• Look up the people you want to meet at a networking event on LinkedIn or Facebook — you’ll have something to talk about.
  • To keep your mind from wandering during a conversation, wiggle your toes.
  • Studies have shown that if you see someone you’d like to speak with, you have three seconds to engage them, or you will likely overanalyze it and not do it at all.

Even if you’re not in the real estate industry, chances are you’ve probably been to a networking event. It might have been a breakfast, luncheon or my personal favorite — happy hour.

I have found there are people who are uncomfortable going to these types of events because they either feel like a sleazy salesperson or they’re an introvert by nature.

I’ve been there. You walk into a roomful of people you don’t know, and the whole purpose of the event is to talk people into doing business with you or your company.

It can be a little awkward and intimidating. With that said, there is a right way to approach these events to get the most out of them. I’ve been to countless networking events over the years, and here a just a few tips that greatly help:

1. Research

Depending on the event, there is usually a list of people or companies that will be attending. Make a list of those you find interesting and would like to meet.

Look them up on LinkedIn or Facebook and see if you can find a common interest. You will be ahead of almost everyone at the event because no one takes the time to do this.

When you get to the event, seek them out. Everyone should be wearing name tags with their name and company on it.

2. Make eye contact, and shake hands

Make sure you look them in the eye and give a firm handshake. I know this is common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people look down at their feet instead of looking someone in the eye when meeting someone.

Eye contact lets the person know you’re fully engaged. And avoid the loose handshake altogether.

3. Wiggle your toes

When we’re engaging in conversation with someone, our minds tend to wander. We often find ourselves five minutes later having no idea what the person said.

Wiggling your toes shifts your awareness back to your body and the task in which you are engaging. I do this periodically to keep my awareness on the conversation I’m having. It helps you become a better listener, which is imperative at these events.

4. Utilize the three-second rule

Studies have shown that if you see someone you’d like to speak with, you have three seconds to engage them, or you will likely overanalyze it and not do it at all.

Approaching that person becomes a psychological barrier that we’ve all faced. If you don’t know what to say, just go up to them and introduce yourself. Ask what brings them to that event, or comment on something they’re wearing. You’ll never know what could happen or where it could take you if you don’t try.

5. Give

The majority of people go to these events with the entirely wrong mindset. They approach these events thinking about what people can do for them.

How can they help me? What can they do for me? This mindset couldn’t be more wrong. If you want to establish a connection with someone, it should be the opposite.

Once you stop making it about yourself and find a way to serve or help others, you’ll notice networking becomes a lot easier. People will open up to you and let their guard down.

They’ll see you as genuine. If you help people, your chances of getting their business or making a connection will significantly increase, and it could pay off tenfold. You never know who other people know. They could help lead you to your next big client or even a job opportunity.

6. Follow up

After you hand out your business cards and leave for the evening, what do you do with them? Do you toss them in some random place until you find them the next time you move? By then you probably have no idea where you met that person or who they are.

Here’s what you should do: No later than 24 hours after the event, you should write them an email. Tell them it was nice meeting them, and bring up something from your conversation to show them you were listening. This follow-up will make them remember you.

After that, follow up with them every so often. Send them a holiday card or a short email asking how they’re doing or if they want to meet for coffee or drinks.

These are just a few things to help you at the next event you attend. Try them out, and let me know how it goes. Sometimes you have to break outside of your comfort zone and do something different. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Zach Wade is a contributor for Inman. You can find him on Facebook at Wade Realty LLC or on Twitter @zwade0119 and on LinkedIn

Email Zach Wade.

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