Don’t Be That Guy – Baron Von Shush

“I don’t know WHAT that was…but it wasn’t a event” – Recruiter, during an email exchange about the event in Flint

I wasn’t going to write this.

We chatted briefly, and decided that the event in Flint was best handled like a blind date gone horribly awry – take the lessons learned (there are plenty) from it that you can, delete the appropriate number out of your cell phones, and move on.

Then I realized that in doing so, we were becoming everything we hate.  Since when are we concerned about whether or not people “like” us?  At what point did politics start taking precedence over honesty and integrity?  When the hell did it start to matter whether or not we burned a bridge that we’re never going to want to cross again anyway?

So here I stand, nozzle connected to a now empty gasoline tanker in one hand and a Zippo lighter in the other, giving you a recap of the debacle in Flint…

It seemed like such a good thing in the beginning.

We had just wrapped up our first Shifting Gears event with MEDC.

It had gone really well.

We got some great feedback, both from the participants of the event as well as the organizers.

So when someone reached out to us about participating in an event in Flint that had a technology and networking based focus, absolutely it seemed like a great idea.

I’m going to stress two things here just for emphasis:

They came to us. We didn’t seek this out. We didn’t approach anyone about doing this. This quite literally showed up in our inbox as a request for help, because they’d heard who we are, what we did, really liked what they saw and wanted us to help them. That will all play a huge role later, I assure you.

Technology and Networking. That will also play a huge role later, I assure you.

So of course we’re excited that we’ve been asked to participate in something else that has MEDC ties to it, that is in our wheelhouse of technology and networking, and absolutely we’d love to do something that’s got Kettering University in the mix. I mean, sure, it’s Flint…and we don’t really “do” Flint…but hey, we keep saying that we’re going to expand our horizons this year, so we might as well suck it up and walk the walk instead of just talking the talk.

Plus, this was all in the very beginning of August, and they’re looking at an event in November…and we really didn’t know for sure what we’d be doing event-wise in November at that time…and so, again, it all seemed to be coming together nicely for something cool to take place. So, that brings us to August 9th. The date’s been set…but that’s really all that’s been established thus far.

And that, as they say, is when the whacky mayhem ensued.

Because then…nothing.

Emails went unanswered.

Phone calls and voicemails went unreturned.

Were we putting together a casual networking event?

Was this supposed to be a Pink Slip Party to be more jobs focused?

What sort of room are we talking about? How’s it going to be setup? What’s the flow going to be like? What’s the mix of people that will already be in attendance so that we can balance and judge accordingly?

…and yes, you’re probably wondering the same things I was at this point – when did we turn into clingy, needy little boys that don’t understand why the pretty girl’s not returning our phone calls? It’s actually even worse than that. Remember, we’re basically doing this because of the MEDC connection, that’s all. So the pretty girl set us up on a blind date with her friend…and we went and checked out the friend’s Facebook profile, liked what we saw, and so decided to do everything we could to make it happen, trying to keep ourselves in the pretty girl’s good graces.

Making a last ditch effort, on October 26th (more than two and a half months since the last returned contact, and just two weeks before the event was to take place) a final note was sent off copying the MEDC folks (don’t want the pretty girl thinking that we’re not trying, after all) that basically drew a line in the sand and said that if we couldn’t finalize details that week, we were pulling the plug. Something that probably should’ve been done a month earlier…but, well, yeah, whatever, we know.

We should have just pulled the plug.

This finally gets a returned email, followed by a brief phone call later that same day.

It should have ended there.

So the note that comes back mentions a guest speaker.

We don’t “do” guest speakers. We don’t expect you to do guest speakers.

But…it’s someone from MEDC. Okay, that might actually be of benefit. We can figure out how to make this work. People can survive through one speaker doing 10 minutes in the course of all of the events we’ve ever done. It can’t be that bad.

You can’t say we’re not honest. In our email blast and updates for 10/26 over here, we told you it was potentially shaping up to be a cluster.

And then…the other shoe dropped.

The email blast for 11/2, just one week before the event goes out. Now…remember…thanks to the glory that is LinkedIn, we can only send one of these things out every 7 days. Down to the hour and minute, mind you. So we try to make sure we have as many things finalized for the coming week before we send one out, because we know the world we have to play in.

And so, you’ll notice that we hedged our bets and still told you that it had the potential to be a cluster.

And then…we get…the “party invite”.

Yeah…the “party invite”.

Where we learn this isn’t a casual networking event…it’s…a holiday party?

With multiple speakers?

And a band?

And there’s a “graduation ceremony”?!

I kept waiting for this email to arrive:

From: “Darth Vader”
Re: The Deal

I have altered it, pray I don’t alter it further.



Well, this is just going to be a bucket full of “suck”, isn’t it?

But…now what do we do?

Well, I’ll tell you what we do – we start emailing each other variations of “WTF?!” and trying to figure out what our next steps should be, that’s what.

We’ve already sent out the latest email blast, which means that we couldn’t send one out again until the day of the event…and that seems like a really bad idea. Do we cancel, publish to the site and LinkedIn, and just hope word gets out? That hardly seems responsible of us.

