Walking into a room full of strangers, making small talk and being sold at is probably the reasoning behind the opinion so why do so many people, me included, do it and keep coming back for more?
It's simple really, the more people you know the more chance you have of creating business. In fact, unless you have an ecommerce website, you're very unlikely to do business with someone you've never met. However, successful networking is all about relationship building and, as in all walks of life, this takes time. Once you've been a few times, the strangers you met on day one will be familiar faces and the forced conversations you started out with will have become more relaxed.
At most events you'll be expected to do a short elevator pitch and this needs to be taken seriously. Give some thought to what you want to say and try to make it memorable. A planned pause followed by meaningful words can have real impact. Listen to what other people say to because knowing what they do or need is a great way to open future conversations.
It's worth remembering that networking is not just about the people in the room, it's about the people they know. I've seen lots of poor networkers sweep through events and casually dismiss half of the attendees because they aren't client material. While that is inevitably true, by developing relationships you might just be able to get an introduction to your perfect client.
Then, after the meeting, it's all about the follow up. Write to all the people you've met and try to connect with them on social media. Suggest having 1-1 meetings with those where you felt there was potential synergy but don't be too disappointed when not everyone replies. After all, we can't all be great networkers... can we?