How to do a networking coffee (the right way)

In my previous blog, “Networking Coffees: Blessing or Curse?”, I made no bones about it. Being invited to coffee in a business networking capacity can be valuable, tortuous, or anything in between. It all depends on how busy you are, who’s doing the inviting, their reasons for asking, and their behavior or style during said coffee appointment. So I found it interesting that the next day I had a coffee date on my calendar.

Fortunately, it was with one of my favorite colleagues, Steve Harper, author of The Ripple Effect and founder of The 8 Minute Ripple, a networking technique that brings a more human (and less elevator pitch-y) style to the connecting and relationship-building process. I  knew we were going to have a great exchange, which was why I decided to say yes to his invitation in the first place.

I wasn’t disappointed.

In fact, as I reflect back on our time together  (just 45 minutes), several reasons come to mind as to why it was an energizing, enjoyable, and productive meeting:

1.  We selected a time of day that was mutually convenient. One o’clock in the afternoon on a Wednesday, to be exact. Just after lunch when many of us actually NEED a cup of coffee. My productive morning time was left unscathed.  Hallelujah!

2. The location was just right.  Ever notice how some coffee shops are just so noisy and crowded? With tables shoved right up next to each other or coffee grinders buzzing like chain saws in the background. No privacy or peace there.  Other shops are on the ratty side with a menagerie of questionable patrons. (I remember being at a very Boho coffee shop in downtown Austin several years ago, at which time one gentleman strung out on some unknown substance insisted my colleague and I view his knife collection. What were we going to say? No?  I think not!)  I try to avoid those now and appreciate a nice, pleasant coffee shop.

3. We spent time mindfully talking business, but also sharing updates on ourselves and our families. I’ve known Steve for many years, but every time I see him I learn something  new and interesting about him. Things that are endearing and great to know. I like that about the networking, relationship-building process.

4. We both spent time talking as well as listening.  If I’d sat there yammering on about me the entire time, poor Steve would have walked (or run) away. Probably forever.  And vice versa.

5. We were generous with each other, brainstorming on how we could help each other.  Some might see Steve and I as competitors, but we’re actually in co-opetition with each other. Who is better qualified to understand me, what my work is about,  and what I’m seeking than someone who is an expert in the same field? And since we are clear on how we are the same as well as different, it works quite well for us.   It’s like we’re on the same team, but playing different positions.

6. We stated and honored our schedule and time limits.  Steve announced up front that he had to leave at a certain time, which was fine with me as I had a number of projects on my desk and calls to make. We both kept tabs on the time and promptly wrapped up our conversation as promised.  Some may call that being OCD, I call it staying in integrity.

7. We will stay true to our promises.  Tim Sanders, author of several books, including Love is the Killer App and Today We are Rich, has a saying he learned from his grandmother: “Promises made, promises kept.”  What I told Steve I’ll do for him, I will actually do for him. And vice versa. None of this empty promises business. Again, it’s about integrity.

8. We both left the meeting energized and eager to get together again.   Isn’t that what a relationship is all about?  The continuation? The possibilities?

As you go about your next few weeks and initiate and attend your next coffee meetings, make note of what (and who) leaves you smiling and what (and who) leaves you squirming in your seat ready to bolt for the nearest exit. And by all means, share any tidbits you’d like to contribute to this discussion.  It’s all about helping you become a more productive, purposeful, Intentional Networker.

 

3 Responses to How to do a networking coffee (the right way)
  1. Tenesha Weine
    September 21, 2011 | 6:14 pm

    Would have liked to be a fly on the wall at that lunch with 2 brilliant networking minds at play!!!

  2. Julie Wickert
    September 22, 2011 | 8:50 am

    And I’d love to know your quiet, pleasant coffee place. But if you tell, it might spoil the quiet!

  3. Christine Cox
    September 22, 2011 | 10:12 am

    I love this post, Patti – Informative AND honest and personal. Thanks for taking the time to share.

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