Mom and Dad may have told you otherwise. And in staying safe as a child, they were 100 percent correct. But when it comes to networking, you absolutely want to talk to strangers.

Business owners and B2B professionals attend networking meetings or functions with the intent of networking to find people with whom they can share leads, referrals and perhaps even do business. Yet how many times do you find yourself at a networking meeting talking most of the time to somebody you already know fairly well?

That’s not to downplay reconnecting with business owners you have a relationship with. Those kind of events can help that relationship evolve. Yet the primary goal of attending a networking event or meeting is also expanding your network. You can’t do that by only talking to people you already know.

So, when you’re attending a networking meeting or function, make a point to introduce yourself to visitors or people you have not met. If you are in the middle of a conversation with somebody who is part of your network, encourage them to walk over and introduce yourself to people neither of you know. A lot of times it will be easier to break the ice if two people approach a newcomer to a meeting or function rather than just one person.

As you approach new people at a networking , do so with a time limit in mind. Ask them about their business and who their customers are. Find out about where they’re from. Ask if they know people that you know from that same town.  If there’s somebody there you think they should meet, find that person and invite them over to continue the conversation.

This is not to say that people who are new to a networking group should not be making that first step to mingle and get around. They absolutely should. But even if somebody’s networking skills aren’t up to where they could or should be, it doesn’t mean they might not be a great source of leads/referrals or business. So, make that little effort to break away from the people you know to meet business owners you don’t.  You literally have nothing to lose and everything to gain.