Networking events provide a great opportunity to meet prospective clients and other important business contacts. Brushing up your conversation skills can help you get the most out of your next business function.

> Joining a conversation
What’s the best way to strike up a conversation with someone you haven’t been introduced to?

You spot two people you’d like to meet but they’re deep in conversation. Should you join in? Before approaching them, says Joshua Zuchter, a life and business coach based in Toronto, observe their body language.

If they are facing each other directly and holding a “closed” stance, leaving no space for anyone else to join them, chances are they don’t want to be interrupted, Zuchter says. It’s best to leave them alone for now.

But if the two people are somewhat at each other’s side facing outward, that’s a good indication that they are “open” to newcomers and it’s OK to risk joining them. Bring yourself into the conversation gently; don’t be pushy or interruptive, as that may turn them off. Wait for a gap in the conversation and introduce yourself.

Similarly, if you are having a one-on-one conversation, try to stand at an angle, to indicate there’s space for others people to join in.

> Joining a group
If you see someone you’d like to meet talking with a group of people, watch how the group is standing before you approach. If they form a circle that’s not completely closed, that’s a good indication that newcomers are welcome. But if the circle is closed and the people seem to know each other, or are friends, don’t try to push yourself in.

> Card tricks
Avoid being the “dealer” at the event, the person who walks around with a pack of business cards, handing them out to everyone in sight. Handing out business cards indiscriminately, Zuchter says, will result in most of them ending up in the garbage.

Keep your cards in a professional-looking case in your pocket. Take them out only when someone asks for your card.

If someone is interested in your business, they will probably ask for a card. Or, if they seem to be interested and you believe that the person could be a potential client, it’s OK for you to ask: “Would a card be helpful?” Or, “Shall we stay in touch?” At that point, you give them a card — or they’ll ask if you have one.

If a conversation is going well, feel free to ask the other person for his or her business card. When you get back to the office, send that person an email, saying: “It was a pleasure to meet you.” Recount in the email something you talked about. Make a note at the back of the card to remind yourself where and when you met the person and what you talked about.