With thousands of business leaders, cultural icons, and government officials at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week, it's important to examine the question of the return on networking eventsSuch events are great for the organizer, who will likely pocket a small fortune for the ostensible service of connecting professionals, but what do you really walk away with?

Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, writes in Harvard Business Review about an interview he had with venture capitalist and entrepreneur Rich Stromback, whose nickname is "Mr. Davos" for his ability to broker meetings between influential contacts at the World Economic Forum. "99 percent of networking events are a waste of time," Stromback said.

He makes a fair point. So before you pay through the nose for an all-access pass, take some of his unorthodox advice for networking at Davos and other events.

Forget first impressions

The pressure to make a great first impression is overblown, Stromback tells HBR . "Everyone gets this wrong. They try to look right and sound right and end up being completely forgettable. I'm having a ball just being myself. I don't wear suits or anything like that. I do not care about first impressions. I'd almost rather make a bad first impression and let people discover me over time than go for an immediate positive response," he says. "Curiously, research I read years ago suggests that you build a stronger bond over time with someone who doesn't like you immediately compared to someone who does. Everything about Jack Nicholson is wrong, but all of the wrong together makes something very cool."

Identify those opportune moments

Important conversations and opportunities don't happen at the office, official meetings, or during conferences. Real opportunities present themselves during other, less formal times with movers and shakers. "The opportune moments happen while dancing at one of the nightcaps or at a chateau where only a select group of people is invited. The conversations there can go on until the early morning hours," Stromback says. 

Stop it with the networking events

The key to good networking is actually to stop networking, Stromback says. You won't meet the most important people, or grab the most important opportunities, while at a networking event during a conference. "Nobody wants to have a 'networking conversation,' especially those who are at the highest levels of business and politics. They are hungry for real conversations and real relationships. It just has to be authentic, genuine, and sincere. I don't look at people's badges to decide if they are worth my time. Davos is 3,000 influential people and I need to be selective, yet authentic--focused, yet open to possibilities. In the end, I put myself in the most target-rich area and then just go with the flow and spend time with who I enjoy," he says.