Up until now I've been enjoying my first PASS Summit and doing my own light networking.

  • At breakfast and lunch there's a sea of open tables. I've found it's fine to sit down and introduce yourself to strangers at a distance, share what you do, and maybe hand them a card so they can reach out if they want to.
  • There was a nice networking afternoon at Top Pot doughnuts sponsored by MidnightDBA.
  • And a night of networking dinners organised by Lisa Bohm.

These were all great. I'm a bit introverted but I love networking! There's no pressure on either side, you're all surrounded by co-workers or PASS buddies, and if you wanted to stand up and leave nobody would particularly notice unless you wanted them to. Easy.

Not so with this one specific speed networking session sponsored by Solarwinds:

Get up to speed on what to expect at PASS Summit 2018, and be introduced to the fun of Speed Networking! Meet other First-Timers and Alumni attendees in a casual, social environment before hitting the Welcome Reception with your new friends.

Here's what actually happens:

  • There are long lines of chairs packed closely side by side.
  • People are seated facing each other somewhere in these long lines.
  • A suggested topic is shown on screen.
  • You talk for three minutes each.
  • It's uncomfortably loud so you have to bend in and shout into each other's ears.
  • A bell rings and everyone moves left.

I was seated in the middle of the line and immediately felt awkward that there was no way to leave. You would have to stand up in front of 30-60 people, shuffle between them all the way down the line until you're out, and explain to everyone why you have just caused a space where a portion of the group will miss out for the rest of the night.

I met some very nice people and for reasons that are nobody's business I also became uncomfortable, trapped, and desperately wanted to leave but couldn't without making a scene and looking like an asshole. So I sat and suffered instead.

It could have been organised as a safe space. Small groups of 4-6 people where it's easy to go around the table and talk if you want to, look at your phone and skip your turn if you want to, or just slip away if you want to, all without making a scene or inconveniencing others or explaining why. None of those things were possible tonight.

At the conclusion of speed networking the presenter decided they wanted attendees to do a standing wave. The first few people in the row either didn't react, or didn't agree, and so the presenter made them (using his microphone to publicly haze, shame, humiliate, and bully them into cooperating). I guess if people don't explicitly say no and leave then coercing them to do it is all in good fun, hey?

I wondered if I was somehow misreading things and at fault. Then I went back to my hotel, cancelled my open bar plans for Danny Cherry's Karaoke, and cried instead.