Have you ever considered that when you are networking you are also often giving away information? Information which maybe proprietary in nature to your company? If you have not considered this you should, as this is the largest Tiger Trap of networking and one you need to be careful of.
What you say can and will be used against you in the market place. Remember competition can be indeed very tough at times and lose lips sink ships. Does this mean you need an alternative strategy? No, just to be careful what you say. In fact although you may recall that thing your Grandparents use to say; You have two ears and one mouth, so use them in that ratio?
I can tell you over the years the things I had heard in casual conversations about my competitors had indeed made me quite a bit of money. You see, too often someone would tell me something about a competitor or someone they knew in my line of work at a networking party.
In fact I would listen and ask a few questions and it was amazing the amount of information I could get with such small amount of effort. Then of course the flip side occurs to you. That these folks are telling your competition all about you too. Consider all this in 2006.