Don’t Be ‘That Guy’…Top 5 Networking Faux Pas

February 21st, 2013 by Scott Holstein

Whether or not you are in a business development or sales role, networking is a great way to get your company’s name out there and put a face with the brand. Yes, I mean face to face networking, not “liking” posts on Facebook.

My personal experience with networking over the last several months has been mostly positive, and being a people watcher, I have especially enjoyed identifying what characteristics push people to make it or break it at these events. In that spirit, I have created a classification system of the networking personalities that I have encountered.

Five Types of Networkers

Round 1-091. The Sales Slug

The majority of people at networking events are there trying to sell something directly or indirectly, but but take for example the commercial plumber attending the event to build his referral network. Pushing your catering business on him will not prove lucrative — you’re wasting your time, sales guy. The Slug is in a one-sided conversation with you for his benefit only. You may as well be talking like the teacher from “Charlie Brown”, because he is NOT LISTENING. “Wah waah wah wah waah”

2. The TMI Open Book Guy

Talking about your personal life is not a bad thing, particularly when it may be common ground and making connections. The trick is understanding where to draw the line. Based on the fact that you just met this person, they probably don’t want to hear about the DUI you got in college. Really, legal issues are never common ground for professionals. Taking it easy on the complimentary booze can go a long way in making sure you don’t become this guy.

3. The Phone Checker

Unless Fido is being held for ransom, you don’t need to check your cell phone while someone is talking to you. Your goal for that event and the $20 admission fee dictates that you are there to meet other people, and incessant phone checking makes you an unapproachable social pariah.  It’s the new equivalent to checking your watch. The people with whom you are speaking will undoubtedly get the impression that you don’t have time for them.

4. The Wallflower

You are not at an 8th grade dance, so get off the wall and introduce yourself. Many of you may be situated on the introverted side of the personality spectrum. I’ve also been guilty of this at times. While attending a networking event, you need to pretend you are the most popular girl in school. If you are thinking that by becoming an island you appeal to the crowd as approachable, you are sorely mistaken.

5. The I Just Rolled Out of Bed Guy

Seriously Guy? Take some pride in your appearance when you are in the public eye; what you wear in your leisure time is up to you. This isn’t a slumber party, it’s a professional event. Shorts and snuggies are not acceptable, ladies and gentlemen. Networking events range from black tie to somewhat casual, but the invitation never says “what you wore to bed last night.” We think it’s great that you work from home, but we don’t. Thus, we do not care to see your home “office” attire.

Honorable Mention:

The Tries Too Hard Guy

I am hesitant to poke fun at this guy because I believe that he really means well. Typically, you will hear these people tooting their own horns and then brown nosing the people they’re talking to. They generally lack real social skills which leads to them overcompensating in a variety of ways.

So, based on what we have learned not to do, we can easily derive a few pointers that can make one better prepared for their next networking event:

  • Be prepared. It’s the Boy Scout motto for a reason. Come to the event in the appropriate attire, with proper messaging, and be ready to put your best foot forward.
  • Keep conversations professional, natural and sincere. If at the end of the conversation it makes sense to pursue a business relationship, it should happen naturally.
  • An exchange of business cards is always recommended.
  • Make good eye contact with individuals to engage in conversation. Once in conversation, give them your full attention and ask relevant questions.
  • Make sure to follow up with quality contacts and connect through social media after the networking event.


These bad habits are all pet peeves of mine, but I have absolutely been “that guy” on more than one occasion. Networking can require a little practice, but a positive attitude, a sense of humor, and a willingness to listen go a long way. Hopefully these insights help you avoid any faux pas’ at your next event.

Scott Holstein is a Business Development Associate at Search Influence, a national online marketing firm focused on small and medium-sized businesses, and white label online marketing products for publishers and media partners who serve them. Search Influence is the largest online marketing company on the Gulf Coast and New Orleans’ only Inc. 500 honoree in 2011.