Being in this line work, we really have to network a lot. Networking with people we already know is easy-peasy. You just reinforce the connection that you already have with that person or the company that they worked for, and add on to that with industry news or other people that we knew in the cricle. And bam! You get the conversation flowing.
But how to network with people you don't know? It is quite painful, especially when you have to make the first move. What do you say to that person standing next to you, looking as akward as you are? Or if you don't make the first move, just nursing the drink in your hand, hoping someone would speak to you cause you don't know anybody there. It can be quite uncomfortable.
They way I see it when I go to this kind of functions, is to bring your associates or friends. Then you'd feel less embarrased to talk to people. Or you friend can introduce you to her acquaintance, or you can introduce your acquaintance to your friend. There's pros and cons to it. You might end up huddling in your small cosy group and not do much networking.
But if you set a purpose coming to functions to establish contacts and network, that you have set a goal to reach a certain quota or meet a few pertinent people, then you'd use the hours wisely. I see people like this all the time;
1. Always look confident when approching people, there's brazen confidence and there's quiet confidence - it's all in the personality;
2. Never sit in a corner or stuck to a location - mingling around means you have to work the crowd, or the least go to all the corners of the room;
3. Always ask about the other person, don't only talk about yourself - get to know what they are about, and maybe you can connect that with your line of work;
4. Stick to topics relating to work, or the industry or if you have no common ground, talk about current issues, but never talk about politics. Networking time is when everbody is neutral and relaxed, don't mar that with politics;
5. Always bring your business card - important! to establish contact and follow up later on;
6. Never leave the function without thanking the host - must be polite.
The steps may or may not work for you. You just have to find yourself and be comfortable with it.