At times I can be an introvert and others more of an extrovert. One thing that I do not always do is go to networking events and be this pro-active networker with connecting and handing out cards galore. The idea of that type of networking may bring anxiety in many photographers as well as me.
I recently had a conversation with a videographer, and he mentioned he received a major video project for a national campaign. He made that connection with the client from a simple event he covered many years ago. He stayed connected with this individual, and he just received the dream assignment.
I have many stories similar to his, and it is a good reminder how important it is to network. Meeting anyone can lead to a significant dream project or a simple assignment, directly with your new contact or they may refer you to someone who is in need of your services.
Photographing an event can be an excellent opportunity to network your services and hand out cards. You may meet a random attendee that happens to be in need of a photographer or videographer, to an individual that works for the client, though was unaware of you, and now they see you in action, and you meet in person.
I know a photographer that does not have a website and travels the world photographing events. He is very good with his networking abilities and strategically will shoot an event with the knowledge that assignment will lead to more potential clients. He always has his iPad available for sharing his images and making a personal connection.
Remember, to look at the present and the future. Continue to plant seeds for future work that may come to fruition quickly and at the same time for many years down the road. I once met an individual and about ten years passed when I received a call from him, and he ended awarding me several 5-figure projects.
Some basic things to keep in mind is when you meet with someone, add them to your LinkedIn list, address book and email marketing list for future connection. Always carry business cards (my favorite printer is Moo) to hand out. Remember to drop your new connections a postcard about how nice it was to connect and even surprise them 6-12 months later with another card.