Forcing yourself to attend a networking event? Take courage.

Here are some principles of successful business marketing: No matter how much you stay “top of mind” in front of your customers online — via social media posts, email blasts and blogs — there’s still a place for real human, 3-D, eye-sparkling contact.

Here are some fundamentals to make your face-to-face business development work wonders. Whether at a trade show, a chamber leads group or a meetup event, being there in person is a chance to impress.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Jeffrey Gitomer. He says in “Networking Your Way To Rich Relationships” that you do business between 9 and 5 but you BUILD business before and after hours.

Some best networking practices:

• Attend the RIGHT events for your business. Pick a couple to scope out in the next few months Make a commitment to go. Bring your most energetic self with you.

• Be noticeable. You don’t have to wear a bow tie to be found in a crowd. But you do need to be seen. Don’t hide out in the corner. Walk around. Keep your hands empty so you can shake hands readily. Place your nametag on the right hand side of your jacket — because that’s where people’s eyes will go when they shake your hand. Stand at an angle in a group, so you can widen the circle to let newcomers in.

• Contribute. Add value. Maybe you have researched this industry and have heard the latest news. Share that. Or help at the check-in table; volunteer to help set up the dais. Introduce someone you just met to the people entering your circle. You will be considered a community member, right from the start.

• Extra credit: Bring some mints with you. They’ll sweeten your breath, and people will appreciate you if you share them.

• Take courage. Know that everyone is ill-at-ease. It’s frankly unnatural to mingle and try to make a good impression with a total stranger. The good news is that everyone is in the exact same rocky boat. Think about putting THEM at ease.

• Be curious. Take a real interest in the people you meet. Try to find something in common with each person.

• Be prepared. People will ask more than “What do you do?” Have a brief answer for that, of course — but also realize that they are going to ask you who your ideal prospect is. Answer that, and you have an instant referrer for your business — and you may multiply that by a dozen more tonight.

• Bring your business cards. Ask people for their cards and only then offer yours in return. Helpful hint: Take a break, and write down on the back of the card, the most striking thing about whom you’ve just met.

• Set a goal for the networking event. Have five conversations and take home two business cards.  That’s doable. Setting a goal makes going to a networking event fun, if you can imagine that.

• Know when you are done. I’m an introvert, and socializing depletes me. But when I’m on, I’m there 100 percent. It’s just that that exuberance drops like a rock before the clock strikes 9 p.m. If you also get overwhelmed, I give you permission to leave and let that be just fine.

• Follow up. Jeffrey Gitomer also says: “ten hours a month of intelligent, selective networking can have a doubling effect on your business in just a few months.”  So remind people that you’ve met, that you’ve met.

Laurie Macomber, owner of Fort Collins-based Blue Skies Marketing, can be reached at 970-689-3000.