How to End a Conversation -- Without Offending Anyone Around You
As the Founder of BNI, one of 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.” From there, for those of you who love to overthink things, I’ll give you some other options:
- 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.
- Frame what you liked about the conversation or recap part of the conversation that you found most interesting.
- If they say something that brings up a relevant person to introduce, bring this up and promise to make an introduction soon. 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.
- Invite them to participate with you in another networking meeting you frequent. 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. What are some of these lines -- here they are:
- 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 fine but do not lie. If you really have to do something tell the person you are networking with. Otherwise, simply follow step No.1 above.
Related: Building a Network as an Introvert
Whatever you do, don’t “Seinfeld it.” One of the really funny things on the sitcom 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 were candid from the start. Be polite; also be honest and direct. “Seinfeld-ing it” almost always fails, and both you and the other person end up uncomfortable.
Overall: Don’t overthink it. Be polite and friendly. Don’t make excuses and politely move on. What becomes most important is how you follow up, a subject that deserves a whole other article.