Whether you're mingling with people at a birthday party, or attending a professional networking event, you rely on similar social networking skills. It's definitely a learned skill, and you'll get better with practise.
The Global Nerdy blog had some nice pointers - the main one being "Be
more of a host and less of a guest" - you'll find it's much easier to
get along at social events if you make the social effort rather than
waiting for someone to come up and talk to you. Here are some tips I've picked up along the way:
Break the ice
A great way to meet people is to introduce them to another guest. I often offer to introduce people even if I don't know the person they want to meet. It makes a great way for both of us to break the ice. Here's how I do it. If someone says they wanted to meet the guest speaker because they're working on a cool idea related to the speaker's talk, I offer to introduce them. Then I'll approach the speaker, and say "Hi, I'm Sarah, I'm from [wherever I'm working for today]and this is [friend you're introducing] . Explain briefly why your friend wanted to meet them. You can then stay and be part of the conversation, or say "Great, I really wanted to get you two talking, have fun!" and excuse yourself.
People are often surprised that I'm willing to do this. There seems to be an unwritten rule that you have to know someone to be able to introduce them. But you don't. And, as a bonus bonus it gives *you* an excuse to meet the new person, and you get a warm inner glow from helping people connect.
It's ok to be an introvert
If you tend to be more of an introvert and you find it hard to psych yourself up to attend large social functions like parties, give yourself an out. It's ok to tell yourself you can leave after an hour or two hours - and it gives you an impetus to actually meet the people you need to or want to meet while you're there. You're the best judge of how much social time you can take - and it's better to go for small doses rather than trying to force yourself to be the life of the party and being obnoxious (or exhausting yourself).
Be yourself, and be curious
The best advice for meeting people really is to be yourself, and be curious about other people. No-one likes to be talked at, or to have to do all the talking. You can avoid this by making sure that you're talking and asking questions to get the other person involved in the conversation. If you're both asking questions and learning about the other person, that's a good indication that the conversation is heading towards social success.