Okay, you’ve successfully entered a networking conversation. It’s going well. Hooray! Now it’s time to leave.
“What??” you say, “But I’m just starting to get comfortable.”
Exactly. Networking conversations are meant to be short. If you are starting to get really comfortable, the conversation may be starting to run long. You really shouldn’t need more than about 5 minutes, tops. Remember, you are making a business contact, not reconnecting with a long lost friend. As a gracious networker, you must allow the other person to connect with other people and achieve their aims for the evening. So, you need to leave the conversation. Here’s how:
1. After the other person makes a statement or observation, resist the urge to say “Really?”, or just mumble “Mmhhh”. This is an inadvertent prod, and will cause them to continue talking. If you say anything like that, immediately jump into step 2.
2. Instead, let them know you have enjoyed the conversation and, if you have been listening well, you have probably identified an opportunity to follow up with them. Let them know you’d like to follow up, and get their assent.
3. Offer your business card and ask for theirs
4. Thank them and reference the next touchpoint you expect to have with them. Perhaps you have an article you are going to send them, or you will likely see them at the next meeting, or they have offered to connect with someone on your behalf.
It doesn’t have to go in exactly this order, but should include these elements. The conversation might look something like this:
Them: “We’ve had fairly good success so far this year increasing our brand awareness in the local market.”
You: “That’s fantastic. It’s been such a pleasure to meet you. (Extend your hand to shake theirs). I’d like to catch up with a former colleague of mine who’s here, but I’d love to continue our discussion another time. May I send you the link to that article we discussed, and perhaps we can arrange to meet for coffee early next week?”
Them: “Sure, that would be great.”
You: “Do you have a business card? Here’s mine. (Exchange cards) Thanks. Enjoy the speaker tognight.” (Walk away).
As someone who used to be paralyzed at the thought of walking into a group of strangers, but now loves it, believe me when I say “you can do this”. Heck, you might even enjoy it someday.
Finally, I will leave you with a book recommendation:
- The Fine Art of Small Talk
by Debra Fine. It is a short, extremely practical, how-to guide and the best bang for your buck out there.
Now, get out there and put these tips and your natural strengths to work. Happy networking!