As the Founder of BNI (the world’s largest referral networking organization), I often get asked about the best way to end a conversation in a networking situation. Candidly, I think the answer is pretty simple. So, I’ll start this piece with the “simple solution” and then for those of you who love to over-think things – I’ll give you some other options.
1. Simply say something like, “It was really nice meeting you. Do you have a card so I can have your contact information. Thanks.” That’s it. No fuss. No muss. No big deal. Don’t apologize because you have to go network and definitely don’t’ say you see someone else you need to talk to. Simply thank them and move on.
2. Frame what you liked about the conversation or recap part of the conversation that you found most interesting and then – see #1 above.
3. If they say something that makes you think of someone else they should meet – tell them and promised to make the introduction. If the other person is there at the event, make the introduction on the spot. Being a “connector” at a networking event is always a good thing.
4. Invite them to participate with you in another networking meeting you go to regularly. They may want to get out and meet more people. This is a great chance to connect them to another network of individuals and it gives you a chance to meet them again.
For those of you who want more – I’ve read all kinds of “exit lines” and unless they are absolutely true – I don’t recommend most of them. Keep it simple and keep it honest. OK, you want to know what some of those other lines are – here you go:
* I’ve got to get home by X o’clock to have dinner with the family.
* It’s been nice meeting you, I need to run to the restroom.
* I’ve got a deadline on a project and I need to take off.
Anything like the above is ok but don’t fib. If you really have to do something tell them.
Otherwise, simply doing what I say in #1 above is perfectly ok.
Whatever you do, don’t “Seinfeld it!” One of the really funny things on the old TV series Seinfeld was how the characters would go off on some crazy, complicated subterfuge or ruse and end up getting in more trouble than if they had just been candid to start with. Be polite, but be honest and direct. “Seinfelding it” almost always fails and both you and the other person end up uncomfortable.
Remember – don’t overthink this. Be polite and friendly. Don’t make excuses and politely move on. The real key is how you follow up. But that’s a different article.
About Dr. Ivan Misner
Called the “father of modern networking” by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. He is also the Founder & Chief Visionary Officer of BNI (www.bni.com), the world’s largest business networking organization. His new book, Networking for Success (2nd Edition), is available at bookstores and at Amazon.com.