There are few worse feelings than going to an event to network and then standing on the side. It conjures up every high school dance ever attended, every bad party, every school sports team where I was picked last. (softball was my game; dodge ball was not)
If you've got your introduction down and are prepared for the event but still can't simply wade into the crowd, then here are a few ways to avoid the wallflower syndrome:
1 - Volunteer
Hand out drink tickets; pass out name tags; greet people... if you have a reason to be in the room, it is easier to talk to people.
2 - Play hostess
So what if it isn't your event! Bring a plate of nibblies to the ladies working the reception desk; ask the organizer if you can do something to help; offer to usher speakers to the podium
3 - Adopt other wallflowers
Find folks standing alone and go stand with them. Ask if they know anyone. Suggest you both walk up to other groups or start your own and collect more wallflowers. People are often grateful for the support.
Any other ideas?