Friday, May 14, 2010


Recently I blogged about good manners and my view that they matter in business. The feedback was quite astonishing.

Around a hundred people from all over the world including India, the USA, Greece, Australia, Europe, England and Scotland responded when I posted my thoughts on the LinkedIn website

Most agreed that being polite, taking the trouble to respond to emails or voicemails, acknowledging receipt of important documents such as proposals was not difficult and, indeed, was an important element of conducting business seriously in a well-mannered, courteous way.

It was an issue that even made it in to the pages of a national Sunday newspaper, where I was quoted. The reaction from that was encouraging as well.

It’s clear that good manners to many people do count for a lot, an awful lot. Just take a look at Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn where individuals gleefully reply and respond, suggest and refer, help and inform. In the main, these sites highlight first-class, heart-warming Net-iquette.

So I’d like now to see this extended into a further business arena – the networking event. And you can blame (only kidding) Cordelia Ditton of as she encouraged this rant.

Her latest blog is very useful on how to extricate yourself from being stuck in one spot at a networking event. For me, however, that’s not been a real problem but, nevertheless I found reading Dilly’s blog useful, as always. It’s one of the best blogs on my radar.

My biggest bugbear at networking events comes when I am happily engaged and talking with one or more people, listening, exchanging views and offering suggestions to one another.

Then someone else barges in flourishing a business card before launching into the dire “all about me” spiel. Very annoying, hugely boring. I would never dream of being so discourteous. Networking is about meeting different people and, to my mind, the listening part is crucial. I don’t expect anyone wants to hear about PR in detail, the services my company offers or any other info in glorious Technicolour. They prefer, as I do, a brief overall summary that encourages questions or, even better, presents an opportunity for a follow-up, one-to-one conversation at a future date.

But the individual, who breezes into conversations and focuses on his or her business, what he or she can do for you and so on, doesn’t talk with anyone – he or she talks at you. He/she seems to think I, and others in the gathering, need to know in gruesome, long-winded detail all about him or her, what they do and why they are so damn good at it. I don’t. Sorry. To me, such people appear extremely desperate for attention, new business, who knows? It’s easy to walk away from them.

This has happened to me over the years. Usually, I escape with the words “I’ll leave you to it” or “I think we’ve chatted before” – not, perhaps, very profound or well considered or worth copying. But it has worked for me.

Such gatherings are a chance for low-key business conversations, a time to meet others in a range of businesses, to fit faces to names of companies I’ve heard about, to build possible relationships. And at some events, I have met people I have come to admire, like and even to do business with.

Rant over.


  1. I heartily agree! (But then I would, wouldn't I?) Networking is not about advertising yourself on a billboard it is, as you say, about building relationships. I like the notion of an 'all about me spiel' as we've all suffered under that one. As you say, this comes down to good manners - and perhaps organisations working with their staff to become good ambassadors for their companies, rather than full-on sales people?

    Best wishes,

  2. I was attending an event for small businesses and one of the workshops was an overview of the Women into Business network which does some fantastic work in the West of Scotland. I was sitting in the workshop with five other women, listening to the female presenter describe the group, when a man in a business suit came in and sat down. He began to interrupt the presenter with a plug for his own networking group. I won't name names, but it's the group which has a reputation for cultlike behaivior, and this man had definitely drunk the Kool-Aid. Every sentence began with "At (group) we..." "At (group) we..." in a childish display of trying to one-up everything the presenter said.

    I cannot begin to tell you how crass it is to barge in on a womens' networking overview to plug your own group - not because you're interested in networking, but because you have a quota to bring in. If that was his idea of presenting an advertisement for his networking group, it was a pretty poor one.

  3. Oh I love this - thank you for raising the topic Mike (and Dilly). I had a situation once where I was having a great conversation with a couple of people I had just met. Another lady joined us and after waiting only a few moments launched into why she thought what I was saying was totally wrong. The 3 of us who had been talking originally were so taken aback that we listened to her and then when we realised what happened ( it took a minute or 2 to register) we just dispersed and left her. That felt really rude - but was actually a natural response to her rudeness!

  4. Thank you all very much for the feedback.

    My folks always insisted that their three sons were polite, courteous and mannerable. My three sons - aged 31, 28 and four (this week) - have great manners. My youngest says "please" and "no thank you" as readily as he refuses to get his shoes on sometimes.

    It is easier to be well mannered than not in my opinion - in business, too.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my views and commenting on them.