The Art of “Small Talk” at Networking Events (Part 3: Exiting the Event)
Written by Paige Dawson Rodriguez on Wednesday, July 13th, 2016
We’ve made it to the final part of our blog series on networking events. With our first two posts you’ve prepped and chatted with the best of them.
Now, let’s make sure you close the conversation and follow-up properly to keep the relationship going.
Closing the Conversation
Exiting a conversation takes the same amount of skill and grace. An old sales tip is that you always end the meeting or conversation with the person wanting just a little bit more, so as to lead to a follow-up.
With networking events, your goal is to meet as many quality people as possible in the most time-efficient manner. Most exchanges will last maybe five minutes at most if with just one person. The cadence may change a bit if you have people entering and exiting a small group during an event.
- Begin with a polite exit phrase and include the person’s first name. Examples:
- “Jim, it’s been a pleasure to speak with you. If you might excuse me please, I need to (find my seat, refresh my drink, make my way home, etc.)” NOTE: If you say you are going home, go home; it is poor form to use the line and stay.
- “Jim, what a wonderful conversation we’ve had. I didn’t mean to monopolize your time as I’m sure you would like to meet other folks. Appreciate your time.”
- Offer your business card at the end of the conversation. If you’ve found a great source and want to build an ongoing relationship, offer up your card and ask for the person’s card in return.
- Confirm any follow up or action items discussed and when you’ll be handling the request. And, make sure the timing is doable for you as first impressions matter so you want to keep your commitment.
- If possible, make an introduction to another person nearby so you seamlessly handoff the person directly to someone else and make a clean exit. This technique is often vital if you find that you’re chatting with a clingy person.
After The Event
Did you find a great new business lead, potential new hire, referral source, or qualified vendor? Was anyone a kindred spirit with similar hobbies, nonprofits, children, schools, etc. where you want to develop a friendship? The real power of the networking event comes later.
- Send a personal nice to meet you note. I prefer handwritten notecards with another copy of my business card but a short email is quite fine as well. Reference where you met the person, a bit about what you learned or discussed, and closing with looking forward to seeing you in the future.
- Follow up on any action items owed that same week. Send samples, make introductions, schedule a meeting, etc. Act while the conversation is fresh in your recipient’s mind.
- Connect with the person on LinkedIn.
- Add to the person to your Outlook contact list or company CRM along with notes about where and when you met them. I like to add any tidbits that I learned about kids, pets, hobbies, needs, etc.
- Consider writing a short a blog or social media post with a recap of the event and what you learned. Tag the event’s social media accounts for added visibility.
REMEMBER: It takes time to develop business or friendships. Avoid being a pest or nag by being too aggressive or clingy. Give the other person time to respond and react with some indication of interest. It’s a dance.
Now, you’re armed with the tools. Time to find a great event and test the waters.