Things that suck about networking events

As co-founder and CEO of my own company, I go to a lot of industry networking events. Networking events are an opportunity to put your best self and company metrics forward. At their most helpful, you meet and develop relationships with prospective vendors, sales channel partners, investors, or potential hires. At their worst, networking events are not helpful or positive experiences at all. What gives?

If you’ve ever gone to an event like this or you’re a frequenter at gatherings of this type, and you’re as fed-up with them as I am, a lot of what I’m about to say will resonate with you.

Networking events would be so much more tolerable and fruitful if people treated each other like human beings instead of sizing them up solely as business opportunities. Now look, I understand the premise and purpose of these card-swapping assemblies. And I get that time is short. Prioritization is key. But, we’re all short on time here, whether in business or in life. So let’s treat each other with some real respect.

Without further ado, here are some of the my least-favorite run-ins while networking:

  1. The person who’s like, “I totally forgot my cards at the office, but I’ll take yours and I’ll be in touch.” Fifteen minutes later, you see him/her handing out the cards s/he forgot.
  2. The founder who all of a sudden really needs a glass of water when s/he finds out you’re not a VC.
  3. The person who you have a good conversation with. S/he really loves what you’re doing, and would like to get coffee to discuss more. But then you email and follow-up a couple times in a sane fashion, and never get a response. Of any kind.
  4. The person who dismissed you when you first introduced yourself to the group, and then hears from someone else that you have investors, and all of a sudden approaches you wanting to know where you grew up and what your career trajectory was.
  5. The rising star who seeks out the known VIPs in the group, never deigns to speak to anyone else, and leaves. Are you Drake? Even he remembers that he started from the bottom (I recognize that I don’t know how he behaves at networking events. My point still stands).
  6. The VIP who only speaks to other VIPs in the group and never deigns to speak to anyone else. Are you trying to be helpful and/or mentor, or not? If you’re not interested in sharing the love (for real), did you show up because Kobe and Jeff cancelled?
  7. The person who puts you down to make themselves feel better.
  8. Lastly, the person who assumes you don’t know anything about anything and acts like it — in a bad way. (Occasionally this goes hand in hand with assumptions the person makes about you based on your appearance).

If we’re honest with ourselves, we have all been some version of these people. I am no exception. I am, however, tired of all of us putting time into events that are painful to attend. I am over the sheen of politeness that barely masks the waves of unwitting rudeness and snobbery that I’ve witnessed and sometimes participated in. We’re better than this (I hope).

We plan and attend networking events because we want to learn from each other. We want to meet others who understand and empathize with the highs and lows of our own professions. We want to make ourselves better at “x.” We want to be inspired by something or someone. We want to be helpful where we can.

So let’s be those people, and leave the jerk versions of ourselves at home.