by Bob London
Your average business networking breakfast or company event is basically full of insecure people who are forced either by their bosses or by the mortgage on their second homes to show up and attempt something called “schmoozing” with a room full of other insecure people, many of whom are armed with a dangerous thing called a quota.
So understand that no one-repeat no one—is there of his or her own volition.
This forced yet totally unnatural dynamic results in a veritable Petri dish of strange and often boorish behaviors, some of which I will now attempt to describe.
I have overheard hotel lobby cellphone conversations where full-grown professionals beg their bosses or spouses for permission to return to the comfort of their Lexus sedans rather than through those dreaded fake-wood paneled double doors.
I have witnessed well-dressed and otherwise polished individuals whisper pep talks into bathroom mirrors.
I have observed semi-articulate, regionally-accented executives rise to ask a question of a panelist and proceed to deliver a nine-minute preface/soliloquy containing his views on Net Neutrality, Sarbanes-Oxley, the coming of another Cold War and Dilbert, all without taking a breath.
I have experienced a phenomenon known as Java-Blocking, where someone decides that the coffee station is the perfect place to set up shop and begin to network, thus creating a backup of which the Woodrow Wilson Bridge would be proud.
I have smelled Nuclear Coffee Breath so intense, even at a distance of ten paces, that it caused carbon dioxide detectors to sound and the fire department to show up.
I have consoled a colleague who was deemed by a fellow networker not to be Cardworthy—she only had four cards left and didn’t think he merited one.
I have talked to people who spent the entire 12-minute conversation looking past my shoulder as if they expected one of the Steves (Ballmer, Jobs, Case, Seagall) to enter the room at any moment.
I have picked up distress signals from associates trapped in an interminable conversation known as a Verbal Bear Hug, desperately seeking a knight in shining wing-tips to come to the rescue.
I hope this column will, in some small way, build awareness of these all-too-common dysfunctional behaviors and contribute to their ultimate demise. Wishful thinking, I know.
Bob London is president of London, Ink LLC, a full-service marketing and communications firm and serves as a Virtual VP of Marketing for growth-stage companies that need hands-on project-based leadership in marketing strategy and planning. More information is available at www.londonink.com.