As an entrepreneur, networking is a daily aspect of my life and a crucial part of my success as a businessman and entrepreneur. That being said, I am always surprised by how many people aren’t comfortable or don’t know how to network effectively. As a result, I decided to highlight a few networking best practices based on my own experiences.

Networking is a conversation.

Networking needs to be a conversation, not a monologue. While you want to make a strong impression, elevator pitches can feel overly-rehearsed and impersonal. Make sure you are creating a dialogue. If you think of it as a back and forth, it not only takes some of the pressure off you but also people like a chance to talk about themselves a bit too. Your conversation will resonate more this way.

You never know who you are going to meet.

Some of the best networking opportunities arise where you would least expect it. If conversation ensues, don’t be afraid to mention business or a bit about your career focus. Not every relationship needs to be work related, but you never know who’s sitting next to you at the airport or a dinner party.

Be original and get creative.

When an opportunity does arise, be sure to pull out your A game. Influential people are targeted for recommendations and advice all the time. If you want to stand out, try to consider the questions they hear four times a day and break outside that line of conversation. It is going to benefit you and them. Richard Feloni at Business Insider gleaned some advice from master influencer, Jon Levy, and I think this is one of the biggest takeaways. Creativity and originality are going to be mutually beneficial. They don’t have to listen to you drone on about something they hear every day, multiple times a day, and you are going to make a lasting impression.

Not everyone is a perfect candidate for networking.

This tip comes back to quality over quantity. It’s important to remember that not everyone is going to be a fit. You want to make quality connections rather than papering the town with your business cards and verbal resume. It just doesn’t make the right impression. If you are tactful and consider whether you and this person connect and could potentially benefit from continued conversations then swap cards. Think of networking as a test drive. They are sizing you up, so it is entirely okay for you to be sure you are getting some background on them.

Step outside of your comfort zone.

You need to put yourself out there. It’s not always comfortable, and the idea of networking can be intimidating, especially when you are just getting started. The fact of the matter is though, that networking is essential to almost every successful career, especially in business and entrepreneurship. If you never step out of your comfort zone, you’re never going to create new relationships and expand your reach.

Leave your expectations at the door.

Last but not least, don’t go into the conversation with an expectation. It isn’t fair to them or you. If you are overly focused on how this is going to benefit you, it’s going to show through and come across as insincere. Networking is about building a relationship that’s mutually beneficial for you and them. If you see your thoughts wandering to how this is going to pay off for you, try to refocus and think about three small ways you might be able to offer value to them.

If you’re like me and you would like to learn a little more, I enjoyed this infographic  from Leslie Ye from Hubspot that reiterates the importance of networking and more importantly networking well.