If there are people out there who say they love to walk into a room filled with strangers who they need to meet and impress in minutes, I'm politely calling them out. However, I agree that for some, it can be uber-daunting. If you feel especially ill at ease, you don't need to force yourself to channel Robin Williams. Just take some deep breaths and remember the following:
Prep. Make a mental note of conversation starters. Something as simple as "Hello, I'm Heidi. What brought you to this event?" is great. Don't forget that the starter doesn't always have to be business-related, or even a question. Starting with "Hello, I'm Heidi. I saw your dress from across the room and just had to ask you where you got it because it's fantastic on you," not only breaks the ice but also make someone feel good.
Find out who will be there. Find out ahead of time who might be at the event that you want to meet and then prep questions specifically for them. Questions or comments that are specific to the person really emphasizes your interest in them. For example, "I was hoping to meet you. I'm so interested in how you first came up with the idea for self-parking cars." Flattery in the form of interest and admiration for what someone does goes a long way.
Meet people out of your comfort zone. Once you arrive, don't be afraid to strike up conversations with solo attendees or small groups. If you're with friends or with other people you just met, introduce yourselves to someone who looks shy (or even bored). Give everyone a chance and a positive attitude, this makes for good vibes all around.
Listen. Remember - people love to talk about themselves and, consequently, love a good listener.
Set Realistic Goals. That being said, you may feel tempted to stick with one friendly person all evening or feel stressed that you have to "meet everyone!"
So, set a goal, such as three people. Once you've achieved that goal, relax and call it a successful night. You may even find that when you're more relaxed, you end up making even more friends and acquaintances. Now, pat yourself on the back for your success, head home and snuggle up to a Netflix binge of "Game of Thrones." Now there's a stressful networking world.