In typical networking situations there’s a thought bubble that will often pop up and you ask yourself, “How am I going to end this conversation?” Well, you can always exit a conversation with all the style of a person running for the door as a fire alarm rings. There are other less effective moves including the classic, “It was nice meeting you, I’m going to go get a drink.” Where upon the other person responds…“Great, I’ll go with you.”
If you find ‘the exit’ a challenge: You are perfectly normal.
Prior to doing a networking workshop or presentation we’ll send an anonymous survey to the participants to learn more about their networking challenges. “Exiting a conversation” is always one we get back. Our advice to them, and you, starts with this reality check: “Whatever you do and say is going to feel a little awkward, but here are a few workarounds to extricate yourself from a conversation with a little more ease and confidence.”
Exiting a conversation is a tricky but keep these points in mind:
1. Note to self: I came here for a reason—to meet more than one person!
Your goal at a networking event is to touch base with a number of new people as well as reconnect with people in your network, therefore you’ll be entering and exiting conversations throughout the event.
After years of observing good networkers in action, one of the things we’ve noted is that they exit conversations easily—no fuss, no muss. They simply say:
- “It has been good talking to you” and offer no excuses.
- “It’s been nice meeting you” and shake hands.
We understand that some people may find this a little harsh, but if you do enough networking you know it’s one of those tough love things that has to happen—conversations must be ended.
You can make this technique works more effectively if have been engaged, friendly and focused.
2. Soften the exit: If you want to stay connected to the person, you can add this sentence to your exit:
“It has been good talking to you. If you’ve got a card on you it would be great to stay connected.”
Or, “It’s been great talking to you. Let’s connect on LinkedIn.”
3. Do you both want the same thing: They may also want to exit the conversation!
We are often so focused on our own need to exit a conversation that we forget the other person may also be ready to move on. The signs are pretty easy to detect:
- you are running out of conversational steam
- the other person is getting twitchy, maybe darting eye movements, physically moving their feet slightly away from you
- it’s been five minutes and that’s long enough for most conversations (plan to follow up if you’ve got something going on….)
If ‘it’s time’ your exit sentence can be: “It’s been great talking to you, I want to circulate a bit, and I’m sure you do too.” You’ve got to say this with confidence and in a friendly manner for it to be effective. If you say this sentence in an apologetic way, it will sound like you are wiggling out of the conversation.
4. Exit sentences to avoid at all costs:
- “I see someone over there who* I want to go and meet.” (Implication – I want to talk to that person more than I want to talk to you.)
- “I see a friend over there who I want to say hello to.” (Implication – You are not as important to talk to as a friend of mine.)
- “I see someone I know who I need to talk to.” (Implication – You are a stranger, there is someone more important for me to talk to.)
- “Sorry, gotta get this call.” “Sorry, gotta make a call.” ( Enough said…)
*We know that Proper Talk is ‘whom’ but…
5. It’s not so much how you end it: It is what happens while you are in the conversation.
John Trelevan, a former Canadian ambassador in Asia, has seen a lot of networking in that job, and he said the person who was able to circulate the best was the former president Ramos of the Philippines and his secret was that he was “deliberate, focused and personal.”
-Written by Gayle Hallgren-Rezac, Judy Thomson and Darcy Rezac, business networking speakers and authors of Work The Pond! Shepa Learning Company
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