As an evangelist, networking is obviously an important part of the job. I'd like to think, though, that it's a little bit like going to college. Most people don't know anyone else, so the scene is already set for effective networking.
In a recent special on PBS (I think it was PBS, anyway) Warren Buffet and Bill Gates spoke to a bunch of graduating students. One student asked Warren for a piece of advice for students entering the job market and what he thought would be the most valuable skill to develop. His reply: public speaking. With it, you can go places, without it, it's a liability.
Those were interesting comments, especially since I recently entered my role. Having been a developer for so long, it comes naturally to me. Presenting is something that will take some time to perfect, but I'm working on it.
I came across this blog post, How To Network: For Introverts
, and it's a valuable read. I remember having a similar conversation with some of my ol' CWC colleagues on one of our daily walks around campus a few years back. What echoes true in this is that it's the small "chit chat" phase that is so difficult to get past. I have no problem arguing the benefit of NT kernel changes in Windows to whether or not the NY Rangers are the most overpaid team in the NHL. But where I have difficulty is that first conversation, the idle chit chat.
My folks told me about a neighborhood they are thinking of retiring to. One of the activities is a once a month dinner with a group of 3 other couples. You repeat this for a total of 4 times, then the group is randomized again with others in the neighborhood. I really like this approach because, like going to college, it creates a friendly situation to networking.