How to make the most of your coffee meet-ups

 

With so much talk about using new media tools to network in today’s environment, I think we sometimes forget that a good, old-fashioned coffee meet-up can be the most powerful networking tool you have in your arsenal.

Yet few people “execute” the coffee meet-up as well as they could.

There can and should be a lot of thought and effort put into every coffee you have with a colleague, former co-worker or potential employer or client.

Here’s why.

Each interaction you have with these people is helping them form their perception of you. Don’t think for a second it doesn’t all matter. The emails, phone calls, notes you send in the mail. It all helps people form their opinion of you and the work you’re capable of.

Take that very seriously.

Given that, here’s some tips on HOW to take that seriously and make the most of your coffee meet-ups:

Treat each meet-up like a finals exam.

You know where I’m going with this. Do your homework. Research the person you’re meeting up with on LinkedIn. Look for commonalities–did you go to the same school? Do you have common friends? Did you work at the same agency a few years ago? If they blog, check out their last few posts, and be prepared to comment on them (in person at the meet-up). And finally, check their Twitter feed (if they have one). Find out what’s been top-of-mind with them recently and do some digging to see if you can help answer questions or point them to a potential resource online–or off.

Be ready to answer the “What’s up with you?” question.

It’s the question most people start the conversation with. Yet, we’re typically woefully under-prepared to answer it. Don’t be. Have an answer ready–but not just any answer. One that tells this person exactly what you want them to know. If you’re looking for a job, your answer should include companies you’ve been looking at and considering. If you’re reconnecting with a former colleague your answer should talk about the last couple projects you’ve been working on. Whatever the case, make sure you’re giving them information that will A) allow them to help you, and B) help them form the impression of you that you want them to have.

Close with one offer to help and one “ask”

Always, always make sure you close the meet-up with an offer to help. But, don’t settle for a general “how can I help you?” offer (I’ve made that mistake too often). No, you want to close with a specific offer to help. If the person you’re meeting with is looking for a job, offer to help connect them with 2-3 people who can help. If they’re looking to hire, refer them to a candidate you may know. Just make sure the offer to help is specific and something you can act on in the next week. Then, make your own ask. Do you need a referral? Job opportunities of your own? Or, maybe it’s just a couple additional people to meet with? Don’t ask too much–but do make sure to ask.

Don’t forget to follow up

Obviously, if you made a promise to make a referral or connection after the meeting, take care of that within 48 hours max. If you didn’t have an immediate follow-up item, create one. At the very least send a quick follow-up email after your meeting thanking the person for their time and commenting on a few of the topics you discussed. Finally, include a post or two that you’ve found interesting over the last week or so and tell them why you thought they might find it interesting. Remember, follow-up is key–if for no other reason than so few people do it well.

Those are my tips. What about you?

Note: Photo courtesy of cocoip via FlickR Creative Commons.

7 comments
Hatteras propellers
Hatteras propellers

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Mo B
Mo B

Yes, thank you for this helpful advice, Arik. At this moment, I am the beginning phases of a new job search, and have already received an invitation to join a former colleague for coffee, so your info is quite relevant.

In my case, however, if I were to consider our upcoming meeting as I would a final exam, it would set the stage for a most uncomfortable meeting. What I am envisioning is a relaxed conversation between two people who share a bit of history and common experiences at a workplace. Hopefully, we will discuss what we've both been up to since we last worked together, and that the conversation will take a turn into our future plans/goals. If he wants to see my resume, or offer to pass it along, that's great, but it's not something I expect from him.

In fact, I am actually a bit relieved that I don't see any appropriate job openings in my colleague's org. at this time, since all I want to do right now is begin rebuilding my network. I don't need to introduce more pressure and anxiety into my life right now --  I am looking to regain my old sense of confidence, social ease, and develop a network of caring support.  I am open to new job contacts but also open to creating and maintaining friendships/ acquaintances so I don't want to rule anyone out!

I agree, Arik and others who have posted: Actual face-to-face meetings are getting all too rare, precious, and should not be taken for granted.

- Mo

 

 

emrosario
emrosario

Thank you for sharing this advice!!! Since I'm fairly new in the PR industry & I'm back to the job hunt--I've recently started to do this. The best thing for me has been to offer to meet up pretty much anytime that is convenient for the other person. Since a lot of PR people have hectic work schedules sometimes it might be easier for them to meet up during lunchtime, right after work, or even in the AM before work. Also remember to ask questions about them and their experience..people love to talk about themselves & its a good way to learn.

Thanks again, Elisabeth @emrosario

adamsok
adamsok

Hi @arikhanson terrific post. During my first year and half in business, the better part of it was spent networking, and having these one on one, coffee meet-up type meetings. I think back now how many took place, only most become filler time before something more important later in the day. If I had just focused on at least half of these......I could have certainly landed more bigger fish!

Thanks for the terrific reminders. I actually have a lunch meeting later this week and will start my preparation now!

Thanks for sharing

@adamsokoloff

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

Great idea! I rarely do coffee meet-ups because, well, I'll admit, it feels like I should be at my desk working. but this is a great way to approach them, and ensure they are productive. :) I've been hanging around here lately, Arik. LOL.

Jeff Nolan
Jeff Nolan

Arik,

Great post, I totally agree with you that traditional face to face time gets lost in our ever connected world online. I often times reach out to people and invite them for lunch or coffee if I've connected online or want to learn more about them and their business. I am amazed how many people don't commonly do this, it is a great way to make an impression and show your interest in people. When it comes time to needing help yourself, those that you have sat down with face to face will remember you.

Thanks for sharing!

-Jeff Nolan

arikhanson
arikhanson moderator

@Lisa Gerber My coffee meet-ups serve two key purposes for me: 1) They get me out of my "office" and allow me to engage with human life forms on a weekly basis (challenge for solos like me) and, 2) Every meet-up represents a new business opportunity for me. I've seen the network work in strange ways, so I try to treat every meet-up equally as important.