Here’s a link to a good piece on networking at conferences:
For shorter events, it’s amazing how many networkers purposely arrive fashionably late. Once they arrive, they find it hard to break in to quality conversations. What a mistake. Instead, arrive early. Not just
on time, but even before the start time. The conference organizers, hoping for a good turnout, will be happy to see you. They will usually give you good intelligence right then and there on expected attendees within your networking objectives. (You do have clear objectives in advance for these events, right?)
Then, as other attendees arrive, you’ll feel comfortable welcoming them and, yep, they’ll be happy if you do so. Your good karma will be flowing! Later in the event if you find yourself losing momentum, they’ll usually return the quid pro quo by introducing you to someone. They might even seek you out with an opportune introduction if you’ve given the right indicators of your networking objectives.
Likewise, stay late. No, don’t be a hanger-on, but by all means, keep working the room as the numbers dwindle. In a nutshell: big rooms + smaller numbers = easier approaches.
I once went to an event that was a 7 to 9 pm gig. It probably reached 200 participants at its peak. At about 9.05, I connected with someone right in my networking target profile, and she later connected me with someone for whom I ultimately ran a nice project. I could’ve left when the first 100 people had gone, but this connection happened when about 50 more had departed. We were still talking as we went to the coat rack together, which was when she said she agreed to refer me to my future client. It was seemingly effortless.