As I roam the country delivering workshops on Networking, one very common challenge my participants begrudgingly admit: It is difficult to gracefully exit a conversation at a networking event! Seemingly the antithesis of building strong connections, we’ve all been there… the conversation has gone on long enough, it’s reached a natural conclusion (or not!) and it’s time to move on… but how?
Let’s start by acknowledging this: It’s difficult! And, frankly, it may not get any easier than it already is to end an interaction without feeling guilty or like you are hurting the other person’s feelings. My advice: Move on! It is a networking event, after all, and there are many potential connections to forge. As such, consider some of the following ideas about how to politely end one interaction in order to make the most of your time there and build relationships with others in the room.
- “It’s been great talking with you.” This is my favorite approach. You simply say, “It’s been great talking with you. Enjoy the rest of the event.” If you don’t already have their contact information, you might ask to exchange business cards and, if you intend to, tell them you would like to follow up to schedule a time to continue the dialogue. (However, if you do not wish to meet with them, do not act disingenuously by teeing up a future interaction!) Then, shake hands and walk away. Well done!
- “I need to refill my drink; can I get you anything?” Most likely, if you say you need to get a drink and offer to get them one, too, they will decline. However, if they say, “yes,” go get them a drink, hand it to them and refer back to tip #1… “It’s been great talking with you. There are a few other folks I’d like to say hello to; enjoy the rest of the event.” Then, take your leave…
- “You need to meet…” This one can be tough, but effective. I often refer to this approach as the “hand off” – it’s when you see someone else you know, call him/her over, make the introduction and leave the two of them to talk. This concept is best when there really is a reason to connect the two individuals, you establish that for them in your introduction then say something like, “I’m going to leave the two of you to talk about that…”
Whatever approach you take, remember, in order to build meaningful, lasting connections, Networking is a series of touchpoints. As such, even if you do depart from a conversation at an event, be sure to follow up – especially if you said you would. Send an email, a handwritten thank you note, a LinkedIn message and/or invite your contact to reconnect over coffee at a later date. Don’t fail to follow up in order to continue to cultivate the relationship.
Do you have a great way to effectively end a conversation? Please share your ideas at CoffeeLunchCoffee.com. Also, check out these two additional resources on how to gracefully exit a conversation:
- “A Conversation Exit Plan” by Sue Shellenbarger from WSJ.com, December 1, 2015.
- “Working a Room: How to Sell, Not Tell” by Craig Wortmann from the Kauffman Foundation’s Founders School Live, November 2, 2015.
Now, if you’ll excuse me…