It doesn’t matter if you have sky-high confidence or are a bit on the shy side, taking a deep breath and starting a conversation with a stranger can be really daunting. However, you can all-too-easily end up dragging out a conversation you’re no longer interested in, simply because you don’t know how to extract yourself from it!

Yes, there is an art to politely ending a conversation. You don’t want to come over as too abrupt or rude, but equally, you don’t want to get stuck with just one person. This is especially true when you’re at a networking event, as the overall purpose of the event is to, well, network!

So, we thought it would be helpful, to give you a few pointers in the art of politely ending a conversation, along with a few ideas to make it easier.

#1: Remember the number one rule…

Never promise something you can’t deliver – whether it’s catching up with them later at the event or calling them next week.

#2: If you want to learn more, say so

In the same vein, if you DO want to genuinely learn more about them and their business, say so! ‘I’d love to speak with you some more about this. Could I take your details, so I can contact you and arrange that for next week?

#3: Be considerate of why you’re at the event

A simple way to extract yourself from a conversation, is to wait for a pause and then remind them of the reason you’re both at the event i.e., ‘Well, it’s been really interesting talking with you, but I don’t want to take up too much of your time – especially as you’re here to network! It was lovely to connect with you/It’s been a pleasure’. You can then offer your hand and say your goodbyes.

#4: I need to say hello to…

The purpose of a networking event is to mingle, so don’t be afraid to use that as your reason for leaving. For example, you could hold out your hand and say ‘It’s been a pleasure talking to you. I must move on, as I promised to say hello to xxx. Thank you for your time.’

#5: Have you met…?

Introducing someone else into the conversation is a great way to break the ice – you can then gently extract yourself and leave. ‘Have you met xxx yet? I’d love to introduce you to them.’ Or ‘I’d like to introduce you to someone I met earlier this evening. This is xxx. I’ll leave you both to get acquainted.’

Finally, if you’re really struggling to know how to end a conversation, or you have someone who doesn’t want to leave your side, opt for the classics – ‘Can you point me in the direction of the restrooms? Thanks. If you’ll excuse me.’ Or ‘Please excuse me. I really must get myself a bite to eat/something to drink.’

But do remember, if you’re using these excuses, you need to follow them through, otherwise you’ll run the risk of leaving the other person hurt, or coming across as a liar.