In a recent blog post, Job-Hunt.org bought up an interesting networking tip: Listening. The thought is that, by using active listening skills you will be able to find out more about who the person is and convey to them that you are interested in what they are saying. Is this really a more effective approach than being an aggressive conversationalist? I think so.
Everyone likes to feel like they are being listened to; it's a fact of life that is hard to escape. If the person in question doesn't feel like you are giving them the time of day, they likely won't respect you. You might not be yelled at like you were in school, but the result remains the same: You will come off as uninterested and unprofessional. If you are hoping to make a good contact, this is the last thing you want.
It is suggested in the Job-Hunt.org post that you use active listening body language to show you are paying attention. This includes doing things like leaning forward, smiling, and nodding. These are all great tips, but I would also suggest bringing along a pen and paper to take notes. There is no better way to show that you are engaged than by writing down things you think are important. You will presumably be talking to a lot of people, so taking notes will also help you remember key things the person said.
There is nothing wrong with being more aggressive when you network. With some people's personalities, it might come more naturally than listening. Some individuals are just more inquisitive than others. You will find that you can gain just as much information by letting the other person talk. As it turns out, it's not always a bad thing to be passive.