Coffee with a Stranger: What’s so weird about that? Nothing!


What do you love most about what you do for a living?  What I love most are the fascinating, fun, brilliant people I have the pleasure of meeting each day.  Intentionally, of course.  (And if you don’t know what I mean by that, get yourself a copy of my book The Intentional Networker . This blog will be here waiting for you. It’s not going anywhere. Promise.)

So this week I want to introduce you to one of my newest, coolest friends, Melissa Lombard.

My new friend Melissa Lombard

My new friend Melissa Lombard

She’s relatively new to Austin (where I live) and started a project that’s not only very creative and cool, but also very intentional. Here’s what Melissa does in her “spare time”:  she meets, interviews (over a caffeinated beverage, of course), and blogs about one perfect stranger each week. Probably takes a couple of hours per week out of her busy schedule, but she’s extremely dedicated and consistent.

Here’s her reward:  within five short years Melissa will have met 262 new people.  All it takes is asking a stranger to coffee.

Okay. Okay. I know that sounds absolutely terrifying to many of you. Or it sounds like a trite, wornout networking ploy. But, here’s what I like about how Melissa is doing it. She’s mapped it out and planned it. And best of all and most endearing, it’s not about a sales or marketing pitch whatsoever.  (You know what I’m talking about. The “Heeeeeeyyyyyy, let’s have coffee” pitch you get from so-called networkers who you’re pretty sure are ready to tap into your world and suck the life out of it. That’s not Melissa.)

But talking to strangers?  Isn’t that what Mom told you never, ever to do??? Isn’t it weird and scary?

Yes, Melissa, says. It can feel awkward to approach a stranger and ask them to be a part of her project, but most people agree to it. They are generally intrigued and flattered, as I was.  And of course now that’s she’s penetrated certain circles in this town (you know who you are), she’s hit the CML (Connections Mother Lode) and will have no shortage of candidates to interview.

But, knowing what I now know about Melissa, I bet she’ll still keep it real and approach random strangers at the grocery store, on the walking trail, in the aisles of the book store, or wherever she goes. That’s just how she rolls. And being a gorgeous blonde with a lovely demeanor and friendly smile, who’s going to say no?

That’s the whole idea of getting out there and meeting people.  Being a little daring, a little gutzy.  Going where you love to be. Starting conversations. Asking thoughtful questions. Listening, listening, listening. Expanding your world, reach and influence. One. Person. At a time. Relishing the process. Then enjoying the exponential rewards.

Lucky me. I’m Cup #39 featured today on Melissa’s blog. Take a look. And don’t just read what she says about me. (Yawn.) Peruse her site and check out who Melissa is and who she has met. So funny. I know several of these people and can’t wait to read their profiles so I get to know them better, too.

Thanks, Melissa and congratulations on a wonderful project!

5 Responses to Coffee with a Stranger: What’s so weird about that? Nothing!
  1. Lisa Yager
    April 25, 2013 | 1:18 pm

    She must be a North Dakota girl!

    • pattid
      April 25, 2013 | 2:40 pm

      Actually, Lisa, Minnesota girl – just like me. But I got to Texas as soon as I could!

      • Melissa Lombard
        April 27, 2013 | 9:22 am

        Actually, both! Born in Fosston, MN and then moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota when I was in first grade where I stayed until I graduated from college and moved to The Lone Star State. All three states have equal space in my heart and all feel like “home”.

  2. Amy Praskac
    April 29, 2013 | 4:22 pm

    Melissa has herself an intriguing project. On the subject of having coffee with a stranger, I just watched a video of Ramit Sethi interviewing Ben Casnocha where they touched on the topic of coffee conversations. Some gleanings include: take the opportunity to ask follow-up questions to go deeper instead of merely responding with your own views and volunteer personal information to get personal information. We’re reluctant to bring up the personal in a business context, but Casnocha assures us that there’s more latitude here than we think.
    Watch the one-hour interview at The topic of coffee conversations comes up about 15-20 minutes into the interview.

    • pattid
      April 29, 2013 | 5:09 pm

      This is great, Amy. A great question to ask yourself before heading into a coffee meeting – whether with someone you’re just getting to know, or someone you’ve just met — is, “What can I offer this person and what do I hope to experience?” I have found that the typical motive of “I want to learn more about your business” is just plain boring. And definitely, no sales pitches or obnoxious brain-picking!

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