What follows is the first in a series of posts about the limiting networking behavior that I witness at the various events I attend. With these it is my goal not to ridicule those who exhibit these behaviors, but rather to point out areas where we all have to be careful and also to suggest possible counter-measures which may allow us to help those who don’t realize that there might be a better way.
Environment: Near the most powerful/famous person in the room.
Behavior: The Star Spotter is always looking for someone better to talk with. Because they are afraid that they might miss out on one of these opportunities, they are constantly looking over the shoulder of the person with whom they are currently speaking. Different individuals of the species will exhibit this behavior to different extremes. Some only occasionally glance about. Others don’t even bother to pay attention at all and will occasionally flap their arms up and down while emitting their signature call “Yoo-hoo! Yoo-hoo!”
Broken Rules of Good Networking: Be with the one you are with. Constantly looking past and not paying attention to the person in front of you is just plain insulting. Our goal as good networkers is always to make that other person feel like they are the focus of our complete attention. Always honor that other person with active listening and interest in what they have to say.
Counter-Measures: When you realize that you are in a conversation with a Star Spotter, the only thing you can do to prevent them from wasting your time is to exit the conversation gracefully. “I’m sorry that I’ve monopolized your time. I’d better let you get back to your networking.” is usually a fairly safe mechanism to get clear of these folks. If you really want to continue the conversation, you can throw in “May I have one of your cards? Would it be OK to give you a call so we can set up a coffee?”
How We Can Help: Helping the Star Spotter is fairly problematic. Only a trusted friend can tell them that their behavior is inappropriate. The only other possibility would be to physically maneuver yourself so that there is only a wall behind you, giving them nothing to distract them from their conversation with you. Even so, keep the conversation relatively short and decide quickly whether you wish to continue a relationship with them in the future.