Of all the public speaking opportunities available to us, the one that many people feel most uncomfortable with is networking.

This discomfort can occur at official networking events, in casual conversations that happen during breaks at conferences and meetings, and even in social conversations.

Presentations and speeches are prepared in advance. Sales calls are often scripted; but networking requires seat-of-the-pants flexibility and a go-with-the-flow mentality to be successful.

How can you share what you do in a way that engages people rather than turns them off? When is the right time to tell people what you do, and when is the right time to button your lip?

Here are 3 key mindsets that can serve as guidelines for more successful networking results:

1. Set the right intentions before you arrive

Unfortunately many people have the notion that the purpose of networking is to sell people your product, service or opportunity. Focusing mainly on this is a guaranteed recipe for failure.

Not only will you feel uncomfortably pushy, but you will turn potential customers and referral partners off right out of the box by coming across as only interested in your own success.

Instead, set the intention to build relationships with the people whom you meet.

In addition, you can also set a specific goal to meet and get the business cards of 2 or 3 new people, and a second goal to reconnect with 2 or 3 people whom you have met at prior events.

2. Ask and listen, then ask and listen again, before sharing what you do

When someone asks you what you do, instead of jumping right into your standard elevator pitch (which often ends up sounding stilted and unconvincing), ask a question that specifically targets the pain points and problems that you help people to solve in your work.

For example, I often ask people this question: Have you ever been in a situation where you really wanted to say something effectively, but you either weren’t sure what to say, or how to say it, or were afraid to say it?

If someone answers with a yes, then I follow up with one of the following questions: How did that make you feel? or What was the result of not being able to do that?

If the person with whom you are speaking has the problem that you help to solve, you can then mention that you might be able to help with that problem, and suggest setting a time to chat about the possibilities.

It is crucial that you get the commitment for a follow-up conversation right then (and even set the appointment if possible), so that you have a legitimate reason to give that person a call. You can then come across as providing a service, rather than being viewed as a pushy salesperson.

3. The fortune is in the follow up

Once you find someone whom you might serve, and who is open to speaking with you, be sure to follow up with a phone call and chat.

Added touches include sending a note indicating that you enjoyed meeting this person and look forward to connecting with him or her soon. A hand-written note sent through the mail is particularly powerful.

Inviting that person to connect on LinkedIn is another way to build a stronger relationship with someone whom you have just met. Remember to publish any articles you write on LinkedIn, as all the people with whom you are connected on the first level will receive a notice that you have shared an article on LinkedIn.

Repurposing your content this way is an excellent way to establish yourself as an expert in your field, and to continually remind your first degree connections of who you are and how you serve people.

As an additional piece of networking strategy, check out my recent blog post on how to graciously ask for referrals without stepping on any toes.

P.S. If you would like a quickie review of the key points of how to describe what you do when you get to that part of the conversation, you can access my free report on How to Instantly and Powerfully Answer the What Do You Do? Question at http://howdoyouanswer.com.