Is that they work best for the people who are already very well-networked.
Going to a networking event when you know no one is not a great experience. In fact, it can be a terrible experience! Even for the most confident, and extraverted people.
The problem is that when the events are most comfortable and easy for the people who already know everyone, network growth stagnates.
Well-connected people attend readily, but generally stay within their existing networks.
So when new people show up, it’s hard for them to get connected and break into the existing circles. And thus new people are are deterred from coming, or coming back.
And all of this behavior is perfectly rational. If you’re a well-connected person at an event, you will talk to the other people who you KNOW will be high-value connections. Whereas the random, new person who just walked in the door might not have much to offer you.
As ruthless as that mindset is, that is how people think at these types of events.
Luckily, the solution is quite simple. Certain people need to have the role of welcoming and introducing new people to the group. They can get to know them, and suggest relevant other people to talk to, and make those introductions.
So as a new person to the event, you are seen and heard. Then someone can help break through that initial awkwardness and help you find meaningful conversations to join.
I’m shocked people are still hosting networking happy hours with no regard for the guest experience. Just a touch of design can make an event so much more pleasant for everyone involved.