Just in Time for Halloween: Making Networking Less Creepy

As an introvert and someone who values establishing real connections with people, I find most professional networking events creepy. Some people show up wearing masks. Because we can’t tell just by looking who’s showing up authentically and who’s posturing, we end up having conversations with energy vampires. This, of course, leaves me feeling depleted–and like I’ve wasted my time and money. In a worst-case scenario, I practically ran out in horror after only 20 minutes! This is the story that comes to mind when I think of why people wouldn’t want to attend traditional networking events.

It was a nice evening in Scottsdale and I was at a prominent Valley networking group’s event. I had struck up a great conversation with an entrepreneur in business-to-business services who had said, “Marketing is our weak spot.” Now that’s networking nirvana right there–your ideal client type announcing they have the very problem you solve! But there was another networker (we’ll call him “Don”) who was hovering awkwardly over our conversation. I noticed he had a name tag with just “Don” written on it–no last name, no company name. It turns out he knew Ms. Ideal Client so I introduced myself, hoping to know more about this mysterious Don, but I got nothing.

Of course, we’d show our faces at a networking event. But it’s just as creepy when someone doesn’t disclose any personal information.

“Can I have your card,” he asked right off the bat.

“Suuure,” I said, feeling put on the spot and not wanting to be rude, “but I’d like to know who I’m giving it to.” Handing him my card, he didn’t bother to give me a card in return.

“Will you tell me what you do?,” I added.

“I’m a card collector,” Don said, smiling wryly.

“What do you do with the cards you collect?,” I asked.

He said, “I told you, I collect them.”

His short answers, this circular conversation–I could feel the energy being sucked out of me. I almost felt he was enjoying withholding information, as if it made him more powerful.

Tired of this charade, I asked sarcastically, “How’s business for you? Pretty lucrative?”

“Yep,” he said.

That was the last straw; I was done putting up with this creep. I have no idea what he did with my card. Thank goodness he never followed up with me! As far as I know, I haven’t been subscribed to any lists–that’s the only thing I could think of that Don’s job could be based on the limited information I was given.

When I network, I want to share and receive valuable, real information. I believe the majority of us do. The Dons out there are ruining it for us. I created the Certified Authentic Networking (CAN) program because of these kinds of scenarios. I recognized the need to make networking less creepy. CAN provides the space for people to show up as their whole selves, to comfortably network and share as their authentic selves – without the fear and discomfort of encountering energy vampires.

I want to create opportunities for self-awareness in these situations. This also means people don’t need to shelve their real thoughts and feelings because of the “ceremony” of networking. This program offers professionals the opportunity to apply these actions and make them a regular part of their networking efforts.

During our first Certified Authentic Networking program, participants shared some fiendish networking stories – from painful, bone-crushing handshakes to a networker-turned-stalker, and a creepy message about someone’s profile pictures on LinkedIn.

Have you experienced any strange encounters at face-to-face networking events or online? Please share YOUR story in the comments section.

Last but not least, if you’re in the Phoenix area, I’d like to invite you to the next Certified Authentic Networking program. More information and a link to register can be found at www.certifiedauthenticnetworker.com.