One of the most awkward things about attending a networking event is the complete lack of things to do other than network. If you're not actively talking with someone, your only options are to graze the buffet (if you're lucky enough to see one), make a dozen trips to the bathroom or aimlessly wander the convention space looking for the "right" person to talk with.
But what if you volunteer to work the event? Think about it. You always have something to do — setting up tables and chairs, working the registration table, assisting speakers and presenters, and helping the event organizers — and the networking opportunities come much more naturally [source:Zack].
At the registration desk, you get to have a hundred mini-conversations with attendees. Write down the names of the folks that might merit a longer conversation or follow-up e-mail. You also have a perfect excuse to chat with the event organizers as a volunteer. Ask them about their organization and what they do professionally. It might not turn into an immediate business or job opportunity, but you've made a contact that could come in handy down the road.