Don’t Make This Mistake at Your Next Networking Event

If you were sitting in an important meeting with your biggest client and you got a text message, would you stop listening to your client and completely tune him out in order to respond to the text message?

What if you got a phone call . . . would you stop mid-presentation as you were pitching your most important client about your newest product in order to answer the call??  Of course you wouldn’t!  That would be a blatantly rude move on your part and it would put your most valued client relationship at risk.

So, why in the world would anybody ever even consider looking at their mobile phone during a networking meeting?? Make no mistake, a good reason for looking at, picking up, or using your mobile phone in any way during any type of networking meeting does not exist!

One of the fastest ways to ruin your credibility and earn yourself a reputation as being rude, unprofessional, and undeserving of referrals is to use your mobile phone during a networking meeting. It virtually screams to your networking partner(s): I don’t care what you have to say because I have better things to do right now and this meeting is not worth my time.

If you want results from your networking efforts, which I’m assuming you do if you’re reading this blog, then that is the last thing you would ever feel about or  say to anyone in your network.  But, if you’re using your mobile phone during meetings with people in your referral network, I promise you–not only is that the exact message you are sending them, you’re also wasting their time and yours.

So, do yourself a favor and check your phone one last time before your networking meeting . . . check that it is completely turned off and don’t turn it back on until you leave the meeting.  Remember, networking meetings and mobile phones don’t mix!

29 thoughts on “Don’t Make This Mistake at Your Next Networking Event

  1. You have hit the nail on the head here! This has been getting worse as time goes by, and I hope those reading this take the hint.

  2. “a good reason … does not exist!”

    We should first define what “good” means in this case. But not having it in the article – I take it for granted to invent my own definition. Good reason thus exist if you pick up a phone from your soon to give birth wife telling you it is time.

    If you value your family more than your business I’m sure you can understand this argument.

    It’s how professionally you act that matters. You could prepare your business partner by telling him up front about the situation for example. That however does not change the fact that good reasons DO exist so making such a sharp and emphasized generalization was a bit over the top.

    Other than that. Good article as usual. We all hate when phone distracts us from doing business.

    1. Well in such cases, it is better to cancel the meetings and be with family as they are the most important moments in your life

  3. You are right on target with this one! Our mutual friend, Beth Anderson contributed a fantastic chapter in my book, The World’s Worst Networker called “Cell Phone Commandos” which details one of the most shocking displays of rude behavior at a networking meeting that a really, horrible networker engaged in.

    Mobile phones have their place in society, just not at networking meetings!

    Tim Houston

  4. Absolutely, I’ve been in networking meetings where people were emailing from their BlackBerry and it’s offputting.

    There was even someone who took a call mid presentation and started chatting! Needless to say, there credibility was not enhanced by this.

    People should also be aware of the danger with smartphones, they may just be using a word processing app to take notes but the presenter doesn’t know that – and will think they are not interested and just emailing or texting.

    Ther are great advantages after the meeting is over though – having your diary with you, as well as programming the contact details of all your chapter members.

  5. I completely agree and think that many business people have lost sight of what true professionalism is really about. They are so consumed with their own self importance that they forget that networking involves building trusted relationships which cannot exist if you are focused on your phone and email rather than on giving your full attention to the person that you are meeting with. This is getting out of hand.

    With that said, I also agree with the earlier comment made by Micheal that there could be an unavoidable circumstance where you need to be available but if handled in a professional way, you will still keep your credibility intact.

  6. It’s different here in Malaysia. In some cases, it may appear rude to step out in the middle of meeting to take a call, but chapter members know if another member has to pick-up a call, it’s because it’s urgent – personal or work.

    In addition, we still do our best in reminding members to not make it a habit.

  7. Danny – With all respect, what is considered “urgent”? How would you know what the call is about before answering it? I’m honestly asking, because I don’t know the answer.

    Perhaps hard to remember, but there was a time when we were not instantly accessible, and the world still did business, had babies, and managed to rotate on its axis without us.

    Just because the technology exists does not make it all right to use. It’s up to us, as business people, to set boundaries and remember why we are in the meeting…to build visibility and credibility with the other people in the meeting.

    I’ll give Michal his “pregnant wife” scenario, as long as she’s on the way to the hospital. And that would be known by most every person in the room – assuming he has relationships with them. In my 13 years in BNI it’s never happened – no member has ever had a wife go into labor while they were in a meeting with me. I’ll go further than that, I’ve never, in 50 years, been with someone in any situation when they received the call to meet her at the hospital.

    So what else would cause you to leave your phone on at a meeting? I can’t think of one that is so important you would risk your reputation. I think that people are simply not aware that everything they do affects their business.

    After all, “You’re Always Doing a Commercial”.

  8. By taking a call at a networking event, you are telling the speaker, be they in the front of the room or in front of you, that “the unknown of this phone call is far more important than anything you have to say.” Well, is that unknown worth your giving up referrals and trust? Remember, it isn’t about how many people we know, but how many people know us well; and if they know us well enough to know that the phone call is more important, then…

  9. Thank You Dr. Misner. You are right.

    While there may be circumstances when it seems like there is a good reason to use your phone, perhaps to look up information etc., it is important to keep in mind that those around you have no idea why you have your phone in your hand. Thus, you risk your reputation regardless.

    Oh, one more thing: Bluetooth headsets worn to a networking event, or virtually anywhere in public, tend to send the same negative image.

    I agree with Beth. Remember the commercial you WANT to be doing, and act accordingly!

