4. Interrupt an existing conversation
An important thing to be aware of is that the real high value targets at a networking event will likely be in existing conversation most of the time. The only way to get with them is to time it just right where they are alone, which is very difficult, or interrupt an existing conversation.

Interrupting a conversation is fairly tough and uncomfortable to do. But here is step-by-step process to make it not only easier, but also remove all of the “rudeness” from the interrupt.

Before we get to the process, let me just point out a couple of things about the people that you are going to interrupt:

  • They likely do not know each other so it is not some special moment
  • They are likely not talking about anything private, important or serious
  • They are probably in the middle of some sort of explanation or thought at the time when you want to walk up
  • They likely do not have any opinion of who you are (do not see you as below or above them in terms of status at the event)

To sum that up, your challenge here is a timing one in terms of being slightly late or a little early. This not an issue of interrupting something that is important, or trying to break into an exclusive circle or group.

If you would have walked up at the beginning or end of the conversation, you could slide right in. The issue here is that you can’t just walk around trying to time it right. In order to get into more conversations, and into the right conversations, sometimes you will have to break your way into existing networking conversations.

Step 1 – Apology and explanation
Walk right up to the group and say this:

Hey guys, I am sorry to interrupt. I am just trying to meet most of the people here and just wanted to introduce myself to you all real quick.

This works best with groups of two. If the group is larger than two, you can approach one person in the group that appears to not be as active in the existing conversation and try to talk to them directly without interrupting the main group discussion.

Step 3 – Introduction
Try to get a quick introduction exchange to both parties in the group.

To the contact closest to you:

I am

[your name]. (hand extended for handshake)[They respond with their name] Who are you with? (Ask this instead of inquiring about what they do as the answer can be very short)

To the second contact:

Hi, I am [your name]. (hand extended for handshake)[They respond with their name] Who are you with? (Ask this instead of inquiring about what they do as the answer can be very short)

Note that you are not going to say anything about who you are with. This will be a very quick exchange names and asking who they are with.

Step 4 – False Exit
The key part of this is a false exit. This is what eliminates the rudeness of the interruption. It goes like this:

Well, it was nice to meet both of you. Again I apologize for the interruption. (a little body language that shows you leaning or turning away)

At this point, the contacts with either say it is OK and go back to their conversation and you walk away.
Or they will say it is OK and ask you do (or something about you) and bring you into the conversation. From there, you are then part of this conversation, or more accurately, a new conversation starts at that point and you are part of it.

If they let you walk away, they either preferred to continue their existing conversation or they did not know how to invite you into the conversation. In either of those cases, there is nothing to take personally and you then can move on to the next conversation.