Networking events for IT professionals. Award winning blog series. Weekly podcast. Meet. Read. Listen. By @echodave, @bobwaltenspiel

LBN…WTF!?

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I sensed a strange disturbance in the force yesterday evening…as if 9 voices were screaming in pain. Right at that very moment, Dave called me, letting me know that he was going to check out this “networking function” that was being held in Southfield by an old co-worker of his. I had no plans, so sure, I would attend as well. What’s the worst thing that could happen, right?

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I would now like to tell you a story of my first LBN meeting.

As you know, I typically don’t make it a habit to call people out, I really don’t [it’s terrible karma], but in this case, I am going to make a serious exception. As the saying goes: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one.” (See? I’m not just a sales guy – I have some geek cred!) I am doing this not for me…consider this a Public Service Announcement for the greater good of all.

First off, I would like to personally thank the entire LBN network. You are the reason ITintheD.org exists today. You are the reason I stood up at my desk one day and just like Howard Beale in the movie Network yelled, “Networking sucks in this town, I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” (alright, so I made up the first part, but you get the point).

Right off the bat, they had an itinerary, which I understood, but really? Roundtable introductions? Really? Self-congratulatory pats on the back about referral sharing? REALLY?!

So, as one cult memberperson after another stands up with their 60, I mean 90, I mean 240 second “personal commercial”, I can only think to myself: “Really? This still exists? Didn’t they read my blog on the Elevator Pitch, and is it worth my time to find a Kinkos fast to get copies made of it for handout purposes?”

Not one person’s “commercial” would I remember for 5 seconds, let alone the next day. Not one. They would have been better off simply stating their name, company, and then saying “let’s talk offline”. But no, we get a deep dive into their sales pitch. [rolls eyes]

But wait, it gets better.

Dave is ready to introduce himself to the group, and in a whirlwind of honesty he stands up and exclaims, “Yea, umm, I don’t think we are in the right place. Yea…”

In my opinion, if the world had more people like that, a lot more business would get done. Period.

However, being the good guys that we are, we decide to be polite and try to tough it out. We listened to the guy that cleans carpets (oh, and tile too). We listened to the guy that wants to teach everyone how to trade stocks online. We listened to the other financial guy that tries to put down the stock trader guy. We listened to the guy that wants to recruit everyone into a pyramid scheme selling cell phone plans. We listened to the lady with another pyramid scheme selling some sort of juice.

“Listen”, for the purposes of full disclosure here, is a word that I’m using very loosely. For the most part, I was attempting to light Dave’s hair on fire with lasers that I was hoping would suddenly erupt from my eyes, and Dave, for his part, was busy doing the mental math calculating the bar tab that it would cost him in penance for our being there.

So then, the best part – a “guest speaker”. Nice guy, really, but again, not our bag [If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: if I need some guy to help me get motivated to do my job, I am in the wrong line of work] gets up to do his thing. I kid you not, the FIRST thing he does is look at us and asks us to speak at a ITintheD event. Dave, and I don’t know how he didn’t scream this, just calmly says “Yea, we don’t do speakers…”. The guy tried to point out he does alot of events, and Dave just again calmly said “We…don’t…do…guest…speakers…ever.”, and that finally stopped it. About 3 minutes into the speech, we decided it was a good time to head out and get about 13-17 drinks to numb the pain. Again, sometimes you just have to be honest, no matter how brutal the truth might be – Dave shuffled seats over to his former co-worker and explained that this was just a collosal waste of time, and to feel free to come join us across the street for a drink or two afterwards if he wanted to play catch up. I’m fairly certain that a Road Runner-esque puff of dust, wind, and fluttering agenda copies trailed behind us as we made our escape.

So over our 3rd (or 7th) beer, we joked that LBN reminded us of the South Park episode where Gnomes took over South Park and were stealing Tweak’s underpants. Nobody believed him, until one night the boys stayed over at his house, and, sure enough, the Underpants Gnomes arrive. In one scene, the boys follow the gnomes down into the tunnels and ask them why they steal underpants? What’s the point? What’s the end-game? So, they showed the boys their business plan. I made a small change, but I believe that it accurately depicts what I envision the business plan of every attendee (at least those that were taking it seriously…i.e. “not us”) nearly perfectly.

That was their plan.

Step 1: Attend meeting and introduce yourself.

Step 2: ?

Step 3: Profit.

Nothing more, nothing less. But I guess according to “them”, their purpose is:

…to reinvigorate members, to impress guests, to educate each other about our businesses and to celebrate the referrals we have generated.

I…

I think…

While we…

(Okay, give me a minute, I have to compose myself…)

[breathe]

[breathe]

Okay.

While we all agree that networking is a crucial part to anyone’s business if done properly, there are sometimes when maybe you need to evaluate your time and priorities, and figure out if it’s actually right for you or not.

For example, the aforementioned “carpet cleaner guy” that was there. Super nice guy, but…honestly…if he would have spent the time he did at LBN and worked on building a solid web presence, perfecting his SEO, and drafting a killer Yellow Pages ad, it would have been 1,000 times more beneficial to his business. I almost feel guilty for not screaming this as we left the room. As I mentioned, his pitch (like the others) was completely forgettable…so I can’t even remember who he was to drop him an email about it now. And I want to.

That’s the thing about ITintheD – we want to help people…we really do. Making new business contacts, finding a new job, or just having a good time with peers in the industry that understand and deal with the same things you do every day. That’s what we do. But…sadly…sometimes even the best of surgeons just can’t save someone that’s too far gone. I worry about those people in the room…are they too far gone? Can they be helped? Would they even listen if I tried?

So what am I saying? Have a purpose when you network, even if it’s ‘no purpose’. Have a short, concise message. Cut it out with the lengthy sales pitch. Be yourself. And please, we’re begging you, “Don’t be that guy” [or in this case, group].

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