Some quick thoughts on what I’ve learned, and how I prefer to conduct coffee meetings. Here follow my guidelines for whoever wants to set up a java-jam:
Why Meet At All?
When reaching out to ask for a coffee meeting, be immensely specific with you want to meet, and what you hope to get out if it. If the reason is only as good as “let’s connect!” don’t be sour if they pass / forget about it. That kind of “just saying hi” serendipity is best for parties/networking events you both happen to be at, not worthy of asking someone to carve out a new slot in their schedule
Seriously, Get Specific
The more specific you are, the more value you’ll get from your potential coffee-partner. If you communicate a clear possible path for the conversation, coffee partners who can’t provide value will self-select out, but even then if your ask is clear, it will make it so much easier for them to forward you to the right person. And if they do take the meeting, they are far more likely to show up prepared & ready to help.
Be a Good Conversationalist
Two things can tank a meeting: boring conversation, and bad coffee. Starbucks works hard on their end, make sure you cover yours.
Ask How You Can Help Them
It’s simple: if someone is taking time out of their schedule to help you, it’s nice to offer your help in return, even if you may not be able to deliver. It’s nice to ask and understand what other folks are working on.
That is it! I think young networkers will be surprised by how open people are for quick, focused coffee meetings, especially if they feel they can help you. Constructively take advantage of good will, and don’t forget to pay it forward.