3 Tips for Handling Inappropriate Behavior at Networking Events

In a perfect world, there would be no inappropriate situations or people at networking events – but that's not very realistic. In fact, I've had quite a few encounters at networking events, where "professionals" aren't very professional. 

I remember when I first started working at Be Brilliant!, my bosses Bryon and Kellie, both briefed me on inappropriate behavior I might experience at networking events, and how to respond to it. Their advice was to ditch my "Minnesota Nice." Note: As a native Minnesotan, we're known for being super courteous and polite. When you border Canada, their kindness rubs off on you.

Initially I thought it'd be easy to do...boy was I wrong! Over time though, I've learned some lessons on how to deal with unprofessional professionals. 

The first step is identifying what type of inappropriate person they are. Generally, there are two kinds: those who aren't aware of their behavior, and those who definitely are. The easiest one to deal with are people who aren't aware of their actions. Some examples would be people that are very promotional or think of networking as a way of dating. In these types of situations, a simple, "No thanks, I'm not interested," should do the trick. 

For those who are being inappropriate on purpose, that's when you need to be tougher. This is the time to ditch your "Minnesota Nice." Here's my three tips on how to handle out-of-line behavior at networking events.

1. Be blunt and call them out.

Remember...they know they're being inappropriate, and yet they decide to act that way. Subtle hints will not work with them. If they're being unprofessional, point that out. You can say "Why do you think that's appropriate to say at a networking event?" Letting them know that their behavior is unwelcome is an important first step.

2. Walk away.

If they don't get the hint, and are still being rude to you, walk away. Even if they're in the middle of a sentence. If someone doesn't respect you, you're not obligated to listen to them. 

3. Tell the organizer of the event what happened. 

If someone is acting inappropriately, event organizers are the ones that can take action. In my experience, I've told the person in charge of the networking event, and they were able to have a discussion with them. In some cases, that person will stop their behavior, and won't bother you anymore. In other cases, they'll be unapologetic and deny that they did anything wrong. At that point, the event organizer has the power to prevent them from attending future events. That's why it's crucial you tell someone in charge!

Also, don't be afraid to confide in your friends. Tell them what happened. And if you see inappropriate behavior, be an ally and say something! There's power in numbers, and your support is another way of letting the other person know that their actions won't be tolerated. 

One of the biggest lessons I hope you take away is to stand up for yourself. Don't waste your time on people that don't treat you with respect. Surround yourself with people who bring you happiness, not take it away.

Want more tips on networking? Read our other Brilliant blog posts!

Social Networking Versus Face-to-Face Communication: A Place for Both
Ditch The Pitch For Better Networking: Conversation is The Key To Getting People To Like, Know & Trust You!
Networking Tips for Introverts


Crystal Wimperis helps businesses stand out from the crowd by combining strategic thinking with captivating design. As the marketing and design specialist, she creates visuals for clients to drive their marketing efforts. Whether it’s designing graphics for a business’ social media page, website, or an event—her priority is creating designs that gets clients noticed and enhances their credibility. You can follow Crystal on Twitter at @brilliantcryst or connect with her on Linkedin

Be Brilliant!® | Be Brilliant!® Marketing is a branding and marketing agency based in Southwest Florida. Our work and experience has taken us around the globe, working for clients ranging from local entrepreneurs to global, Fortune 100 companies. If you’re on Facebook, be sure to Like our page. Follow us on Twitter @BeBrilliantMktg

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