Ever felt just a little bit icky about networking? You’re not alone. (Shout out to all the introverts!) Going to networking events can be one of those activities you know you should be doing but either don’t know how or don’t know where to start. Below we’ve outlined some of our best practices to make sure your efforts are both productive and genuine.

Networking at the Mothership in Durham, North Carolina

The Mothership Launch Party in Durham, NC (Justin Cook for The New York Times)

Ask questions – Ever had an acquaintance whose only interested in talking about themselves? It’s not fun. Instead of wasting golden opportunities by droning on about “that one time,” ask thoughtful questions — and actually listen to the answers.

Don’t sell yourself. Sorry, but nobody likes you when you get “salesy.” Networking events may sometimes result in leads, but should never be used as a way to directly sell or promote your products. People want to be treated as people – not as a means to an end. Personal connections may lead to more opportunities in your professional life but, if networking is done right, those opportunities will be byproducts of relationships – not the goal.

Be an active and intentional listener. Ask questions, and then really listen to the answers. Ask a person’s name, and then actually listen to it and make a mental note to remember it. Most people at these events are talkers, so be prepared and find ways to be yourself. Thoughtful listening is far more impactful if and when it’s coming from genuine curiosity. So get curious.

Bring your business cards. This is obvious, right? Even so, folks still seem to need the reminder. Give the people what they want: an action point, a way to follow up with you. Whether it’s your Instagram account, your phone number, or your website – people need an obvious next step to engage with your work and remember you.

Don’t play kiss ass. We’ve all done this to some extent, and I think that most of us can agree that it doesn’t work out very well for either party involved. It makes us feel fake and communicates to the other people we’re sucking up to that we are willing to compromise being genuine. Networking is ultimately about establishing and developing a lasting functional community of relationships. In the end, it will benefit you to remember that all sincere relationships are based in honesty.