Strategize, plan, prepare, execute, measure. Refine, rinse, & repeat.
You know how you have a specific method for solving puzzles? Use that! Follow these steps, measure your improvement, tweak your methodology, test again.
Wow - you even get to keep notes, you can plot graphs, the sky is the limit!
Just don't get so caught up in the process that you forget to go out & meet people ...
A methodology is just a cool way of describing how you go about doing things in a structured, logical way - you knew that! So within the methodology there are processes. All processes consist of steps.
Once you have your methodology, you test it, see what works (keep those bits), see what doesn't work (toss those bits), etc.
You keep improving until you have something which works well most of the time - like a recipe you can follow.
"Forewarned is forearmed."
Use social media to find out about people before you meet them - LinkedIn, Google, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Much easier to interact when you know something about the person - find commonality, and prepare a bit around that.
No tech during your networking, though. Step away from your cellphone ...
You need to focus your attention on the people.
You need one goal for each interaction. It gives you something to aim for, and takes your attention off your own feelings / discomfort.
What do you want to accomplish:
Get as much info as you can, upfront.
You are so ready:
This is where the magic happens. Either the other person is as terrified as you are, & will be so grateful to you for breaking the ice, or the other person is a total pro, and starts the conversation ball rolling.
Remember your one goal per contact ...
extreme extrovert ----------------- ambivert -----------------extreme introvert.
In addition, we all have our public and private personas.
So, roughly half the people we meet are likely to be introverted.
Set a goal to meet a specific number of people per week. Contact me if you need more help with that.
Test this method, try it out, tweak it & let me know how it works for you, in the comments section,