Let's talk about getting ACTUAL returns from networking. Don't lie, I know all of us networkers use certain events/contacts as an excuse to leave the office early and get some company-paid-for cocktails. No shame in that game, but eventually you have to sell something before your manager starts questioning where you keep going on Thursday at 4pm.
I've found that the best way to get the most out of networking is not while you're actually there in person, but rather after the events over. It sounds simple, but most people rarely put in the additional work to follow up and build connections. The goal is to be top of mind when one of these contacts finds themselves in front of someone that's looking for your product.
You just need to be patient, while also proactive in making connections for people without expecting anything in return. A lot of sales people expect to go to an event and come out of it with a pocket full of leads, when the reality is we may not see a return for years. The goal at the event is to LEARN what others are looking for and pin-point the people in the room that you know can provide value to you. Stay close to them and avoid those that are clearly just in it for themselves/bring nothing to the table (can usually pick those out right away).
Listen to what these people are looking to accomplish and actively try to be a solution for them outside of the products that you offer. If you can make one useful connection for them, then you can be damn sure they'll refer you to anyone they come across looking for your product. Also, don't be scared to ask directly for referrals. LinkedIn may be full of weinies, but it's a phenomenal tool for finding new prospects in your contact's network. There is absolutely nothing better than a warm intro... well...besides a free cocktail.
Side note: I've implemented networking into my sales process as well. Of course the goal is to close prospects on your products, but why not try to make a connection for them along the way?
Offer to open up your network in case there's anyone that may be interested in their services. My main goal is to differentiate myself from my competition and there's no better way to do that than to actively help my clients drive their business in addition to getting the service they're paying for.