IF YOU are like most people, you probably feel uncomfortable meeting other people and networking with them.

Your mind fills with questions like, "Where do I begin?", "What do I say?" and "Who will notice me in this crowd?"

But once you discover the "Holy Grail" of networking, you will be schmoozing with the best of them.

Greet the person with a smile, a warm handshake and a prepared introduction.

Make the first move. Don't wait for him to come to you. Chances are he is as nervous as you are, and will be greatly relieved when you approach him.

After all, everyone appreciates acknowledgement and likes to feel important. Decide whom to approach and go for it.

Use a firm and friendly handshake. Let him know you are happy to meet him. Exude warmth and sincerity. Make eye contact and smile.

Have an opening ready. Your opening may take the form of a five- to 10-second introduction about yourself. It should include your name and some fact or interesting pitch relevant to the occasion.

Never just give your job title - so many other people do that. You don't want to be like everyone else, you want to stand out.

For example, instead of saying, "I'm an insurance agent", say: "I provide peace of mind so people can sleep at night" or "I help people take care of their families when they can't do it themselves."

Make the other person curious, amuse him and put him at ease. In other words, make him interested in talking to you.

Rapport means making a connection. The essence of rapport is harmony and similarity.

Build rapport through eye contact, body language and a suitable topic of conversation. Be polite, friendly and welcoming.

Use body language to create a feeling of similarity. If you are talking to someone who is seated, pull up a chair and sit next to him, do not stand over him.

If your conversation partner uses certain buzzwords, you should use them too. People like people who are like themselves, so you want to be like the person you are with.

Ask questions to sustain the conversation and let the other person shine.

Short, relevant questions are useful for eliciting information, keeping the conversation on track, confirming understanding and maintaining rapport.

There is no point in taking the initiative to make contact only to have the conversation die after you exchange names. Ask questions to keep the conversation alive.

The questions you ask at this point need not be insightful, witty or profound. They can be simple and obvious. You are not trying to be clever. You just want to make the other person feel comfortable with you and sustain a conversation for five minutes.

Keep a few stock questions in mind, as well as a few based on current events. If you prepare some questions before you arrive at a networking event, you will not feel pressured to come up with some good questions on the spot.

Interest. Show interest in the other person. Put the spotlight on him. Make him feel good about himself - and you.

Exude energy and enthusiasm. People are more interested in enthusiastic types - they are more fun to be with!

Make small talk. Keep up with current events and have a stock of discussion topics ready. In a pinch, you can always make a comment about the occasion or the surroundings.

Be positive. Most people prefer to keep a positive outlook, and critics can alienate others without realising it.

A story is told of a woman who dined on consecutive evenings with legendary British leaders William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli. She was asked what impressions these men had made upon her.

She replied: "When I left the dining room after sitting next to Mr Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But after sitting next to Mr Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest woman in England."

Listen attentively. Good listening skills are critical for establishing and maintaining rapport.

In a room full of people intent on talking about themselves, lining up business or filling their social calendars, a good listener can make quite an impression.

Make eye contact, smile, nod your head and show interest. Be the person other people want to talk to.