The one word that might get you the first round of seed capital for your startup…

…sitting alongside the board members of a Fortune 100 company.

…or even dining with the president (if you’re lucky!)

Whether you are a student or a seasoned professional, your networking skills hold the key to you landing that dream job offer or getting that business deal you have been working on.

Is networking a difficult skill to learn? No, and it’s not because of a particular reason: networking events.

Love them or hate them; you just cannot ignore them. The attendees are there to ‘network’ with each other. It’s like a dating event where people are there to find their dating partners. So, even with that cheesy pickup line, you still may not come off as cheesy.

At networking events, people are there to know you and let themselves be known. No hassle of cold-emailing anyone or hankering for a lunch interview. You need to show up at the event… but, you also need more.

Below are 12 strategies for a beginner to rock any networking event. 

Research the attendees beforehand: Look up the backgrounds of the attendees on LinkedIn. Try to find mutual connections. Research who might be of interest to you and build a list of all such targeted people to meet in the event.

Discuss your mutual commonalities: The new rule is—”like attracts like.” We always like someone who is like us. So, establish commonalities to have a similarity-attraction effect upon the persons you meet at the networking event.

Be a questioning machine: Don’t pester everyone with too many questions. But even so, it is always good to stop blabbering about yourself and let others talk about themselves. Ask open-ended questions that bring forth valuable information.

Be a connector: Don’t just think about your own connections. Connect others, too. Remember, being a connector does not mean losing your own connections. Rather, it means creating a positive and self-fulfilling circle of friends whom you can rely upon.

Know your purpose: It helps if you know early on what you want to achieve from the event. Want a job? Meeting clients? Just socializing? What makes you visit the event? You will have to prepare for your end-goal.

No product-pushing: Nobody likes a product-pusher. You might gather a few leads, and that’s okay. However, no product-pushing is allowed at an event if you want to build a good reputation.

Pay full attention: Do not scan the room as you speak to someone and most importantly, never leave the person midway for someone more important. Remember, your impression matters to everyone you meet. You never know who your benefactor might turn out to be.

Take notes: That’s right. Listen carefully and take notes on what you are learning along the way. Jot down interesting people and their contact information, or any seminar on your favorite topic. The benefit lies in how much you bring back home from the event.

The Killer Duo combo: We are talking of a charming smile and a confident handshake. Smiling makes you look happier, open and more positive. Your handshake creates that instant rapport with the person you meet. When used together, they can create a strong first impression.

Quality above quantity: Don’t rush into meeting with everyone of the attendees of the event. Remember, meaningful conversations with a few are worth much more than short, superficial babble with everyone in the room.

Learn the art of introduction: Approaching people in the right way so that they can get comfortable around you and open up to you is an art. If you can’t open up a person, how are you going to network with him for anything? Learn how to introduce yourself in public.

Prepare an elevator pitch: Following from the above point, once you introduce yourself, there might come a point where you are asked, “What do you do?” That’s your golden opportunity to present the best of you to your target audience (or simply, the person you are talking to). Be succinct. Be clear. Be impressive. Keep it short and sweet, so that people can recall your business later.

Networking is an art, and being an effective networker means how you work the room. Go in there with a purpose and a plan. However, do remember that we are social beings above all. Genuinely connect with people. Instead of viewing them as lucrative leads or prospective job offers, see them as human beings above all.

It’s not hard, frankly speaking – all you need is good preparation.