So, we did what we always do in circumstances like this – we warned you as best as we could, and we made plans to show up, have a couple drinks and make the most of it. Because that’s what we do.

All things being equal…we should have canceled, published to the site and LinkedIn, and just hoped that word got out. That’s not to say that it wasn’t completely without a few shining moments, but they were few and far between.

The Good

  • It was great chatting with the people who had attended one of the Shifting Gears events that we had been a part of previously.  Great feedback, and some solid insight into not just what they get out of the events, but also what they need to get more of from the events.
  • Our members friggin’ rock.  Seriously, you do.  I say this with no shame in my game whatsoever…we love you guys.  And girls.  Whatever, shut up.  The folks that came out last night were right there with us every step of the way, and knew what a debacle it was.  One of the recruiters had even brought one of her consultants with her to introduce him to the group…and explained that, in no uncertain terms, was not to be judged by what was taking place because this was obviously not a event.  Thank you for coming, all of you…and thank you for “getting” us so clearly and so well.

The Bad

  • Okay, so you don’t respond to emails or phone calls for months.  But when we’ve shown up at your event, and we hunt you down (because, remember – we don’t know who you are, and you asked us to be there, so you’ve seen our site, know what we look like, and maybe…just maybe…you could’ve been pro-active and found us…) and ask what the expectations are, what you’re looking for from us, and what we can do to help…and your answer is “Just hang out, have a beer.”  Okay, well, we could’ve done that in Royal Oak next week, Skippy.  Didn’t need to come to Flint for that.
  • Remember when I said “technology” and “networking” up above?  Well, I’m just dying to know where any of that focus was…outside of our folks that showed up.  Why do we have people walking up to us pitching their ideas?  Why are people asking us for VC funding?  What in the ever living hell did you tell these people?  Why do I care if some random guy thinks he’s come up with a new cabinet system that’s going to revolutionize the medical industry?  I mean, sure, it sounds cool and all…but that’s not why I’m there.  That’s not why any of our folks are there.
  • A band?  Really?  Need I say more?
Our co-host, Baron Von Shush

The Ugly

  • Now, we’ve already established that we found you and asked you what you wanted from us.  You said “nothing”.  So then you hop up on stage with a microphone, vaguely introduce us (getting the name of our group and our website wrong in different ways each time, mind you) as being “too cool to come on stage”…well, you’ve just dug yourself an enormous hole with us.
  • You walk around with a pen and a clipboard trying to sell classes?  To our group?  Seriously?
  • But then, the capper.  Here we are, struggling to make the most of this debacle of a cluster that you’ve set us down in the middle of, and we’re chatting with our own folks who showed up…as well as your own folks who were horrifically bored by the event and came to chat with us…and you come over and tell us we’re being too loud?  That we should keep it down?  When the entire room, both us over by the bar and the main room (brilliant, by the way – have a networking event in a divided room…genius move) is absolutely not paying attention to whoever it is that’s up on stage because nobody can hear anything other than Charlie Brown’s teacher talking through a megaphone in the background…well, you’ve just earned your very own Don’t Be That Guy.

The more we’ve talked about it amongst ourselves, the more we’ve become convinced that Ugly #2 was the goal all along – trying to sell to our members that showed up.

Unacceptable.  Completely unacceptable.

Lessons Learned

  • No more “co-” anything, we promise.  If we’re not doing it, we’re not going to be a part of it.  We owe you that much.
  • Trust our instincts.  We should’ve pulled the plug on this months ago, and didn’t.
  • Pumpkin Pie martinis are apparently quite addictive.
  • Politics suck.  Okay, that wasn’t really “learned” as more as “smacked us in the forehead to remind us”.

I’ll wrap this up with some feedback we’ve received:


“I felt bad for our [redacted] Healthcare Mgr that showed up. He didn’t know what to expect and was a little disappointed about the lack of candidates. Thankfully he only lived 10 minutes away from there. We explained to him that this is not the norm for events. We will invite him to a future event when we know there will be a better turnout.”


“As you know, I am a pretty regular attendee at the functions.  I have hired people from your events and like the format that you, Jeff and Bob have put together.

Since you were doing an event in Flint, I spoke with several people and suggested that they come up to the event last night in Flint.  Frankly, I was very disappointed.

One of the things I love about events is that I actually have the chance to meet with candidates and other professionals in an atmosphere where I can actually speak with them.  Nobody really knew WHAT they were there for last night.

The people that came didn’t really expect a speech, a graduation, or to be told to quiet down.  We were in a bar and we were there to network, not listen to a speech.  I certainly hope that we do not do any events like this in the future.  As you know, the reason that most networking groups suck is that people don’t care to listen to speeches, sales pitches, or any other kind of organizational agenda.  That’s why I GO to your events.”

I guess there’s a good touch and a bad touch there.

Bad in the sense that we burned up some of our good cred and karma we’ve built up with our regular attendees that have come to know and trust us.

Good because we had it to begin with, and we’ve done a solid enough job thus far that they defended us.

Hopefully you’ll come join us next week at the BlackFinn in Royal Oak, or at one of our future events, so we can redeem ourselves a bit.

But not you, Baron Von Shush.  No That Guys allowed.

Until next time…

Make sure you check out our other Don’t Be That Guy entries…