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Attending networking events can be a daunting experience, but it is a valuable way to meet new contacts and progress in your personal and professional spheres.

If the thought of entering a room full of strangers with the aim to simply 'network' is making your palms sweaty, then fear not, as we have crowdsourced some advice from other professionals who have found ways to calm any networking nerves, and spoke to a networking expert about tried and tested methods of getting the most out of these events.

Firstly, David Harold, blogger, told us that it is important to let fate play a part.

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Radina Valova, staff attorney, Pace Energy and Climate Center, explained it is best to only go to the events that genuinely interest you.

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Chris McHugh, freelance journalist, said that although there can be a range of levels of experience in the room, "don't be scared of bumbling up to absolutely everyone, no matter how high up". "Don't think you're not worthy," he added.

But if you still feel the nerves of approaching new people, Laura Marcus, freelance writer, noted that online networking can be just as useful – and cheaper.

"If you live nearby, it is worth swinging by, but don't make a special trip if you're from out of town. It can be very expensive if you get nothing from it – and chances are you won't," she said.

We also spoke to Steven D'Souza, associate professor, IE Business School and author of Brilliant Networking, who explained that both introverts and extroverts can find networking an enjoyable activity, as long as a bit of effort is put in before, during and after the event.

Don't be scared of bumbling up to absolutely everyone, no matter how high up – don't think you're not worthyChris McHugh, freelance journalist

He noted that it is through your connections with people that you can gain all the resources you need to accomplish your personal goals – after all, 'it's not what you know, it's who you know'.

Here are some of his tips:

Show up first

"If you are going to event and are nervous about making conversation with people, I always advise being one of the first people to go," said D'Souza.

"You will arrive before clusters and groups are formed, making it much easier to strike up conversation with the one or two people that are there, then if you go into a room already full of people."

Talk to the host

Not only does talking to the host show your gratitude for their effort to host the event, D'Souza notes that attendees of networking sessions should use the opportunity to be introduced to other people by the organisers.

"Many people go to events and they don't leverage the host. They can introduce you to other people if you let them know what kind of professionals you are looking to meet."

Don't try to 'work the room'

"I don't advise trying to meet as many people as possible," said D'Souza.

"Before people want to disclose information, they want to get to know, like and trust you – and trust is not built by seeing as many people in as little time as possible."

He notes that it is better to develop in-depth conversations with just a few people, rather than simply collecting as many business cards as you can.

"And don't just talk about work – get to know them personally to form a stronger bond and leave a lasting impression."

Understand that networking is a two-way process

"Networking isn't selling or telling," he said.

"Some people try to sell you their ideas or convince you of something, and others just talk at you."

Instead, it's about creating mutually beneficial relationships. You should avoid speaking just about yourself and your activities, and instead do an equal amount of listening and talking.

Meet people who are different

It is common to go to events and meet like-minded colleagues, people you have worked with in the past, or just end up talking to the people that you went with – but you should avoiding sticking together.

The real networking doesn't happen at the event, it happens afterSteven D'Souza, author

"It is best to separate from those you know so you have more of a chance to open up conversations," he said.

"We have an unconscious bias which attracts us towards similarity: people who look like us, have the same background, or report the same form of journalism. Notice that tendency, and make a concious effort to walk towards difference."

By approaching people of a different age, background or specialism, you will get more value from the event and it might lead to more "serendipitous encounters".

Don't judge anyone

It is common to meet others at networking events who might not personally be able to help you achieve your personal or professional goals, but D'Souza recommends giving each encounter a fair amount of time to establish this, rather than exiting the conversation too early.

"Never rush to judge the value of a relationship, because it is often not the person in front of you that is useful or not useful, but it is the person that person could connect you to," he said.

Remember why it is called networking – just like a net, every connection leads off to more directions.

"If you have to leave them, then give a genuine reason, but you can always say 'shall we meet another pair?' or invite someone else into the conversation."

Follow up

"The real networking doesn't happen at the event, it happens after," explained D'Souza.

"This often doesn't get done, but it will strengthen your connection if you simply send them an email or invite them for a coffee."

If you are looking to put this advice into practice and meet other journalism professionals, join us at the next newsrewired digital journalism conference, which takes place on 20 July at Reuters HQ in London.

Other digital journalism meetups in London you should check out are Hacks/Hackers and Journocoders.

Got any networking tips for journalists or want to suggest an event? Tweet us at @journalismnews.

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