Online networking is great but talking to people face to face does have its advantages. Obviously we don't have to choose between the two. They feed into and enrich each other. Presumably in the bad old days people often had really interesting conversations at events and then had no easy way to maintain that connection after they returned to work. Online tools make it much easier to keep the lines of communication open.
The danger is that we will neglect face to face networking. We have all of these clever tools for staying in touch. It's so easy to feel that you are already participating but if you're neglecting real world contact then you are missing out.
Let's be honest here. In almost all cases face to face networking requires a much greater commitment than its younger sister does. It takes more effort to take part in real life meetings and events. The extra investment is worth it though. It is worth taking the time to build up real world friendships and connections within the profession.
What is the best way to go about doing that? Professional organisations are a great place to start. I am a member of CILIP (the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals). I've particularly benefited from being a member of CoFHE (colleges of further and higher education), the subgroup that serves my particular sector. That's actually about to be replaced by a new subgroup but the principle is still sound. If you're interested in the finding out how CILIP has given me opportunities to take part in some interesting face to face networking than please browse this blog. The best examples are probably my report on the CoFHE conference in Wrexham and my post about their local branch's information literacy training day.
Obviously these are also examples of a professional organisation supporting continuing professional development. That is another very important part of their role. The chartership process is another key example of that.