(That Don't Involve Obvious Excuses)
by Kat Boogaard
Here’s the thing: I don’t really struggle to start conversations with people. But, I’ll be the first to admit that I find it challenging to end them.
This is especially true in networking situations when my nerves are already a little high and I’m concerned with leaving on a positive note.
So, my typical wrap-up? Well, it usually involves me repeating that it was nice to meet that person about four separate times before I make a break for the bar to refill my plastic cup of liquid confidence (uh… cheap wine). I know—smooth, right?
There’s so much focus placed on how we begin networking conversations. But, hardly anyone ever talks about how to end them in a way that’s polite, professional, and doesn’t involve a bunch of excuses or cringe-worthy pauses.
I know just what you’re thinking: Ugh, that’s so true! You’re in luck. I’ve pulled together three different ways to end that exchange—and avoid any dreaded awkwardness.
1. Ask for a Business Card
This is tried and true advice for any networking event. But in the age of LinkedIn, admittedly, it’s something I often find myself skipping.
However, here’s the great thing about capping off a conversation by asking for that card: You not only get that person’s contact details, but you also make it clear that the discussion is coming to a close.
After you both have exchanged information? It’s as simple as saying, “It was great talking to you—I’m really looking forward to keeping in touch!” and moving on to your next conversation.
2. Form a Plan to Get Together Again
Remember, successful networking isn’t about singular meetings—it’s about laying the groundwork for continued professional relationships.
It’s easy to say you’ll connect soon as you’re walking away from that discussion. But, actually pulling out your calendar and finding a time when you both could grab lunch or coffee is a great way to prove that you’re serious about staying in touch.
Plus, part of what makes saying goodbye at networking events so uncomfortable is that you don’t want to be perceived as if you’re blowing that person off for something better. This tactic gives you the freedom to go your separate ways and mingle, without making that other person feel used and discarded.
3. Offer to Make an Introduction
Ending a conversation doesn’t mean you both have to head to opposite sides of the room—it can also mean seguing your existing conversation into a new one (with new people involved).
Let’s say that you spotted someone you know across the room. Why not offer to make an introduction between that person and the new acquaintance you’re currently talking to?
You can then excuse yourself from that conversation (or even stick around if you’d like), while still fostering a reputation as a beneficial business contact who’s all about making connections.
When you’re so concerned with making a positive impression, capping off networking conversations can be awkward at best.
Fortunately, these three different strategies will allow you to gracefully move on from that discussion—without seeming rude (or, often in my case, socially inept).
If you’re ever in doubt? Remember that a simple, “It was really great talking with you!” always does the trick.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.