I’m going to a national conference in about five weeks, and it’s a bit of a big deal in blogging circles. I know that little detail means less than batshit to the rest of you dear civilians, but bear with me: I promise there are meaningful life-hacks here for everyone.
Being the navel-gazey sort of folk we bloggers are, there have already been lots of articles about the upcoming event and the social minutiae of conferences; how to network, how to prepare for them, how to avoid shitting your pants if you’re an introvert etc (I’m one of them – for the record – so that’s not a sly dig at anyone except myself).
I mean, that stuff is really nice and all, but it doesn’t really address one very important issue: wankers, and how to avoid them. There are wankers at every conference, and the trick is not to be one yourself.
Here’s how NOT to be a wanker at conferences and networking events.
DON’T scan the room for someone more influential
There is nothing I loathe more than talking to someone who is madly peering over my shoulder with kelpie eyes, scanning the room for someone more interesting or influential. All of a sudden you will be left hanging as they launch themselves at the A-list attendee on the other side of the room, throwing themselves through the crowd like a sheep dog racing across the top of the herd for a better vantage point.
DON’T talk about yourself all the time
The thing about conversations is that they are a two-way thing. The biggest wankers at conferences are the sort of people who can talk about themselves for 20 minutes straight without taking a breath. There is nothing worse than being cornered by someone who fails to respect the cardinal rule of conversations: they generally involve at least two people, who more or less get equal time to speak.
DON’T be a star-fucker
Star-fuckers spend their time
stalking tagging the event organisers on social media, kissing celebrity speaker-ass or chasing A-list attendees down the hall for the chance to briefly fawn over them, all the while avoiding the lesser mortals of little value who aren’t worth their time. But they forget one important thing: this year’s nobody might be next year’s somebody. It’s the star-fucker’s catch-22.
DON’T be an ass-kisser
Nobody likes an ass-kisser. There always a few fawning sycophants at every professional networking event, and ass-kissing often goes hand in hand with star-fucking and ladder-climbing. The best ass-kissers are discriminating, and deliberately target managers, recruiters, industry leaders, influencers, CEOs and anyone marginally higher then they are on the career food chain.
DON’T exclude people from conversations
If someone sidles up to your group with a somewhat forlorn look on their face, talk to them. Say hello, make the relevant introductions and don’t leave them hanging with the air of someone who has just stepped in a massive pile of dog turds. Cliquishness and deliberately excluding people is a wank of a thing to do, unless said person is a total wanker with a known track record for monopolising conversations or generally dickish behaviour.
DON’T spruik to me
You’re not selling Amway. Or Thermomix. Or Isagenix. This is not a multi-level marketing event or an opportunity to pyramid-sell me your personal brand of awesome: it’s a meeting of professional minds. As much as I look forward to swapping awkward elevator pitches, please don’t turn our conversation into a one-way sales pitch. I’m not a lead to be converted, so you can cool it with the hard-sell. It degrades us both.
DON’T make love to your phone while we are talking
The whole point of conferences is to get out from behind screens and meet real life actual people. Don’t interrupt our conversation to tweet event updates or hashtag chummy selfies of you and the celebrity speaker on Instagram. The Twitterverse can survive ten minutes without your unique brand of wit, and your Facebook feed will still be as banal as ever once our conversation has ceased. Stop it. It’s fucking rude.
DON’T get drunk and tell me you love me. Or hate me.
If you find yourself getting tipsy on pre-dinner cocktails, don’t give in to the giddy air of gin-soaked bravado that compels you to storm over and tell me what a jerk I am. I know I’m a jerk. It will only make you look like a jerk too. Conversely, don’t get totally shit-faced and tell me how much you love me, because that is even more humiliating. Actually, fuck that. Tell me you love me. Then tell me some more.
So there we have it. The Idiot’s Guide to Not Being a Wanker at Networking Events.