6 tips for “un-networking”

Imagine this scenario….

  • You go to a networking event, hovering at the edges of the crowd, desperately searching for someone you know, to talk to.
  • Succumbing to the pressure to “network” you give up and introduce yourself to a nearby stranger, who is also standing by themselves.
  • To your disappointment you realise that they are not going to be interesting to you professionally.
  • To your horror you realise that the reason they were standing by themselves is that they lack social skills / basic hygiene / sanity.
  • And with a sinking feeling of absolute failure and desolation, you then realise that they aren’t going to let you go, now that they have made a “friend”.

This was one of the situations I was thinking about when I was interviewed by Mark Jones of the Financial Review for his Scoop podcast last week. Although the discussion was primarily around networking for CIO’s, I thought it would also be useful to talk about some techniques for “un-networking” or disengaging with people at networking events.

Since at networking type events you need to kiss a lot of frogs, I thought I’d share six tips on disengaging that I regularly use.

1. Take the coward’s way out – excuse yourself and go to the loo/bar/table with canapés (you know you can easily do dinner on canapés at networking events!).

2. Hold off giving your business card to the end of the conversation because giving business cards can be used as a natural ending. “Great to meet you, here’s my card, call me if you need my services”.

3. Invite any additional “singles” around you into your group, so when you disengage, there isn’t an awkward “I’m dumping you” moment.

4. Merge your group with another group. Everyone at the event is there to meet new people, despite the fact they may be standing in closed circle with their backs out. Although it feels uncomfortable, I have never ever been knocked back when I have asked “Can we join you?”

5. Keep looking over the crowd to find someone you know that either a) they should meet, or b) feel like shafting. Drag your new “friend” over and introduce them, then depart gracefully.

6. Avoid the person that has poor dress sense, has sweaty hair plastered down on their head and is standing by themselves. It’s highly likely that they will “lock on” to you making it difficult to escape. In my experience they will try to follow you to the loo/bar/table with canapés.

Having to regularly “work the crowd” at Churchill Club events I have found that all of these tips work, and become easier with practice. This isn’t a comprehensive list though, so if you have any more ideas, I’d love to know.


To read more Brendan Lewis blogs, click here.

Brendan Lewis is a serial technology entrepreneur having founded: Ideas Lighting, Carradale Media, Edion, Verve IT, The Churchill Club, Flinders Pacific and L2i Technology Advisory. He has set up businesses for others in Romania, Indonesia and Vietnam. Qualified in IT and Accounting, he has also spent time running an Advertising agency and as a Cavalry Officer with the Australian Army Reserve.


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