I repeatedly hear from people that they can't stand business networking, that it feels like they are using people, that it's a circus of selling and it's just plain uncomfortable. I wrote The Secrets of SAVVY Networking and my ebook: Networking-Beyond The Buzzword so there would be a guideline or, as the late, great Coach Bill Walsh described my book, a "gameplan". As for being uncomfortable, being prepared and adopting the attitude of "this is an opportunity", helps quell the discomfort. But I agree with "circus of selling" statement because it's been so obvious in too many cases.
That being said, we must still show up at events, conferences, meetings, fundraisers with the intention to meet, mingle and build business (and personal) relationships. Face to Face events offer possibilities that would not otherwise happen.
IF the term networking makes you queasy and you think it's sleazy, here's a solution: give it another name. Call it "going to a gathering" or "hanging out". Say "yes" to invitations but don't think of them as the "networking night" with so many goals that you can't get conversations started. Do what people did in the "OLD" days: go to a reception to catch up with long time colleagues and welcome new attendees over a beverage. Make your goal having a good time. And you will! When you are conversing, sharing and laughing with others, you are establishing a connection and foundation that will build your network. You never know who you'll meet so be sure to bring your cards!