Tips for Planning a Coffee Meeting (With Benefits)
Updated November 11, 2022
If you're meeting a colleague to build a professional relationship or learn something new, consider meeting them over coffee. Meeting over coffee is an effective way to network in a relaxed atmosphere. In addition, understanding how to plan a coffee meeting can give you a new tool for effective networking or research. In this article, we discuss the benefits of asking people to meet for coffee and identify some tips to make it a pleasant experience for both parties.
Benefits of a coffee meeting
Here are some of the benefits of proposing a coffee meeting when meeting other professionals:
The other party is likely to be conscious of the formal setting when you choose to have an office meeting, whether in-person or virtually. As a result, they're more likely to use formal language and be conscious of what they say. In contrast, people are likely to forget it's a work meeting if it's at a coffee shop down the road. Due to its informal nature, meeting for coffee is a perfect way to get another person to relax. This can be helpful if you want to make a difficult request or ask for sensitive information.
Easy to set up
If you're looking to meet someone for coffee in a work setting, they're likely accomplished in their field. This means they can be difficult to contact and schedule a meeting with, like many other professionals. Asking to meet for coffee is a great way to bypass this barrier. Coffee breaks are part of most people's routines, so they will likely find this arrangement more agreeable. This way, they can ask you to meet them at their favourite coffee store during their break. As coffee stores are common, it can be easy to find a good location.
Coffee is a daily beverage for many people and can be inexpensive for most professionals. This means you can afford to pay for yourself and your guest. Paying for your guest can be a great way to be courteous and friendly. In addition, you don't worry about your guest shying away from the invite due to financial constraints. They can always select their preferred coffee shop, making the meeting more pleasant for both sides.
Change of location
The office can be a challenging environment for some people to meet. If you choose to meet someone at their office, there's a risk of meeting them as they are busy with work. This can make them less relaxed or dismissive, hindering your purpose of asking to meet. In contrast, meeting for a cup of coffee allows them to change location. In addition, they can get away for a while if they have any issues at the office. As a result, they're likely to be in a more relaxed and pleasant mood.
Drinking coffee can be an enjoyable experience on its own, making it an effective networking strategy. First, people are more likely to accept your invitation because it's coffee, and they're engaging in an activity that can be helpful for their mood. Even if they arrive in a bad mood, drinking coffee can help them relax.
Tips for meeting people for coffee
Here are some tips you can follow when meeting a person for coffee:
Most professionals are busy people who are usually managing multiple deadlines. To improve your chances of getting a favourable response, it helps to ask early. This allows them to schedule and plan for the meeting. Asking early can also help you, as your guest can give you their full attention. The appropriate time to ask can depend on the urgency of the meeting and several other factors. Generally, three days to one week is enough notice for most professionals.
Send a clear invitation
Sending a clear invitation is essential to let your guest know what to expect. It can also improve your chances of the person saying yes to your invitation. Rather than using vague phrases, tell the person exactly why you want to meet them. If you can't discuss it over the phone or email, then you can give them a hint about what it entails. Also, remember to introduce yourself and propose a time and location for the meeting. This can communicate professionalism on your part.
Example: Hello Jane. I'm David Grant, a senior marketing associate at GRT Marketing Agency. I came across your article, and your insights and expertise amazed me. We want to improve our marketing approach at GRT, and I was hoping to speak to you and get your advice. Let's have coffee at Gina's Coffee store if you're available anytime between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. this week.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Research the person
If you plan to meet over coffee, ensure it's a brief meeting, usually not exceeding 30 minutes. Due to the limited time, you must use it to the maximum. Researching your guest beforehand can help you find out basic information about them. Proper research can reveal information like their specialization, years of experience, and current employer. With this information, you can focus on other details you can only get from them, leading to a more productive meeting. It can also help you appear more professional and meticulous.
Related: How To Find a Mentor Step by Step
Punctuality is one of the major signs of professionalism and courteousness in an individual. When inviting someone to meet for coffee, it's better that you arrive at the venue before your guest. They will likely be coming from work, so you can aim to arrive 10 minutes before your agreed time. Even if your guest is exceptionally early and arrives before you, they're unlikely to be upset if you show up at the arranged time.
Ask to pay
After inviting your guest out, you can take up the minor inconvenience of paying for the coffee. It can portray you as courteous and caring. For example, if you're a student asking a professional to meet for coffee, they're unlikely to let you pay, but you can offer. Also, your guest may offer to pay first. Decline and ask to pay. Then, if they insist, you can let them pay.
Prepare your questions
Preparing your questions ahead can ensure you can make the best use of your time. First, you save time as you don't think about your questions during the meeting. Additionally, preparing your questions can help you develop more insightful and engaging questions for your guest. To prepare a list, you can think about the purpose of the meeting. Next, write down a list of questions and prioritize them based on their relevance to your goal.
Add some small talk
Meeting over coffee is an everyday activity with different rules of engagement. Unlike a work meeting where you can go straight to the point, meeting over coffee requires some small talk. For example, you can ask how their day at the office was or reference industry chatter that's common to both of you. A great tip is adding a bit of humour to the conversation to create a friendly atmosphere. Keep the small talk between two and five minutes to conserve your time for the main discussion. Remember, don't use this time to engage in gossip.
Get to the point
You likely have little time with your guest if you're meeting over coffee. So after the small talk, it's best to get straight to the point. Ensure you ask all your most important questions first. Also, avoid distractions like taking phone calls that reduce your time with your guest.
Taking notes can be an effective way to show that you're listening to your guest. It also communicates that you value their insights, which can be great for networking. Similarly, taking notes means you can always go back to that information. This is useful if you're meeting the person for research or they're sharing information you can need subsequently.
Following up can be a great way to show respect for your guest. You can follow up by sending them updates about your discussion. If it's a project you need their insight on, you can inform them about any significant progress. Similarly, you can send them a copy of your work if you meet them for research purposes. This can be an effective way of showing gratitude for their contribution. Ensure you confirm that it's okay to send updates from them.
Keep to time
Ending the meeting on time is just as important as arriving early. When your agreed time is almost exhausted, you can ask your guest if they're ready to leave or if they'd like to continue. Even if the conversation is interesting, you can politely stop them and ask. This demonstrates professionalism.
Send an appreciation message
After the meeting, send a message to your guest appreciating them for their time. Depending on your relationship, you can do this over a phone call or email. You can also use this opportunity to ask if they're open to receiving updates from you.
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