Most networking events promise countless benefits, yet rarely do they match our expectations. The emphasis should be on building trusting relationships, before trying to make your next sale. Friends hire friends...why do you think the rich stay rich?
Let me take this a step further and say network events are the future of hiring. I'm not talking about job fairs, but a place where job applicants can mingle with employers. Think about it. The traditional way of hiring is done through submitting an application, attaching a resume then waiting to be contacted for an interview. Anyone can lie on a resume, but a face to face interaction is what separates the men from the boys.
Imagine, as a job seeker, you were entering a room full of potential employers. You've memorized your elevator speech, but there's no way you can anticipate what questions they might ask. Isn't that just like the real world? Life is not scripted and neither should interviews. You can learn a lot about someone by having a conversation with them. Their skill set may not be obvious, but confidence, body language, tone, etc. comes off within 5 minutes or less.
I'm not undermining competence, but instead of meeting the exact educational and experience requirements, wouldn't you rather hire someone you actually can work with? Talent is talent, no matter what industry. Skills can be taught, but intangibles such as "soft skills," charisma and confidence usually come with the package. A formal interview is one of the worst ways to predict someone's future performance. As an employer you want to see a worker in his/her natural environment socializing with others. Where better, than to go "undercover" and meet your next hire at a network event?