How to End A Networking Conversation Without Feeling Rude
You know that networking is important and that going to networking events is on your "need to do" radar, BUT you dread the possibility of getting stuck in conversations that simply waste your time.
Here's the thing...even if you're comfortable knowing how to talk to anyone at a networking event, not knowing how to exit a conversation without making it obvious that you simply want to move on makes you feel like you have no control of your effectiveness at the event.
I’m going to give you 3 techniques that not only allow you to move on when you’re ready, they’ll actually help you look good in the process! My personal favorite is #3, but be sure to have all of them in your arsenal.
Technique #1 - “The Follow-Up”
In this scenario you’re talking with someone with whom you ARE CONNECTING. You want this person in your network, she needs you in hers, and you’re really glad you’re making this connection.
You see the potential to throw frequent referrals to this person, and you’re getting the feeling that she has a very large network to which you might gain some exposure at some point in the future. You had to drag yourself to this networking event, but this has made it all worth it!
Why Get Out of This Conversation?
You might be thinking “well I don’t want to get out of this conversation”, but actually you do…for two primary reasons:
- This is a networking event, and I’m sure your goal was not to walk away with only one good connection. All these people are there for the explicit purpose of seeking and making quality connections.
If you spend all your time talking with this one person, neither of you will have the chance to take advantage of meeting lots of other possible strong connections. It’s not fair to you or the other person to monopolize your time in this singular conversation.
- You most likely won’t be able to go as deep on the professional connection while at this event. The venue might be a little loud, you could be interrupted at any moment by another person wanting to meet one or both of you, you haven’t had time to prepare any exploratory questions specific to her industry/business, and you only have a limited amount of time at the event.
You need to have this deeper discussion at another time and place if you really want to establish a solid connection!
Here’s what you do. Once you’ve determined that this connection is worthy of further development, find a natural pause in the conversation and say something like:
“I really am glad we’ve connected, and I find it really interesting how your company helps people to <blank> (i.e. some specific value point of your contact’s business). I know you probably want to meet other people here, but if you’re open to meeting sometime for a coffee or quick bite to eat I’d love to hear more about the value you bring your customers. Would you be open to that sometime soon?”
And then simply wait for the answer. Most likely your contact will say yes, so right then and there go ahead and pull out your smartphone or your pocket calendar (or whatever you use) and set a date and place to have your follow-up meeting. Shake hands, say “I'm glad we met, thanks for your time”, and move on!
In networking, always maintain your integrity. Never promise to do something unless you fully intend to follow-through. In the context of networking conversations, be careful not to make empty platitudes like “we should grab lunch sometime” (without setting a date) or “send me some information and I’ll get back with you” just to feel better about ending a conversation. If you say you'll do something…do it.
Technique #2 - "The Matchmaker"
In this scenario, the connection you’ve made isn’t really strong enough to warrant a separate follow-up, but during the conversation you’ve thought of someone else that this person ought to meet. Instead of just moving on, be sure to add some value before you go.
If the other person you’ve thought of that this contact ought to meet is at the networking event also, say something like:
“Have you had the chance to meet <Joe Smith>? No? Based on what you’ve told me you two should definitely meet. Let me introduce you.”
Then walk him over to <Joe>, introduce them and explain WHY you thought they should meet, shake hands, “it was great meeting you”, and move on.
You’ve gotten out of the conversation, and it was a nice, natural transition.
But you might be thinking “won’t he think I just passed him off onto someone else?”
No, because you added value by helping him make a connection. On the contrary…he's probably quite appreciative.
If <Joe Smith> is not actually at the networking event, offer to make a virtual introduction. Say something like:
“…would it be OK if I made a virtual introduction via email, then you two can follow-up with each other as appropriate?” When the answer is “yes”, be sure you have contact information, shake hands, “it was great meeting you”, and then move on!
Technique #3 - "The Epic Bail"
Here we've saved the best for last, for no matter what the situation, you can use this technique to bring a conversation to an abrupt end yet still walk away looking good in the eyes of the other person!
Before explaining this simple yet effective technique, let's remember the one premise that should guide our networking behaviors…give first!
But how can you give when you're trying to get away from someone?
Well, when you've decided it's time to move on, simply say something like:
"It's been great meeting you. I'm sure you'd like to meet some others, but before I go is there anyone else here I could introduce you to…either a specific person or someone in a specific industry?"
You see what you did? You bailed, BUT you offered value in the process.
They might think of a specific person at the event or ask if you know anyone in a certain industry. Whether or not you actually know the person (or someone in the industry) doesn't really matter. If you do, great…take them and introduce them. If you don't, either apologize (it's totally understandable) or say:
"No I don't, but let's see what we can do", and go seek him/her out together (i.e. ask the host, ask another networker that you know, etc). He/She might even be someone you need to meet as well!
There you have it! Never feel burdened again by the potential of getting stuck in a networking conversation. With these 3 techniques you can feel confident that any scenario can be handled with professionalism and ease!