I’m not a big fan of networking. But when I go to a networking event, or any event for that matter, I bring a crowbar.

The crowbar is for leverage.

Two weeks ago I attended a very high level mastermind at Inc Magazine HQ in NYC with 20 folks like Michael Hyatt, Marie Forleo, Ramit Sethi, Stu McLaren, Armand Morin, Ray Edwards etc.

While it was a great opportunity to get to know everyone in the room, I was simultaneously using my crowbar to leverage additional opportunities that were sitting right in front of me.

I left with the contacts I needed to become a Fast Company Expert Blogger. HINT: They weren’t even part of our meeting. It’s like magic how that happens! LinkedIn can be useful!

You can’t afford to be passive when attending these things. Handing out business cards can be a huge waste of your time, yet we do it as a formality. We believe that if we leave with a pocket full of cards then we’ve accomplished something.

Networking is about building relationships. It’s about listening and providing value to others.

Spend time learning about who will be in the room. Consider the relationships that will be most beneficial to you. And don’t be afraid to talk to strangers.

I’m not suggesting you show up to every single event with a rigid agenda, but spend some time beforehand thinking about your strategy. I’m suggesting you’re constantly scanning for leverage.

When political leaders of various countries come together, you can be sure they’ve spent a long time thinking about leverage. Believe it or not, they aren’t just showing up to shake hands.

And of course, don’t forget your crowbar.

P.S. I’m launching a new membership community. For the next 48 hours I’m giving six months of free access. You can join here.