networking karma

Recently I attended a big charity event I’ve gone to for a long time. I look forward to it every year both because of the importance of supporting such a great cause and because it is a fun and inspirational evening. As someone who helps people improve their networking for a living I am all for taking advantage of any networking opportunities that come your way. I take business cards to the casino, the hair salon, the supermarket and everything in between. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people that blindly throw cards in people’s faces but if I have a great conversation with someone and there’s a reason to follow up I will give out my card. For example: I’ve told them about an organization or an event and they have expressed interest in more information. Under those circumstances I would give out my card and encourage them to email me and I will forward the info to them.

So anyway, I’m at this big charity event and someone approaches my husband and I to say hello. We had apparently met this person/been in the same room as them at a seminar about a month ago. It started off as small talk and this person was friendly enough. Though the conversation was going on way too long and all of my usual methods of trying to gracefully exit the conversation were not working. We were attending with my sister and brother in law who have a 10 month old and don’t get many nights out these days so I definitely would have rather spent more time talking to them as well as exploring other networking opportunities in the room during the 90 minute cocktail hour.

This person then launched into a discussion about their direct sales business. First we were asked about our interest and as I’ve learned over the years it is not a good idea to be wishy-washy. So I advised politely that I was not interested and explained why. That did not deter them though. They launched into a success story about a customer and then the benefits, costs etc. It seemed like we were standing there for an hour but it was probably more like 15-20 minutes total. As this pitch went on I became more and more irritated. Let me preface this by saying I have a lot of friends who do direct sales well and are true relationship builders. Not the case here. I was irritated because while I embrace every networking opportunity there was a time and place for this and the charity gala was not it.

This person could have engaged in short small talk, advised of the business and provided us with a card (or not). They could have advised we could follow up with them or they would love the opportunity to sit down at a later time to talk to us about the business. But they didn’t. Another friend of ours actually came by in the midst of this as well as my sister who tried to “save” us but this person was undeterred.

I learned afterwards to make matters worse, this person was actually a volunteer at the event and had a task and a role they were supposed to be doing while they were trying to convince us to buy into their business. That was also extremely poor judgment in my mind.

To be successful in relationship building you need to assess the appropriateness of a pitch and also monopolizing people’s time whether it is at a business or social event. As you can see, it can be a real turn off not to do so. It is bad networking karma!

Has this ever happened to you? Please share your experience below. I’d also love to hear about suggestions for extricating yourself from such situations. I have great tips I provide in my networking talks and seminars for exiting conversations but none of them worked here!!!!!