Engage in Conversation
I have tried to make it a habit of introducing myself to those I do not know, even prior to a formal introduction. I don't want awkward moments of silence or wondering whom an individual is while I wait for a host or common friend to make the introduction.
This practice has made it easier for me to strike up conversations in various public places. If I catch someone's eye, rather than perform the standard practice of quickly looking away and then struggling not to meet that person's eyes again, I'll simply say, "Hello, I'm Matt."
Such introductions generally lead to conversations. Conversations ultimately lead to the topic of profession and interest. And the conversations can progress from there.
To some, this exchange is natural. These people are natural people persons. I am sure this is how I come across. However, I want to emphasize that this is also a learned and developed skill. If you practice it enough times, it will feel less contrived and more natural.
Just the other day, I was waiting for coffee and started a conversation with another patron. This man, as it turns out, runs a small insurance company. As we discussed our two areas of expertise, we were able to find a natural connection. We traded cards, and although we have conducted no formal business together, we are trading promising correspondence.
I am confident that he or one of his clients will need technology help in the future. But even if that's not the case, the two of us have developed a professional friendship, passing relevant information back and forth over e-mail.