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Want to Get Better at Networking? Think Smaller. To expand their professional networks, entrepreneurs are seeking smaller and smaller crowds.

This story appears in the June 2017 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Andrea Ucini

In 2008, Sol Orwell, the co-founder of the nutrition company, was at a loss. He was attending a big digital marketing conference in Seattle, hoping to expand his network, but the event was so packed that he didn't know where to start. His friend had no such hesitation. He told Orwell he was going to "meet some friends." Twenty minutes later, he returned holding a stack of 40 business cards. "At the time, I was blown away," recalls Orwell, who thought his friend was a networking genius. "But now I think, Did he do anything more than have short conversations?"

Related: How to Quickly Grow Your Network With No Business Experience

Today Orwell has a much different idea of successful networking. He still attends at least one large conference a year, but that's not how he builds his relationships. Instead, he hosts monthly dinners of six to 12 entrepreneurs, where conversations might jump from business to culinary trends to travel hot spots. And every Friday, he parks himself at a coffee shop in his hometown of Toronto and invites local entrepreneurs to join him for leisurely conversations.

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