I don’t know about you, but my calendar has been packed of late with conferences and networking events to attend.

It never ceases to amaze me how in this digital age we still have this natural urge to huddle in person. There’s a magic to rubbing elbows. No matter how dull the speaker or bland the content, I always seem to learn something when I get out of the office.

The key is to be an active participant, and by that I mean it is important to fight our inner wallflower. Make yourself go up to people. Exchange business cards. Ask questions.

I had to smile the other day when Tom Gardner, one of the founders of Motley Fool, opened an investment conference by urging attendees to take notes and not be passive listeners. You’ll learn more, he said.

Note to self: Take notes.

Actually, one of the pleasures of being an editor is that I no longer have to be so worried about jotting down every little thing people are saying. I can really listen, and process what I’m hearing — or not hearing.

I find I’m more likely to record my thoughts afterwards, cataloguing all the big takeaways. That process inevitably leads me to seek out attendees and repeat what I thought I heard to get their take. It isn’t long before a story idea takes form, and presto: Networking equals productivity.

Some people don’t understand this. They think glad-handing is a waste of time. Perhaps that’s true, for those who attend networking events to talk about the golf game. But if you work the room, and really engage, such confabs can prove insightful.

I got that sense at a Billington Cybersecurity summit I stopped by last week (Capital Business was a sponsor). The room was filled with a high-powered crowd, representing some of the biggest cybervendors in the region. I had to believe much of what they heard they already knew.

But they scribbled in their day planners and typed away madly on their iPads all the same, listening for some inspiration and waiting for a break to make a little magic.