  10. This happens constantly at networking and business events- drives me crazy. A lot of people have CPA- “Cell Phone Addiction”. These are the people who answer their cell phone in movie theaters, have long distance conversations in public restrooms and use their menu light as a night light!
    BTW- I refrain from carrying my cell phone into a networking or business event at all! Great comments from Beth and Steve- right on!
    If you find yourself getting tingles all over your body when you get free cell phone minutes, you might have CPA!

    Shawn McCarthy BNI ED Ventura County, Santa Clarita & Antelope Valleys, Ca.

  11. Dear Dr. Misner,

    Wow! Looks like you stirred a hornets’ nest. Today I witnessed firsthand no less than 6 members getting up and leaving our meeting room for calls. I am going to forward the link to this most timely blog to all the members.

    Those of use that have a few laps around the track remember life before cell phones, IM, and texting. It’s amazing we could even survived to reflect on it.

    Each is entitled to their own opinion, but the BNI chapter has every right to establish guidelines. We charge a $5 penalty if a persons cellphone or whatever disrupts our meeting.

    I hope we are not evolving into a society that accepts behavior that was previously considered rude and selfish in the name of technological advancement.

    Wishing You Plenty To Live,
    Tom Doiron

  12. I find it most irritating and outright ‘mannerless’ when someone makes an appointment then picks calls during the meeting. It doesnt make it better if they are picking to excuse themselves. If you really have to make note of all calls you may receive then please turn your ringer and vibrate mode off. Call back people later during your time. It is disrupting when people get up to receive calls during meetings.

  13. We just covered this exact subject a few weeks back and tried to stay positive with the message but making sure that when you disrupt a speaker or the meeting by getting coffee during a presentation etc, its was Not Professional and very Rude. Good article and of course there will always be exceptions but being professional should trump any circumstances that would occur.

  14. I agree with everyone and have to add my two cents worth:

    1) Sometimes people answer the phone no matter what because they are afraid of losing that client if they don’t pick up. Do you really want that kind of client?

    2) Out of sight, out of mind, out of temptation. My cell phone is usually hidden away during a meeting.

    And Bluetooth? If you’re so important that you can’t take if off for a meeting, you probably shouldn’t be networking, you need to be sitting at home in front of a big red phone!

  15. Thanks for the good article. I’m in final stages of writing content for a new biz etiquette workshop for professionals here in Nova Scotia, and plan to refer participants to your article. Just because we HAVE a mobile device doesn’t mean we have to use it all the time. Knowing when is an OK time is so key to building and reinforcing one’s own image/brand and just plain being respectful to others… thanks for writing it.

  16. Could not agree more…what has happened to ADULT Attention and common courtesy if have decided to be present at an event then Be Present the whole time and in order to obtain the information you decided was so important to glean form being present you have to contribute, no way can you contribute if are not fully present. I saw this recently at a midday networking I attended, if a real emergency crops up leave the room. Otherwise, someone knows where you are and others can see your lack of attention to where you chose to be.


  17. Well…it seems as if this netikiller is not only a problem here. One needs to ask the question why individuals – even highly educated people – do this? Is it a lack of understanding of the importance of empathic listenining when you network, interact with a prospect or client? Are individuals so driven to avoid losing the next deal if they dont answer a phone or respond to an sms? Does it give them a feeling of importance…is it an esteem booster? Do we see a change in what the word “professionalism” actually means? I agree it is rude and shows poor ettiquette but I am I also aware that the cell phone and other similiar tools are challeging our notion of communication.

  18. Great article, and something I’ve been considering for quite a while myself after observing the varying degrees of attention you can see within business networking events and similar.

    My take is this. If you are waiting for an important call (such as Wife in labour!) then announce that fact to the group you’re meeting with. Nobody minds if upfront they understand that you want to be involved in the meeting but may be pulled away from it.

    As from electronic devices during meetings, my personal take is that a business meeting is a business meeting and you should give it your full attention. That said, many people use electronic devices for note-taking – but I’d suggest the etiquette here is to frequently look up from your device and acknowledge your participation through nods, smiles and where appropriate, comments.

  19. I honestly think there are good reasons. Most of the networking I do is outside of the actually meetings I attend and I often get calls for referrals while I am at my meeting and I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to pass a huge ticket referral to somone while at the meeting. What says you care more about the person, sitting there listening and acting like you care or handing them a done deal referral?

  20. I am a pre-cell phone survivor, actually a pre-phone survivor. When cell phones first came out it was considered a luxury to have one and now, still some people act as if they are the only ones in the world to own a cell phone. It is disgusting to see people attached to their cell phones so much that they can’t pay attention to the speaker and other networkers. The Bluetooth thingys look like giant cockroaches climbing out of ears. Yuck!!

  21. The world has changed. You have to set expectations. Customers expect in a new world that you get back to them right away. However, people who are older, have their houses paid for, their children have grown, and do not have a sense of urgency to make $$$, get mad when you look at a text. Young people with a sense of urgency since they are building their lives do not get mad. Exactly the opposite the young people think you are dumb, you are not taking care of your customers communication needs However, if you set expectations, and advise that you are responding to a text, in order to earn money, and that you love, and are paying attention to the person infront of you, then you can manage the new world effectively, with the older folk, with their lives established. As well older folk, still engaged in earning an income, also do not mind: you responding to a text: they understand you are just trying to make a living.

  22. If you use your phone to text during a networking meeting you may think you are only sending a message to the person you are messaging, but you are also sending another message to every person in that room which seriously damages your credibility ” what you are saying is not important to me!”

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