When it comes to networking people are often worried about how they’re going to start up a conversation with someone.
What if I’m left on my own?
What if no one wants to speak to me?
What if I end up standing in the corner like a lemon!
It’s important to remember that when you’re in a networking situation, other people are just as worried as you, so they’ll be over the moon when you put out your hand and simply say ‘Hello’! (Yes, it is that simple.)
Getting out of a conversation however, that can be a whole lot trickier.
We’ve all been there, we use the magical ‘Hello’ word to start up a conversation with someone we’ve never met: we have a good chat, find out about what the other does and who they work with and even exchange our opinions on the recent weather we’ve been having. Then that’s it. We run out of things to say and the conversation naturally just comes to an end.
Firstly: THAT’S OKAY!
You do not have to spend an hour with every person you meet, and you won’t always have things in common; and it’s okay. As long as you’re polite, you ask them questions, and you genuinely listen to what they’re saying, that’s all anyone can ask.
But what next? You’ve said all you have to say but you’re both too polite to say ‘Bye then!’ so you need another way to get out of the conversation without leaving your new contact with a bad impression.
So here are my top tips to help you do just that…
1. You’re all there to network. At a networking event it’s important to remember that you’re all there to network, and that means speaking to multiple people! If the conversation ends simply say ‘It was great to meet you, I’m going to go and network – hope you enjoy the rest of the event and I’ll hopefully see you at another one soon.’ (or something along those lines.) They’ll most likely be glad of the freedom to go meet someone new too.
2. Welcome others to the conversation. If you see someone on their own at a networking event, speak to them! They’ll be more scared than you are, and they’ll think you’re amazing for saving them from being alone. A great way to end a conversation as well as saving a lonely sole, is to welcome them over to talk to you both. This gives you both that chance to meet someone new without any awkward goodbyes.
3. Make useful introductions. If your conversation has come to a natural end you should have an idea about what the person you’ve been speaking to does, which means you should be in a great position to introduce them to someone at the event that could make a good connection for them! This helps you get out of the conversation yes, but more importantly it shows you to be a helpful, well connect individual which adds huge value to your personal and professional brand – I’m a big fan of this one!
4. Top up your drink. If you’re struggling to get away, once you’ve finished your cuppa or beer simply say ‘Right I’m going to go get a top up – it was great to meet you, hope you enjoy the rest of the event.’ So similar to tip no.1 but with the added security of an additional reason to excuse yourself. Plus, going over to the drinks table is a great place to kick-start a new conversation: people always congregate where the food & drinks are!
5. Nature calls. If you just can not for the life of you get away from this person, I mean they’ve batted off introductions you’re made, they’ve followed you to speak to someone new, and they’ve even accompanied you to the bar for a top-up, your last resort reason to leave is that you need to go to the loo. Simple as that. Excusing yourself to go to the toilet is a non-negotiable, universally understood, socially acceptable reason to leave any conversation. (I have heard of someone following someone there too but that’s once in 13 years of networking.) But beware, this excuse is not to be used lightly: when you say you need to go to the toilet, you must be sure to really go to the toilet, otherwise you will definitely come across as rude.
And there you have it! My Five Top Tips for getting out of a networking conversation. If you’ve had any good, bad or funny experiences, please connect with us and share your stories via our Twitter & LinkedIn pages.
P.S. Apologies to anyone I’ve ever met networking and used the ‘Nature Calls’ move on. I probably really did just need to go to the loo!