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Networking, Part 4: “Thank you and goodbye” – the art of exiting a conversation

ID-10046865This may seem a given to most people, that we’d know the best, most appropriate time to exit a conversation. But if a fruitful discussion is a two-way street, you’re at risk of coming across as abrupt, or someone who witters on endlessly, simply because you can’t know what the other person is/people are thinking.

There are enough things to consider when attending a networking event that I’ve already covered in my previous three posts, such as initial research, making an instruction and keeping conversation going, so don’t worry that this is more to be burdened with. Instead, think of exiting a conversation as an ideal time to summarise the bones of your interaction, so that you’re ‘anchored’ firmly in the mind(s) of your fellow attendee(s), and remembered as someone of value with impeccable manners and a warm approach. Wouldn’t anyone want to be thought of in this way?

Getting out of a conversation can be tricky, particularly, if we’re anxious or nervous; research has shown that our brains automatically start sending us an alarm bell to move on after five minutes in conversation. Sometimes, our reaction is clumsy which risks colouring the hard work we may already have done to extol confidence and deliver fruitful discussion. When you see confident people seemingly gliding in and out of groups at events, it’s not just engagement they’ve perfected, they will have also learned how to ‘join’ and ‘disconnect’ effectively.

Let’s, therefore, look at graceful exits and how to give clear signal that you’re about to leave the discussion/interaction:

  • Listen for the perfect pause. Every conversation has gaps, peaks and troughs and lulls in speech. Look for the pattern and seize the most opportune moment to disengage. Start with a closing line that’s complementary but which makes it clear things are shifting in a different direction, such as, “I’ve really enjoyed meeting/chatting with you….”.
  • Impress the point of your talk. It may seem many moons ago since you had the fruitful part of your two-way conversation if the other person has got stuck on a subject, but reiterating the most useful/productive/effective part of your interaction reinforces how they’ll remember you, and what for. “I’ll look into that/I’ll send over those documents/thanks for letting me know about…”
  • Fine-tune your body language. ID-100208187Smile, shake hands again – if you feel it’s warranted – and be as warm as you can possibly be, even if you have been in a less-than-fruitful discussion; you’ll be remembered far more positively as a result. Manners cost nothing; they haven’t disappeared with the dodo – they’re still as prominent and necessary now than they ever were.

If you’ve followed my four posts on networking and put everything into practice, you should enjoy more focused, pleasant and rewarding conversation with contacts. Employing each individual skill helps you to feel better prepared and more at ease, which, in turn, dissipates any nerves you may have felt when dipping your toe into the networking pool. Practice makes perfect. It’s always a good idea, even if you’re busy within your career or business, to attend networking events on a regular basis, just to maintain your skills and to keep abreast of everything that’s happening within your circle of contacts.

As part of my executive coaching and leadership coaching, we work through the importance of listening. It’s a crucial element to effective networking, too. Confidence is something that can easily be bettered; if you need my help to boost your confidence and to address issues you feel are holding you back in your career or business, call me on 01302 220221.

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