Ending a conversation at a networking event could be as hard as starting it in the first place. Have you ever been stuck with a weird person who keeps on talking about himself or had an awkward moment when you want to ask for a card but not sure how? These are my top tips on how to finish your conversation at a networking event efficiently:
Be reasonable about your agenda at the event and have some tactics to help you
The standard advice for networking is to target people relevant/useful to you, rather than trying to meet everyone in the room. If you came to meet the potential clients, but ended up talking to a service provider for last 20 minutes, you are probably not utilizing your time wisely. On top of that you might be wasting the other person’s time as well. If you do not see any common interests with the person you are talking to, then I would advise to be honest and say something along the line that you currently don’t know of any opportunities that would be of use to them, offer to take their card if something comes up.
Be polite, end the conversation, and move on. I recommend having some standard phrases in your pocket, which you can use when you need to break away from the conversation. You can be very direct and say, “It was nice to meet you, and I will leave you to network with other people” or say that you need to refresh your drink at the bar, use bathroom or make a call. Also many people feel like they need to get the card before finishing conversation, which is not always true.
Get the business card, but how?
The logical way to end the conversation would be exchange business cards, but that does not happen all the time. Firstly, do you really need that person’s card? Do you have something to offer or to ask from that person? This should be established during the conversation, so the contact exchange is a logical move to start new business relationship. However, a difficult moment may occur when there are no common areas of interest between people, but someone still wants the card.
To improve your impact, ensure that in every discussion with your new contact, the mutual benefits of your acquaintance are clear and conversations are built around how both of you can help each other. If there are no possible ways, then do not force your card on people or do not ask to get their card if you see they are not interested in your agenda. As this will not lead to future relationships anyway.
Many people might feel uncomfortable when they want to get someone’s card, but have not been offered it yet. Easiest thing would be to offer your own card, by saying something general as “Here is my card, let me know if I can ever be an assistance to you/your project.”
Others may start the conversation by telling you their names and giving out their business cards. This way you already knew who they were and have their cards. Problem solved!
Reciprocity helps and it works
Think of how you can help people, not what they can give you. Do you have a connection they may need? Do you have the knowledge they are interested in? Maybe you have read a book about their area of interest and you can send them a link? The rule of reciprocity is simple, once you helped or even offered to help, most people will offer you something in return.
In general, having this type of approach at networking events can actually make it easier to build a rapport. Focussing on the needs of others rather than your own agenda is often a novel way of networking, allowing you to meet a variety of people from different areas.
Remember that everyone is at a networking event for the same reason: to meet and exchange contact details with other interesting professionals. Don’t feel embarrassed by being pro-active in offering your card to others. In addition, do not focus solely on what you need from people, but assume a role where you share knowledge which may help others. This will make you a desirable contact to them, and will ensure that you can leave the event on promising terms.
What are your best networking techniques?