I used to do about one networking event a week, sometimes more. Networking events work, but you have to learn how to prevent burnout and you absolutely must meet as many people as you can.
Most networking events are really two parts. The first part is socializing. It usually lasts a half hour to an hour. The second part is typically when everyone sits down and listens to a speaker chosen for that specific event.
The real trick is to go to events when everyone is standing up and talking, and then skip out as soon as some bloke stands up to give his speech.
#1: Go early, talk to as many people as you can, give them all your business card. I’ve had people pull my card out of their index years after a networking event. It pays off years later.
#2: Keep moving, it’s ok to say that you’re going to meet some other people.
#3: Talk about anything but quickly move on to finding out whether they are a prospect or not. If they aren’t, keep moving. I usually begin by asking what business they’re in.
#4: Leave early. Don’t stay around for the whole thing. Maximize face time.
#5: There are some events that have free networking events before the ball gets rolling (and someone starts a lengthy speech). Sometimes you can sneak into these and meet and greet people for about an hour without even having to pay. I admit I’ve done it.
#6 (Bonus!): Whatever you do, be enthusiastic about your business and what you do. Nothing else matters at networking events.