I'm on my way to an VIP advisory board meeting in another city. The annual meeting stretches out over two days--Wednesday evening and all day Thursday--which means that many people won't get in until Thursday.
Networking newbies probably think, "I need to be there on Thursday, when there are more people." But I know that the key is to be there on Wednesday, when there are fewer people.
As I've written, networking isn't about who you know; it's about who trusts you. I'd rather develop one solid relationship than collect 100 business cards. Being there on the least crowded day helps me do that. Smaller groups are more comfortable, and encourage a deeper interaction. The opening night of a conference is usually the best time to have a leisurely, relaxed, relationship-building conversation.
(This was written on the plane--as it turns out, the opening night was a great time to develop relationships, both before the dinner, during it, and with casual drinks with the folks staying at the same hotel)