Networking frequently comes up with my clients. You can build your network one cup at a time. Coffee (or tea) can do much more than just wake you up in the morning. Networking over a couple of cafe lattes is ideal for busy schedules. Step away from your computer and enjoy more face time. Here are some ideas to consider before your next hot (or cold) beverage with someone you’re interested in getting to know.
How to Ask for a Coffee Meeting
1. Start small. If you’re apprehensive about extending invitations to cold contacts, start with those you already know. You may be surprised by what you can learn from one of your contacts when you talk more in depth.
2. Clarify your purpose. Busy professionals are more likely to agree to 20 minutes of coffee than to a full lunch hour. However, they still want to make good use of their time. Be ready to explain why you want to meet.
3. Create interest. Ensure your reason for meeting is appealing to your guest. How can you help them? Do you have information they need?
4. Do your research. Find out more about your guest through LinkedIn, Facebook, and relevant press articles. That knowledge will enrich your conversation and suggest pertinent questions to ask.
5. Handle logistics. Make it convenient for others to help you. Suggest specific places and times to get together. Maybe you’re attending the same conference or there’s a coffee shop in their office lobby. In today’s world of online everything, if an in person coffee isn’t possible due to location, make your meeting a virtual coffee over video. I love Zoom for this purpose. For an extra memorable experience, send your guest a $5 Starbucks gift card via email ahead of or right after the meeting.
How to Make Your Coffee Meeting Effective and Productive
1. Show up on time. You’ll make a good impression when you respect your guest’s time. Arrive at your destination before your guest so you can snag a table and greet them.
2. Offer to pay. Ask your guest what they’d like to order, and assume you’ll pay the total bill. If they prefer to split the check or treat you, accept graciously instead of arguing.
3. Check the clock. Take charge of seeing to it that your meeting can end on time. If the conversation is running strong, let your guest know when it’s a few minutes before the time they had to leave. That way you can wrap things up or let them decide to linger.
4. Take notes. Pull out your tablet or a notepad. Jot down any important points or tasks you want to put on your to do list.
5. Be specific. Being direct usually pays off. Know what you want, and ask for it. Maybe you’re looking for leads in your job hunt or trying to find investors for your new business.
6. Express appreciation. Whatever the outcome, let your guest know that you’re grateful for their time and assistance. Thank them as you say goodbye, and send a note or call them within the next few days.
7. Return the favor. One of the most sincere ways to thank someone is to join them in being generous. Offer something of value to your guest or pay it forward if there’s nothing immediate you can do.
8. Follow up. A successful coffee meeting can be the beginning of something much bigger. Stay in touch with your contacts. Tell them when you manage to implement one of their ideas. Send them referrals or research studies that you think they’ll enjoy.
9. Think long term. Networking requires sustained effort if you want to expand your professional circles and enhance your reputation. Arrange 5 coffee meetings a month, and see how much progress you make.
Make meeting for coffee part of your regular routine. Build your network one cup at a time in a casual and friendly atmosphere where you can discuss ideas and deepen your relationships.