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We have all been there! Stuck in a conversation at a networking event and not sure how to extract yourself politely and leave feeling guilt free.
Listening to someone ramble on and on and on and on…
Well worry no more, as I’m tacking how to finish a conversation at a networking event with integrity and panache, where everyone will be a winner!
In follow up to my two blogs on How to Network at Large Events Part 1 & Part 2, I felt it was a great segue into how to finish a conversation at a networking event. It’s an important networking strategy and leadership trait to be able to move on with tact and decorum.
This is a skill that takes courage, and one that shows leadership, control, respect and when done correctly affords you the chance to make a positive first impression and leaves you with your reputation in tact.
No-one wants to be ditched for what seems like something or someone more interesting. And I like to think that no-one wants to make another person feel unwanted or uncomfortable.
Let’s be honest, most people are quite uncomfortable at large events, be they a networking function or a conference gathering. It’s just a burden for many, albeit a necessary one.
Before I delve into my tips, i wanted to address a couple of other questions that arise:
How Long Should a Conversation Last?
To me there is no correct answer for this. It really depends on your networking goals, whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, on whether you already know people at the event.
All things being equal, I’d suggest 5-10 minutes per conversation and then move on.
When Should You Look to Break Out of the Conversation?
Wait until there is about to be a lull in the conversation and get in there with the opportunity to close off before the lull hits.
Why? Because when the lull occurs, then it just gets plain awkward. If you catch the conversation before the lull occurs, then you’ll have the chance to leave the person on a positive note and with a first positive impression for you by following one of the tips outlined below.
I’ve read articles and listened to podcasts where the advice has been to simply close off the conversation, say that you are going mingling and to leave the person. Personally, I hate this idea.
As a shy, introvert, this is a bit of a nightmare scenario for me and it’s just one that I would not put another person through. Instead, I would suggest using points 3 or 4 below as options.
I’ve also heard someone advise to look over the person’s shoulder to indicate with a non-verbal cue that you wish to close out the conversation. Again, I personally do not advocate for this. It’s just down right rude and I don’t like when it’s done to me.
I’m only 5’3″, so it’s easy to look over my shoulder anyhow, but if the conversation is to come to a close, then it can be done where both parties save face and feel calm and at peace.
Here are a few ideas for how you might approach finishing a conversation at a networking event.
1. Request a Business Card
The act of getting and receiving a business card often signals that a conversation is coming to a natural close. You can finish off with:
‘It was great to speak with you and thanks for your business card. I’ll connect in with you on Linkedin. I hope to see you at another one of these events soon.’
2. Organise Your Follow Up
If 5-10 minutes wasn’t long enough and you really want to continue the conversation, then I suggest getting out your calendar and scheduling the follow up there and then. Get something in the diary. This shows that you are serious and committed to the conversation. You might say:
‘I’d love to get your business card so I can follow up with you. And I’d love to continue our conversation. Can we arrange a call next week? When might suit and we can get something in diary now?’
Your follow up meeting could be:
a) on Zoom
b) at another event
c) why not consider inviting this person to one of your own networks as a visitor
3. Make an Introduction
You’ll always hear me saying or see me writing that we need to have a ‘how can I help you?’ mentality when it comes to networking.
With this in mind, why not ask your conversation partner, who they’d like to meet and see if you can make a beneficial introduction for them. You’re adding value and allowing your conversation partner and yourself to move on gracefully. You can say:
‘I’d love to introduce you to XXX who I met this evening. I think s/he would be a great connect for you.’
4. Make a Connection
There may be someone passing by with whom the person you are talking to could have a chat. Or it may be a colleague, a friend or someone new to this networking event. You may well be creating an ice-breaker for these people, so everyone is winning!
You can say:
‘Hi John, allow me to introduce you to Louise. We’ve had a lovely conversation and I think you’ll value getting to know her too. Louise, thanks for your business card. I’ll connect online and email you to organise a follow up meeting. I’ve a couple of people I need to get to speak to before the event closes, so I’ll leave you two to get acquainted. Enjoy the rest of the event.’
5. Replenish the Beverage or Food Supplies
Or in other words, say you’re going to get a drink or some more food. Offer the person something to – always be polite – tell them it was great to meet them before moving on. Leave them feeling good.
6. Do Them A Favour
You can say:
‘I don’t want to take up all of your time. I know we’re all here to network. It was great chatting with you and getting to know you a bit better’.
Hopefully you can add in one of the earlier points to add a little more intention to the conversation and connection.
You are making it sound like you are benefitting them and less about them thinking you are trying to get away.
There is no doubt that opening and closing conversations at networking events can be daunting. That said, it’s an essential skill to master. I hope that these points will give you food for thought, make your next networking event less overwhelming and help you navigate any awkward moments.
It takes courage to put all of this into practice, but you owe you and your fellow networkers this – you’ll all have a much more effective time at future networking events.
Connect with me on Linkedin!
Let me know your networking questions, qualms, concerns, challenges…and I’ll answer them in future blogs and on my NetworkMe Podcast.