At a recent networking event, I enjoyed a conversation with a young woman; we exchanged pleasantries and general chitchat before we were soon joined by a second woman. As can happen, a more in-depth discussion began developing between the second woman and me, and while we made every effort to include the young woman in our talk, I could tell she was ready to move on. It was also clear she didn’t know how to make her escape.
Always close the conversation. This is your opportunity to exchange business (contact) cards, suggest a coffee meeting, or simply say goodbye. Whether you say “It’s been nice talking with you” or “I’ll look forward to seeing you again soon”, it’s important to let the other person know your time together is at an end.
Second: You have options.
Excuse yourself to see someone else. “If you will excuse me, I see Herbert Harrison over there; I’ve been trying to connect with him for the past few days. It’s been a pleasure talking with you – enjoy the rest of your evening!” (close the conversation)
Excuse yourself to the food or a beverage. “If you will excuse me, I’m going to make my way over to the beverages / buffet. It was a pleasure to meet you, and I hope to see you at a future event.”
Can you introduce the person to someone else? Instead of leaving the person standing alone, can you introduce them to someone else? Help get a conversation started before making your excuse and slipping away.
As a last resort, you can always excuse yourself to “wash your hands”.
Networking events are for meeting people, and it’s expected that you will excuse yourself and move along. How you do so impacts how you will be remembered.