A great way to build relationships is to request a one-on-one coffee meeting with someone you would like to know better professionally. In addition to getting to know someone on a deeper level, this form of networking provides the opportunity to learn more about another organization/industry, how someone you respect has navigated their career, and lays groundwork for expanding your alliances.
Today’s five-minute strategy focuses on getting the most out of the coffee meeting.
Check out their LinkedIn profile and search for any references to them in the news.
This information will give you background to help with the flow of the conversation, uncover mutual connections, organizations they are connected to, and causes they support. Don’t be super creepy and look for them on other social media platforms, stick with their professional profile.
Arrive a few minutes early and secure a table that is out of the main traffic flow.
The coffee isn’t a big deal, so don’t make a big deal out of it. Offer to buy, but don’t be pushy.
Don’t order food as it impedes conversation.
Turn off or silence your device(s).
Ask questions and be curious. Don't ask rapid fire questions, the meeting isn’t intended to be an inquisition, just have a few ready to begin the conversation and if there are lulls during the meeting. One of the goals is to discover how the relationship can be mutually beneficial.
Be positive, upbeat, and remain engaged in the conversation.
Ask about what projects that they are currently working on or projects they are the most proud of working on.
Ask about a key learning from the past year (or so).
Be mindful of the time.
About ten minutes before the meeting ends, ask if there is anything else they would like to discuss.
Transition the conversation by asking about the rest of their day or if they have something fun scheduled for the weekend.
Send a brief follow-up email.
Restate any follow-up action items.
Put timeframes on anything agreed to.
Wish them well and that you look forward to connecting again in the near future.
An hour may not be a long time, but spent well, it can have a long-standing impact.