The power of a ‘coffee meeting’

office-336368_1920Whether it’s an extra hot mocha Frappuccino, latte, flat white, or Americano – everyone likes a coffee (or at least a good cup of tea) and everyone enjoys being taken out for one. I should know, I spend a fortune in Pret.

Shall we just go and grab a coffee? Let’s meet up over a drink? I’ll meet you at that coffee shop later?

How many times have you heard those? A lot I’m guessing. I’ve met most of the firms and people I write about over a coffee, and have played witness to surviving off the stuff in the lead up to an event. So I know firsthand that the events industry likes caffeine.

Described as the ‘Swiss Army knife of networking’, a coffee meeting is a ‘low-risk’ way to meet new people, swap advice, and create the foundation for hopefully a more substantial relationship.

Whether you’re meeting for a job interview, a catchup or meeting a potential client, being out of the office environment puts you at ease and can make you relax a little more…it also helps if there’s a blueberry muffin in front of you too. (I met my new editor for the first time over coffee, and found that I could be myself and a little bit more sociable than I’d be if we were chatting for the first time in one of the boardrooms.)

Amy Packham at Go Think Big, an online digital hub launched by o2 and Bauer Media posted an interesting piece on How to handle a ‘networking’ coffee. I like her ideas and recommend any event management students looking for a job in the industry to read the full article.

She also shared some recent research that found that one in eight graduates credit their first job to their social skills. You’d think they’d credit their degree first but simply being ‘sociable’ was a high-flying factor leading to job success. What do you think #eventprofs – do you agree?

WMUK_board_meeting_September_2012_-_St_Mary's_Guildhall_2With social media, virtual events and gadgets like the Oculus Rift on the rise, it’d be so easy to just sit at our desks, ‘talk’ through email and not experience the outside world. Face to face meetings are more important than ever, so yes it does help going out there for a coffee (or other hot beverage) and meeting people, I guarantee that your client/interviewer or new boss will appreciate the time out of the office…especially if you’re buying!

Without preaching to the choir, I thought it’d help sharing some top tips I’ve found to be successful in getting the most out of those ‘coffee meetings’:

Never, ever, ever be late. Any meeting you have is about respecting the time of the other person. Leave early. Know where you are going. Take into account the disruptions in public transport because being the first one there will only be an advantage.

Don’t be afraid to take notes. It’s not the most natural thing to do while having a conversation, granted, but you shouldn’t be embarrassed about wanting to make notes. Jot down key companies, snapshots of advice, and other names they might mention that you can follow up with research.

Formal meetings take a lot of time to organise. The clue is in the title. Sometimes you will find that they are ‘too formal,’ filled with an overload of data-focused PowerPoint presentations and tend to not resolve the main objective of a meeting. Keep it simple.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA productive creative conversation is more likely to take place in a friendly place, including a coffee shop. Benefits of the coffee meeting cannot be emphasised enough. A change of an environment can often bring a new type of input and stimulation.

Offer to pay. Always offer – don’t assume they’ll be paying for your double mocha Frappuccino. Ask the other person what they’d like before placing your order. Then, pay for both. It was your idea to meet and grab coffee. If the person objects and wants to pay for their coffee, let them.

Listen. The main reason you are having this chat in the coffee shop instead of the boardroom is to learn something from the other person and move forward your plans. It’s easy to go off topic but they’ve come to meet you for a reason.

Do your homework. You don’t have to sound like a stalker and tell them what they had for dinner last night (because you saw it on Twitter) – respect the time of the other person and find out a bit more about them prior to a meeting. Are they working in a role that interests you? Did they write a blog post you read and loved, or have they worked on something you’d love to know more about?

Ask yourself what you want to get out of it. You’ve made the effort of arranging this so you really don’t want to walk away without getting what you wanted. There was a reason you wanted to get coffee with the busy person, so don’t be shy in telling them point-blank how they can help.

Saying “Thank You” costs absolutely nothing.

 

What do you think #eventprofs? Have you had successful meetings over a coffee? Do you have any tips to share?

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