Networking is not as important to success as you may think. Socializing is much more beneficial than networking. The importance of people contact, friends and collaborators to an entrepreneur or small business owner may be more important than for big business. The real you may not be very attractive but the real players in any room look deeper than you realize.
Those who purposefully connect with an agenda and a "networking strategy" could be identified as a player with an intent to sell or "make a deal". A conversation by those selfish and ineffective communicators may include: "Let me tell you more about me and my business." Networking events designed to let networkers network together seem a bit self serving. It is time to look for events and rooms where the intent is not to network and instead find more value... with socializing.
I have not historically appreciated the value of socializing but now have a much different view. In fact, I have converted in that socializing is more important than networking.
To take part in social activities.
Business networking is a socioeconomic activity by which groups of like-minded business people recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities.
What others will see when socializing (and what you are looking for):
Do you suck the energy out of the room?
Do you consider others first?
Do you become more a 'devil's advocate' or do you find ways to be supportive.
When do you drink and how much?
Is your conversation appropriate to the room?
Do you criticize or empower?
Is politics the most important topic? Why?
Can you smile when you disagree?
When bored, what happens next?
In fact, when you disagree, do you become animated and annoying?
Do you ogle and comment on the opposite sex aloud?
Does the word 'polite' describe you well?
Do you barge into conversations?
Are you a giver or a taker?
It doesn't take long before others in the room can "get you". While you are thinking "how do I look good and make sure people know all about me", you may be sending the exact opposite message you hope for.
The real you may remain hidden as your goal of getting the introduction at any cost can become an sign on your back which says: "Self centered and annoying".
Your character is much more important than your expertise, product or service. The sooner your character is understood, the sooner people can move onto the next stage of "I like your style. What is your product or service so that I can do business with you?"
When 'networking', much can be revealed about the character of others but the room is also very full of intentions and agendas. The good news as that many networking events in reality nothing more than socializing. Unfortunately, during social events there are always those can't help themselves and must "talk business".
Fortunately, socializing can include sports (watching or playing), card games, meals, tea time, hunting, concerts, and even walking. This allows everyone to leave with a memory of something they experienced together which can become very powerful when creating new relationships. Having the ability to handle your booze is unfortunately in some circles an indication of "cool".
Socializing is a time where people can learn the real you and does not require extrovert behavior, juggling or genius remarks. Walking into a room with no agenda and hanging out can silently shout the essence of who you are.
The message others receive exists even when you or your team are standing still and saying nothing. In fact, the ability to say nothing, smile and nod at exactly the right time might be exactly the thing to help you with the next big deal.