You may think that initiating a conversation at a network event is the difficult part, however ending a conversation can be equally as tough, as it’s easy to get “stuck” in a discussion with somebody, out of fear of appearing rude. They may in fact be very interesting, however the purpose of networking is to meet new people and the time often comes when you need to wrap it up and move onto the next person.
A good rule to stick to is to for making the most of a networking event, is to talk with one person for 5-10 minutes and then move on to work the rest of the room.
When the time comes to move on, it doesn’t have to be awkward, and given the occasion I’m sure the individual will understand, as long as you are polite and respectful. It is best not to make any promises or arrangements that you don’t intend on keeping, if you tell them that you will do something, do it. You want to give a good lasting impression, as you may have just made a very useful contact, so be sure to thank them and a compliment never hurts either.
If you’re at a loss about how to politely end conversations at a networking event, here are a few examples that you could try.
Suggest that you connect later on:
If you’re genuinely interested in speaking with this person more, but need to run off for some reason or another, suggest that you catch up later on at the event or even at another upcoming event.
“It was great speaking with you. If I don’t run into you later, I hope to see you at another event soon.”
Plan a follow-up:
In the situation that you feel you’ve made a useful contact, but need to do some more networking, exchange details or business cards with each other and plan a future meeting, follow up call, etc. and then leave the conversation on that note.
“I’ve got to head off now, but I would love to speak some more. Can I have your contact details and we can arrange a meeting?”
Shift focus elsewhere:
An easy way to exit strategy is to shift your focus elsewhere. Tell the person that you need to say hello to someone else, or you can just be honest that you feel you need to work the room some more, they’ll understand as they’re there to network too after all.
“It’s been great talking to you, but I really need to say hello to a few other people. Hope you enjoy the rest of the event.”
Introduce someone else to the conversation:
By introducing a friend or contact to the conversation, you may actually be doing them a favour by creating a bit of an ice breaker. Once they are talking you can suggest that you leave them to it and move on.
“I’d love to introduce you to someone else I met tonight.” “I’ll leave you to get acquainted.”
Wait for a natural break in conversation:
If it comes to a point in the conversation where there is a natural pause, use the opportunity to tell them how nice it was to meet them and then leave politely.
“It was wonderful to meet you, I’m going to go mingle some more.”
Make it benefit them:
If you make it sound like you’re doing them a favour, it will come across less as though you are trying to get away from them. For example that you don’t want to hold them up.
“I don’t want to take up all your time, it was great chatting with you!”
Grab another drink/food:
There are most usually refreshments at networking events, so if you’re at a loss about how to end your conversation, you can always just tell them you’re off to get a top up.
“I’m going to grab another drink, but it was fantastic to meet you.”
Learning how to open and close professional conversations at a networking event is an essential skill for making useful contacts and hopefully with the help of a few of these pointers, your next networking event will be smooth sailing and free of awkward moments.