I'm not exactly an experienced networker (having only ever been to maybe 3 events), though I'd consider myself as somebody who isn't shy and enjoys meeting new people. However, despite this I've found myself struggling to strike up conversations amongst others and if anything felt slightly uncomfortable whilst at a networking event.
I think more than anything it's the lack of experience.
When you're new to that professional environment, I think it can be particularly hard to remember that everybody there is attending for the same purpose as you and that they're still human and probably would rather not even talk about work. Speaking with friends and colleagues it seems that attending smaller networking events seems to be much easier and more valuable. The first networking event I attended there were about 500+ young professionals there and essentially was just a massive p*ss-up. Whilst fun it was, it may as well have just been a night out with the team.It's not exactly easy to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger when you can barely hear yourself over 500 people talking and loud music playing (I sound like an old man).
One suggestion from this article that I like is "Find the connection". Essentially it's suggesting to find something you have in common that you can talk about. You may have heard before of the idea that each individual is only six or fewer steps away from any other person? (Frigyes Karinthy, 1929). If that's true then it can't be that difficult to find common ground - Hobbies, interests, causes, work, education? Football is an easy one for those of us living in Manchester, as most support it and are either a red or blue (red of course).
I've also heard turning up early to the event when hardly anybody (even nobody) is there makes the experience a whole lot easier. I suppose doing that forces you into an ultimatum to either start conversing or sit in awkward silence, scrolling through your phone like there's no tomorrow.
If you are shy or socially awkward, you probably hate networking. Even if you find it difficult to approach professionals in your field, you can still alleviate some of the stress with these ten useful networking tips.