A coffee meeting is usually “networking speak” for a one-on–one (or one-to-one as some like to say) networking meeting. Which, by the way, doesn’t always involve “coffee”. In fact, a coffee meeting can be over a Strawberry Acai, Orange Mango Juice, Black Tea, Green Tea, Passion Tango Tea, Hot Chocolate, Cold Chocolate, and any variety of Macchiato, Latte, Espresso, Cappuccino, Frappuccino, or Mocha – iced or hot. Regular or decaf.
Then there’s the whole herbal tea genre which I won’t even get into although it’s very important.
Of course, nobody ever says, “We should definitely get together over an Iced Coconut Milk Mocha Macchiato next week.” That would just be weird.
Imagine if they did? You would probably have way less meetings on your calendar.
Anyway, down to business.
Do you need to set up a coffee meeting with everyone you meet through networking?
Only if it makes sense and you like the other person. Think about it. How many coffee (or tea!) meetings have you had over the years and nothing has ever come of them? And can you imagine if you got all that money back that you spent on venti Caramel Macchiatos?
That said, if you’re part of a networking group that meets every week, it’s a good idea to meet with each member over time at least once to learn about their business and establish rapport.
Outside of that, there are only a handful of reasons to set up a casual coffee meeting.
- You want to explore ways of exchanging referrals.
- The other person can help you in some way and is willing to meet with you to discuss.
- You can help the other person in some way and you are willing to meet them to discuss.
- There is a membership opportunity to a group, association, etc. that needs to be explored.
- A recruiting opportunity.
- The other person has presented themselves as a prospect.
- You have presented yourself as a prospect.
- It’s purely social. (Mutual members of a networking group for example.)
That’s about it.
If you get connected to someone (that you like!) and you’re both in total agreement about having a meeting with one of the reasons above in mind, it’s probably worth having that meeting. If not, or you’re unsure, you might want to take the first meeting to Skype, Zoom, or to the phones (I believe there’s an App for that). Either during or after your remote meeting, you can discuss next steps. Or not!
Some very basic best practices to keep in mind!
Be prepared for your meeting. Spend a few seconds on LinkedIn and learn what you can about the person (ore people) you’re meeting so you feel confident and they feel important. It will also help you prepare questions, discussion points, and desired outcomes.
Confirm your meeting the day before with a quick email. Firm up the date, time, location, and your excitement for meeting and learning more. This step has saved me many a wasted trip!
Be early. Accidents happen. Traffic happens. Life happens. Some locations are simply hard to find. Get to where you need to fifteen minutes early (at least!) so you can get your bright green coffee drink and relax while catching up on email or final preparation for the meeting.
PUNCH up your meeting! (What kind of acronym would you expect from a boxer?)
PUNCH is a format to help you discuss Purpose, Understanding, Networking, Call to action, and How to move forward.
Use this PUNCH-line as an outline for your meeting to keep it on track and establish next steps.
What is the purpose of the meeting? This is where you can discuss an overview of the meeting, agenda, and possible outcomes. You can also establish the duration of the meeting if it hasn’t been stated initially. It’s important to have the same or a similar purpose in mind from the beginning as it sets a positive tone while providing structure and direction.
Develop an understanding of what you each do both personally and professionally (the fun stuff too!) so you can become more familiar with each other’s background, experience, hobbies, activities, achievements, goals, and potential requests. This might be the most important part of your meeting as it could help you determine if there is a “good fit” and potential for a great relationship.
Where do they network? How do they network? Who are they looking to meet? How can you help? Find out what their networking approach is and the types of connections they make and are looking to make. Just this topic alone can open up the discussion about introductions and involvement in professional associations, groups, and various networking platforms.
Call to Action
Specifically, what do you want? What do they want? Now that you’ve had the Networking conversation (above), discuss what types of connections that are of greatest interest. (Again, make sure this is a two-way street – remember, all of this should be an exchange.) The more specific you are about the type of probable prospects and referral sources you want, the better the results. Just be careful what you ask for and be mindful of how the meeting feels to you. Keep in mind, it takes time to develop a great relationship so take the time. There’s always another meeting.
How to Move Forward
What are your next steps? What promises and declarations have you made and when will you commit to following through on your promises? Will there be a next meeting? If so, when? How will you stay in touch and continue to develop the relationship? Do you want to establish regular calls or meetings – every month, quarter, whatever? One of the reasons “coffee” meetings don’t flourish is because nobody takes responsibility to stay in touch. What will the “staying in touch” strategy look like for you? What is most appropriate and feels right?
What are your networking questions? Comments? Write me or post! Happy to discuss over a frap!read more