According to a survey by Conventions 2020, the single greatest factor that motivates people to attend an event is the quality of networking.

Networking is important to your business’s brand, and your personal brand. You may agree to go to certain events because there will be free food and a bar, but your boss is sending you to make connections and gain some leads. And any networking event requires you to invest a good amount of time before and during the event. Sitting quietly alone at a table or staring at your phone won’t help you generate the ROI your boss wants, or your career needs.

What will? Breaking out of your shell. Even the most introverted marketer, who spends his or her time on social media all day, can do it. And here’s how:

1: Set a goal to meet at least 5 new people.

If you’re a goal-oriented person, this tip should do the trick. And rather than trying to meet 20 new faces in 3 hours, try 5. A smaller number means a more meaningful meet and greet. You’ll actually spend time engaging in good conversation, rather than saying hi, handing over your business card and rushing off to try and hand out 19 more before the day ends. Plus, shifting your focus to meeting your goal should alleviate the anxiety you feel about having to talk face-to-face with strangers.

2: Make a list of important questions to ask beforehand.

Pay special attention to the word important. Important questions aren’t where did you go to school, where are you from, or are you a dog or cat person? Those won’t produce any kind of ROI (unless maybe you share an alma mater). Ask business and event-related questions, such as:

  • Where do you work?
  • What does your business do?
  • What’s your role in your company (you can also ask them more specifically about their role and industry)?
  • Why did you choose to attend this event?
  • Is this your first time attending (if it’s an annual event)?
  • What have you learned or liked best so far?

People like talking about themselves, and it’s easy to get them to do it. Genuinely ask these types of questions, listen to their responses and respond if they ask back. Doing so breaks the ice and gets the conversation flowing more naturally.

3: Bring the Goose to your Maverick.

When you have the chance, attend networking events with a colleague. Having a friendly face by your side not only takes some pressure off, it allows you to introduce each other and helps you be more effective at listening and responding during each conversation. Just don’t let going with a friend distract you from actually making the effort to mingle with new people. And whatever you do, don’t break out into “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”—at least not until the after party drinks.

4: Go to the in between and after conference events.

Speaking of after party, if there is one, or a happy hour in between sessions, then you definitely should go. These types of gatherings make networking easier because they’re in a more relaxed setting. It’s in this environment where you’ll more naturally develop deeper business relationships.

5: Hang around the food or bar.

Events know a surefire way to get attendees is offering free food and drinks. So when you arrive, find the end of the bar or the food table and hang out (preferably in a non-creepy way). Be the friendly face that chats with people waiting for the bartender to pour their drink. Most guests head straight to the bar when they arrive, so all you have to do is wait and get ready to ask those questions you’ve prepared.

When you have an organized game plan, it’s a lot easier to break out of that shell you’ve so comfortably been sitting in during past networking events. Head into your next event with confidence and these tips, and you’ll surprise yourself and your boss with the ROI you generate.