If you finally get to meet the big cheese, the decision-maker you need to reach, here's the most important thing: don't hesitate. I never mind people approaching me direct. But I do mind them wasting my time with lots of apologies for disturbing me. That's not being considerate, that's just parading your own insecurities.
I've made many great contacts by serendipity - on a ski lift, in an airport queue, or literally bumping into people in a corridor, in circumstances where we are simply fellow human beings and we haven't had time for inhibitions and self-consciousness. Call it luck if you like, but you certainly won't benefit from this kind of random networking if you wander around with headphones on, stick rigidly to your own schedule, or hesitate to look people in the eye.
You need to look at yourself too. Different people flourish in different social environments. You'll know which you like best, so play to your strengths. And if there isn't a networking club or event that's right for you, why not organise your own? Find a good speaker, hire a room, maybe find a co-sponsor, and make it happen.
In the end, there's one thing that keeps most people trapped at a certain level in business, and that's lack of nerve. If you want to break through, if you want to be a really successful networker, take the direct route. Be thoughtful and considerate, by all means. Be courteous, too. But above all, do it.
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