So, you have chosen the right event for you – good targets, introducers or referrers, at a cool venue, at time that works for you. You now need to make the event worthwhile.

Get there early – check out the attendee list and freshen up. You may find that you get to speak with 3-4 useful contacts even before the event is in swing. If the hosts are also your targets, they are likely to welcome you saving you the hassle of find them.

Scan the room and decide who you should approach. Starting with individuals can be easier than breaking into a group. If you know your targets are there, see if you can spot their name badge or ask the host to introduce you.

You don't have to talk business – football, music, art, kids, politics, whatever. It doesn't have to be about your job. This will make it easier to make a real connection and a common interest with people.

Arrange a coffee – if you do meet someone you think could be a prospect, don't talk business at the event. Invite them out for a coffee. Do determine if they are worth meeting again (and vice versa)

Have a target – 3-4 good contacts is good number for an hour or so. Once you've got these, go home, or hang out with colleagues and friends.

You can always leave – if the event appears is not what you expected, or you're not really in the mood, count your losses and go home. There is always the next event.

Useful ways of moving on to the next person

  • "I came here to see Emma, so please excuse me while I try and find her".
  • "Great speaking with you but I need to get around and talk to a few other people".
  • "I'm going to get a drink, can I get you one?" (Get a drink for them and then move on).
  • "Have you met Emma? She works in your field/sector/is a lawyer as well. Excuse me."
  • "If you'll excuse me, I understand that you're supposed to mingle at these things. Here's my card – do you have one? It was a great meeting you and hope to talk again."

Just be honest and say what you plan/need to do – nobody will be offended.