For most networking novices, walking up to a complete stranger at a networking event is a little uncomfortable. They expect this to be challenging, but are often surprised that ending a conversation is sometimes more challenging than beginning one, and so they continue to talk to the first person, with whom they struck up a conversation. This is not a productive use of your networking time.
It is important to remember your goal at a networking event should be to have a series of short conversations which allow you to find one or two people with whom, you should have a longer conversations after the event. To accomplish this goal, after several minutes of polite conversation, and an exchange of business cards it is time to move on.
Here are few phases which can be helpful as you make the transition from one conversation to another.
- Try the direct approach: It was nice to meet you; I hope you enjoy the rest of the event. As you say this, take a step away. The physical movement is a cue to the other person who, will naturally back away as well.
- If you think there may be a reason for a longer conversation try this: I really enjoyed meeting you, and would like to find out more about your business. Maybe we could meet for coffee, lunch, etc. Only offer this if you mean it. Do not promise something you do not have any intention of actually doing. In the short term it creates an easy escape, but may make it uncomfortable the next time you see the person at another event if you have not followed up as promised. Indy is a small city and you will see the person again.
- And my favorite transition strategy is “the hand off”. In this scenario you end the conversation by introducing the person to someone else they need to know. With a simple introduction, you accomplish several things. You connect two people who will benefit from a conversation, and you get to move on to your next connection.
Whichever technique you use, say goodbye and start the process again. What are your favorite techniques to move to your next conversation?