July 18, 2012

When attending a conference, a marketing consultant friend of mine ordered a half glass of beer.  I’ve seen him put away more than a few on more than a few occasions, and I wondered why he changed his habit.  Granted, it’s never a good idea to drink very much in business settings, but this seemed like an unusual solution — I’d simply ordered a soft drink.  So I asked him what was up.

He said at events where his goal is to make contact with those whom he might eventually turn into clients, he orders a half glass of whatever he’s drinking.  Therefore, if he’s ever trapped in a conversation with someone who is not within his target audience, he is never more than a half glass away from having a polite excuse to exit the conversation.  And he can down six ounces of beer in no time.

(Glancing down): “‘Scuse me, I need to freshen my drink. I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you.”

Other socially appropriate comments to extricate yourself from an unproductive conversation include:

  • “I see someone I promised to connect with at the conference. Excuse me.”
  • “Excuse me, I need to use the restroom. I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you.”
  • “Well, I don’t want to monopolize all of your time; I know you want to do more networking. I’ve enjoyed speaking with you very much.”

Only once in 20 years of attending conferences have I encountered someone who didn’t take the hint.  I used the “restroom” excuse and she responded, “That’s OK, I’ll wait.” (!)  I had to reply with the “don’t want to monopolize your time” excuse….