The Idiot’s Guide to Not Being a Wanker at Networking Events

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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113 thoughts on “The Idiot’s Guide to Not Being a Wanker at Networking Events

  1. Oh well, best I work on some other techniques then… damn… I had the sheep dog bounding down to a fine art too! Probs just as well I don’t have a ticket either!

  2. Ahhh have fun, heard its a good event. Maybe next year I’ll try to make it…although I probably should get off my arse and start blogging again…I can’t wait to hear about all the A-listers you chase down…

  3. Oh shite. I am totally the ‘get pissed I Love You’, type. That’s like my catch cry, my signature move, my entire persona. I just do that and I can’t help it. After one/two drinks I begin hugging everyone spontaneously and telling them how much I love them. Shite. I always thought that the true self comes out when one is shite-faced and now I find out it’s sociably unacceptable. No wonder my kids don’t speak to me in social situations anymore. If you see me heading towards you with my tuckshop arms outstretched just duck and ignore me Hugzy.

  4. Well I hope everyone gets a chance to read that before they head on in. Nice of you to subtly word all the other bloggers up on what you expect. You could always print and hand them out at the conference just for those arseholes who didn’t get the memo 😉 hehe

  5. Seriously bummed not to be going this year. Curse my bestie for having her birthday the weekend after. I went to Problogger in 2013 and loved it. I did have a dickhead moment though. I had, had a falling out with a group of bloggers about a month before the conference. I was chatting to another blogger and one of the bloggers I’d had a falling out with stood about 20cm away from me (my personal space bubble is pretty big for people I actually like, definitely don’t want anyone else all up in my grill) with their arms crossed staring at me. Gawd it was so awkward. Even the person I was talking to wondered what the fuck she was doing.

    • Jesus Tegan, not you too!!! I would have loved to have met you in person. Damn that bestie and her inconvenient birthday. How dare she. LOL to your awkward moment. I bet there’ll be a few more of those going on 😉

  6. All good points. I’m not going to PBEvent this year unless I suddenly come into some money. (And I have no wealthy relatives close to death and prostitution is highly unlikely, so…)

  7. So I guess instagramming photos of you while you’re asleep and me telling you I love you is out? Damn. I had high hopes for our room sharing antics.

  8. Luckily I’ve already made a fabulous impression by forcing you to have coffee with me and then being a massive FLAKE by being 30 minutes late 😉 Seriously though dude it will be lovely to see you again – and while you will undoubtedly meet a few of the wanker varieties you noted (extremely accurately I might add) you’ll also meet plenty of lovely people too xx

  9. Ooh, I recognise a few of those characters from last year’s pb event! Great advice here, although the sad truth of wankery is that those worst afflicted never recognise it in themselves! Looking forward to some more awkward networking in a few weeks’ time 😊

  10. I was going to say they should make everyone hand in their phones during each session but can you imagine the uproar?!?! Disconnecting a bunch of bloggers from their lifelines??

    NOOOOOOO!!! Not without my iPhone (a la Sally Field).

    I’m planning on starting the Nutbush on the dancefloor, no time for chit chat 😉

  11. Could we please get Darren to print out a copy of this and hand it to all attendees on arrival? Great points. I was taking notes to fill the first page of my wanker-notebook for the conference. Also, I won’t be telling you I love you because I’m pretty sure I’ve significantly made an ass to you many a time in my loud proclamations of love to you.
    Also, cliques scare the shit out of me.

    • Look, I think if Darren is ever going to get real about this he should have me opening the conference as a speaker. You know how to reach me. And PS. I’m pretty sure we’ll be stoopid-asses together.

  12. I think star-fucker is my new favourite term!! Also I thought you’d be all over drunk people telling you they love you – its both hilarious and strokes the ego, win win! I love the point of don’t ignore the person who sidles up to the group because that’s usually me trying not to look like a loner so I find someone I “know” and try to join the group lol.

    • Yeah, I have to admit that I do love a drunken “LOVE YOUSE ALL!”. And the sidle up thing can be truly awkward, so I always like to make a point of saying hello and including people. Big gatherings can be really intimidating and hard to crack.

  13. I’m usually of the tag-on-to-a-conversation variety of joiner, but I confess I also look around me when I forget how to speak, I swear I’m not looking for someone else to speak to, you’re top of my bloggers-I-must-meet list

  14. Some fine tips here Zilla (I do love the sheep dog analogy!). Something tells me there will be a lot of drunken “I love youse” at PB next month. I’d love to be there and join in the slurring but will have to instead send my local proxy Jo from ‘You had us at hello’ with a list of who to fangirl on my behalf. Have a great time – can’t wait for your post event round-up. Will you be running a “love you” tally?

  15. I can guarantee I won’t do any of those – aside from the last one. I am virtually guaranteed to get drunk on two glasses of wine and tell people I don’t actually know, but feel like I know through their blogs, how much they mean to me.

    • HAHAHHAHAHAHHA Sanch! I can’t see you being on the wanker side of the fence! Sorry to hear you won’t be there – will have to try and cross paths at a Sydney meet-up one day x

  16. Nailed it! One of my pet hates is when you’re talking to someone and they’re looking around for someone more interesting to talk to. SO RUDE! Fortunately most people I met last year were super awesome and there was minimal wankery going on. I’m SO SAD I’m not going and won’t get to see you and everyone else. What was I thinking not going? *sob*

  17. I feel like I’ve already kissed your ass and told you I loved you and I haven’t been drunk or networking and I can’t even go to problogger because of epic fund shortage. I’m failing here. Badly lol
    Love wanker xx

  18. My virgin outing and the idea that I will have to pull on clothes that perhaps match and actually TALK to real people is more than a tad daunting…. Found the cash and have my ticket so am gonna make an effort not to be a dickhead – note to self ‘ print this out and pop a copy in my bra.’

  19. I missed this post which is devastating because I am a massive wanker!

    No, well maybe in someone else’s opinion. My pet hate is ass-kissers. You can tell someone who genuinely likes and enjoys talking to someone from an ass-kisser in the way the do most of the other points above too.

  20. Great tips. It seems obvious but sometimes you need to point in out there huh? Yeh I hate how some attendees use the oppourtunity to do the “sales pitch”. But in their defense what are you suppose to say when asked “so who do you work for, or tell us about your business”.

    Are you speaking at this national conference

    • Hahahhahahhahhaah no!! Not speaking. LOL. I get your point though – I think it’s totally cool to talk about yourself, my gripe is more with people who will turn every conversation back to themselves. As soon as you mention something they will always manage to grab hold of one random detail and start in on themselves again. I actually know people like this. It’s as annoying as it sounds!

  21. It’ll be my first problogger so your post is *extremely* helpful! I have several goals for problogger, and number one on the list is now DON’T BE A WANKER. Am looking forward to not being excluded, blown off, or talked into a corner by windbags. I’m also pretty sure I won’t have anyone kissing my arse and/or drunkenly declaring they love me. …But there’s always next year!

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