Yesterday, Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, posted this little gem to his Twitter feed  (@keithferrazzi):

“Having a plan for who you want to meet and WHY is no less genuine than randomly meeting people, just smarter!”

So true! I think this is one of the biggest mistakes people continue to make when they attend conferences, industry events, meet-ups. Instead of relying on the forces of nature -- and leaving the strategic networking to those who are more deliberate than you -- peruse the list of attendees and pick a handful of people you’d really like to meet. Think about what you want to say to them, and then get on it! Reach out via email, phone or social media to arrange a time to meet for five or 10 minutes in between sessions or during social time.

That said, you can “prepare” for random encounters. People laugh that I always carry business cards with me at all times (even to the gym!), but the truth is, you never know who might turn into a great client or referrer, so why not be prepared? It's a small thing, but it can have big rewards.

For instance, I always took business cards to the dog park when I lived in Hollywood. I passed them out like dog treats (to the humans, of course!). A few years a later, I get a call from a guy I met there asking me to become a regular contributor to his magazine. Who knew?

And don't forget the elevator pitch – a sentence or two about who you are, what you do and why it matters. At the very least, be ready to give a one- or two-line recap of what you’re working on now or next.

What things do you do to expand your network thoughtfully? Leave a comment! (Not sure how to write one? Read this first)