How should we behave at networking events?

“Building fruitful and lasting relationships starts with abandoning the conventional ‘me’ -based thoughts that are so prevalent in the business world and so easy to slip into in our personal lives.”

Michelle Tillis Lederman

I went to a networking event recently. I’d been to the event a few times before and I know the organisers well. They’re great people and the events are always very friendly and sociable affairs.

Here’s what I experienced:

  • The first person I spoke to was a business development professional in a design agency. We got on well, swapped business cards and agreed to meet for a 1:1 to chat about our businesses. So far so good!
  • The second person I spoke to works for another networking contact. I mentioned that I knew his boss and he went in to a 5-minute moan about his previous employer, how he’d been done over and what a horrible experience it was for him. I made my excuses and moved away, he still doesn’t know what I do.
  • I then joined another mini-group comprising a lady that I know from networking and had actually met for a 1:1, and a guy that I didn’t know. The lady’s eyes were glossing over a bit as the guy was explaining what he did. He stated that he was the best at what he did in the UK, and that his firm had won several awards. He went on to explain his business further in (un)glorious detail over a 5 to 10 minute period.

He then asked me what I did. I gave them my 12 second elevator pitch at the end of which he started telling us about his business again in another 5-minute lecture, by which time the lady’s eyes were really glossing over, as were mine!

We were saved by the announcement that the speaker’s presentation was about to start. Phew!

But our friend wasn’t done there. He interrupted the speaker with a long, rambling, incoherent question. You could see from the body language of the group that they were now all turned off by him. Finally, in the speaker’s wrap-up he asked another question that wasn’t a question but rather a blatant product push for his own business.

So, what can we learn from this about how we should behave at networking events? We’d say plenty:

  • It’s not about you, it’s about them! People don’t care about you or your products so don’t bore them with what you do.
  • Sales is all about building relationships. If you want to make a good first impression (and why wouldn’t you at a networking event?) you should take the time to find out about the other person, not bore them with what you do.
  • If you want to create a good first impression don’t be negative. People don’t want to hear negative comments and they certainly don’t go to networking events to hear somebody else’s issues.
  • If you’re going to ask the speaker a question keep it brief and relevant.
  • Don’t try to sell anything at a networking event, you’re attending the event to build relationships, not sell.

These behaviours I experienced are not isolated, I see them at networking events regularly. If you’re not sure how to approach an event, put yourself in the other person’s shoes and remember the types of behaviours that turn you off. And don’t do them yourself!


“The term ‘networking’ is simply another way to think about how to start a relationship. Our relationships are our network.”

Michelle Tillis Lederman (again)



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Brendan Walsh