a lot of potential opportunities.  Go into networking events thinking, How can I help.”  Having this mindset does two things: one, it helps you not come across as a salesman only looking to see who you can make money off of and two it allows you to be open to more opportunity.  Maybe the person you meet and help connect with a friend of yours, that can give them insight into a problem they’re facing, isn’t going to bring you any business, but maybe down the road that person introduces you to someone else that might.  You never know what interactions will lead to what outcomes.
If someone offers you something, take it.  Unless it is truly going to harm you or is against your personal beliefs, receive what people offer.  People feel good when they help others and often those good feelings are transposed onto the person they have helped.  If someone wants to help you, introduce you to someone, get a coffee, invite you to a party always try and accept.  Even if people can logically disassociate that you turning down their offer isn’t personal, many people will still take it personally on some level and with enough turn down will eventually stop trying to engage.  To build strong relationships you need to be able to accept what people offer.
Remembering someone’s name and what they do goes a long way.  This also happens to bemy kryptonite.  To try and relieve this problem I’ve found that it helps to repeat people’s names during conversation.  Also, if you get a business card, write something on it that will personally remind you of the person and what they do.  And, remember who you know.  When meeting other people always be thinking about who you can connect them with.
The more you do the more likely you are to meet people you are interested in meeting and the more you have to talk about with them.  I recently attended the 95th birthday party of local legend Aubrey Davis on accident.  There was a mix up using Eventbrite that allowed me to get on the list and attend a somewhat intimate celebration with Aubrey, his family, friends and co-workers.  And, though I didn’t know anyone there the hosts and Aubrey were very gracious and invited me to stay.  Even if nothing came of that event I still had a good time and have a good story to tell at future events.

What do you think is key to networking successfully?