The popularity of social media can make it seem like you never need to meet anyone in person ever again. But when it comes to networking, face-to-face is still the best way to get to know someone.
One of the most effective ways to network in person? A coffee date. Easier than a lunch meeting and less pressure than a full-fledged event, networking coffee dates are low pressure and potentially high ROI. You’ll really have a chance to talk and exchange ideas when you sit down over coffee. Let’s look into the specifics of a successful networking sit-down.
1. Prepare intellectually
Preparation for an important networking meeting should happen on a few different levels. Start to get ready on an intellectual level by taking some notes. Spend time thinking about your goals and objectives for this meeting in advance. Write down a few notes on what you’d like to cover while you’re together. Do this well ahead of time so that you can add things that occur to you as the date grows closer.
Then, be sure to bring your notes with you to the meeting and review them right before you go in. This way, you’ll know your goals before the meeting begins.
2. Prepare practically
You’ll also want to be well-prepared for your meeting on a practical level. This includes things like knowing what you’re going to wear in advance so that you’re not bustling around at the last minute, which could make you feel frazzled. It also means gathering copies of your resume, business cards, or anything else that you might need, ahead of time.
In addition, be sure that you know where you’re meeting. Drive by the restaurant or coffee shop if you’ve never been there before so that you don’t get lost the day of your meeting. Finally, be sure to get plenty of sleep the night before. That will also help you to be at your best.
These kinds of practical preparations might seem small, but neglecting details like these could have a pretty big effect on your mood and on the meeting itself.
3. Get comfortable in the first five minutes
The first five minutes of your networking coffee date are incredibly important. Researchers have found that while people decide what they think of others quickly, first impressions are surprisingly long-lasting. So, be sure to get your meeting started on the right foot. Don’t forget to smile and show enthusiasm about the meeting. It’ll help the other person to relax, too. At first, focus on making yourself and the person you’re meeting with feel comfortable. Keep the conversation light. Talk about sports or something else you’re both interested in that doesn’t relate directly to business. This will allow you to dive into deeper subjects a little later when you’re feeling more relaxed and confident.
4. Listen as much as you talk
While it’s important to prepare for these meetings, you don’t want to be too married to your own prepared agenda. You have to leave room for the unexpected, and for the other person’s input. Be sure to ask questions, not just make statements. Be flexible and willing to go with the flow of the conversation, even when it takes unexpected turns. Also, be ready to listen. Demonstrating that you’re a good listener could really help to strengthen your connection. Make a point to listen as much, or more, than you talk.
5. Circle back online
Networking in person has its benefits, but we’re fortunate to be living during a time when we can maintain — even strengthen — relationships online. So, be sure to take advantage of this and follow up with your coffee date online after your get-together. Touch base about any future plans or next steps you may have discussed within a couple of days, and express your appreciation for the time you spent together.
These days, spending time with someone face-to-face is practically a bold act. It shows that you’re interested in getting to know the other person better … and vice versa. Be sure to take full advantage of the opportunity to network this way when you can.
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