I've read an awful lot about business networking and referral marketing and one of the consistent pieces of advice seems to be to know your outcome. It seems that you should have a defined strategy for what you want to get out of each networking meeting and what sort of business you are looking for there.
Hold on though, what about the other people in the room. What if their outcome is different to yours? What if you don't know who will be in the room before you attend? It's a piece of advice that has always confused me. It actually seems a bit arrogant to walk into a room full of people with their own agendas and impose yours on them.
I have a different view on this, not saying it's right, it's just the one that works for me.
Whenever I attend a business networking meeting, I prepare my introduction (sort of) and let everything else flow. In my conversations with people I try to find out as much as possible about them and their business. That way, I get an opportunity to work out if there is any way we can work together, if their services are of interest to me or if I know someone else who might be interested in their services. From there I've got a platform to think about how I might help them, either now or in the future.
It's all about building relationships and sometimes takes time, going in with an action plan will probably lead to disappointment and potentially alienating people in the room that you might actually do business with.