While the dread of greeting new people is the top reason people avoid networking, ending conversations is also quite difficult. Do you dread networking because you find yourself trapped in conversations that last too long, or aren’t productive/relevant? It’s important to introduce yourself to multiple contacts at these events, but some discussions and some people can be difficult to escape. Practice your exit strategies for networking events! The right body language, a variety of gentle conversational closures, and you’ll be feeling far more confident and prepared to easily leave the conversation when you’re ready…without burning any bridges!
Body Language says it all.
Using body language before ending your part in the conversation is a way of signalling your intent so that your impending exit isn’t a surprise. Your conversation partner will see that you’re getting ready to move on. Angle your body away from your conversation partner(s). If they don’t begin to wrap up the conversation, add a glance around the room or at the clock. This should prompt an ending for those able to take a hint.
Substitution is an art.
Your change in body language not only signals that you are beginning to wrap up the conversation, but it also invites others to join you. A new addition to the conversation can be a great segue, allowing you to offer your “spot” to them and go. If someone joins you, offer a handshake to the new person first with an introduction, then offer your hand to the existing conversationalist, thanking them for their time. “Jane and I were just discussing the Chinese market and its effect on the price of widgets here. Thank you, Jane, you’ve given me so much to think about. I’ll let you two carry on. I need to circulate.” And move toward another person or group.
Suggest a pause.
Offering to continue the conversation later can be a “softer” exit for when you are truly engaged in the discussion but need to move on. Ask for the other person’s card and offer to call or email to continue talking later, because you also wanted to have a word with (insert name here). If this is a contact you want to cultivate, then make a note on your calendar to follow up with this person and continue or further the conversation.
Offer an introduction.
You can also wait for a natural break (a breath or a question) and suggest that you have been monopolizing your conversational partner’s time. Ask if there’s anyone else they were hoping to speak to, and offer an introduction to someone you know.
Admit to a goal number.
If you can swerve the conversation around to networking in general, you can admit that you made a goal to meet at least (insert number here) new contacts during this event, and thank your new contact for being your number (insert lower number here), and for making this connection so interesting and easy. Ask for their card, offer your own, and end with a warm handshake. If they admit to a goal number of their own, offer to introduce them to someone you know.
A sudden need, indeed.
The strategy of last resort, because it borders on blatant, is to develop a need for something across the room. A persistent cough allows you to express a desire to find a cup of water, a yawn and apology can lead to a search for coffee, or a pre-arranged signal to a colleague or friend can allow you to point out the person waving at you to get your attention…just be sure to wrap up with a warm handshake and thank-you for the time spent in conversation.