Keep these simple tips in mind when you participate in a networking event ....
Do not talk about only yourself
Do not push your services or products
Make sure to practice your elevator pitch
Be professionally dressed
My biggest pet peeve is that so many people don't understand that networking is not selling!
Networking is about meeting people, exploring possibilities, perhaps getting to know people and their needs better. Yet so many are there only to sell, sell, sell. They could care less who you are or what your needs/interests are. They just want to push their products/services at you.
So some more tips are ... be friendly & welcoming, ask more questions, talk about the other person more than yourself, if a sales pitch starts up, excuse yourself politely and move on.
Another pet peeve isn't necessarily what happens at networking events, but rather an outgrowth of it.
I usually end up with a fair amount of business cards, but despite my efforts to connect with these people after the event... many are non-responsive. I am left wondering why people went to an event if they had no intention of trying to establish new relationships.
It may be that some people are really only interested in what they can sell you or what you can do for THEM. So if they determine you aren't useful, they don't bother trying to get to know you.
Me, I enjoy meeting people. If I'm able to help them then I'm happy to do it; but I expect them to be engaged at the least. I go to networking events to network... not to have my time wasted by people who don't really care.
Modern networking is a marathon, not a sprint. It is about creating and building relationships with the people you meet.
I believe there isn't anything that can replace the benefits of in-person networking, and that is saying a lot because I am introverted and would rather stay behind my computer!
Where you network is as important as how you network; BNI is a more structured and results-oriented networking group ... whereas Chambers of Commerce are informal and more about what your business brings to the community (money, jobs).
Whatever you do RELAX and be yourself. Don't fake it. Meet a new friend and grow an old friend.