Making the most of coffee meetings is the key to networking success.
Every time you meet someone it is an opportunity, whether that is at an interview, a pitch, an event or a coffee meeting. So it makes sense to generate these meetings yourself, by identifying people online that may be able to help you, and reaching out to them and asking if they can meet for coffee. When reaching out don’t use the term “pick your brains”, it sounds like you want to take advantage of their skills for free, just be honest, and say you need their advice and are looking for an industry inside perspective.
RESEARCH: Make sure you research this person before you meet them, not stalk like Netflix You, but just know places where they worked, what they did there, where they went to college, do they have pets and hobbies. These details can really help you to personalise your connection during the coffee meetings on lots of different levels.
RESONATE: Using research mentioned above, for example, you can say “I couldn’t help but notice your dog pictures on Twitter, so cute, I’ve a dog too, what park do you go to with your dog” or “I saw on your LinkedIn that you went to X college, my friend went there and really loved it, it has a great reputation for X industry graduates” or “I saw your recent campaign for X client on your LinkedIn, looks great, very innovative, exactly the kind of thing I’m into”.
REAL: Be real, if ever there was time to be real this was it. It’s not an interview, so no pointless rhyming off of competency stories, that anyone can make up and learn off by heart. This is a perfect time to show how passionate you are about what you do, and passion is infectious. Have a couple of examples in mind of work that you’re really proud of to talk about, bring some visual aids or have pictures ready on your phone to show them. Let them see your eyes light up when you talk about it. That’s the real benefit that you can bring to them and their colleagues.
RECALL: Bring resumes, business cards, pitches with you, not for them to extensively read, but you need a prop, and with your contact details on it, so that when ‘the need’ arises, they think of you immediately and have your details.
REMINDERS: As well as follow up message to thank them for their time and advice, set reminders to message them every 4 or 6 months. You can say something like: “Hi X, thanks again for meeting back in X (date and location). I just wanted to check in with you to see if there are any opportunities coming up?” Just like any sales, these are leads, and leads need to be followed up. Also, marketing and personal brand awareness, make sure they are connected with you on social media, LinkedIn and Twitter particularly, and use your feed to remind them of you!
It’s important to keep in mind that coffee meetings are part of the long hustle, no-one is going to give you what you want from just one coffee meeting, but 2 weeks from now something might arise and they may need someone with your skills. Timing is everything...so hang in there…and best of luck! ☕ ?