Getting There...

Here are three tips to help you attend your coffee chat smoothly. 

  • Unless your workplace culture values formal clothing, you can’t go wrong with wearing business casual. 
  • Aim to get to the suggest time and place 10-15 minutes before the person you’ve been matched with. That will give you a chance to get settled in and save a spot for both of you to sit. Your partner will be thankful!
  • Decide if you want to pay for their coffee. If so, wait until they show up. If not, go ahead and order your coffee and then wait for them.

Once You Get There...

The truth is that informal coffee meetings can sometimes prove the most consequential of your career. But it’s easy to be deceived by the casualness of an invitation to grab a coffee and imagine these opportunities are less important than they can be. They aren’t actually job interviews or pitch meetings, but they’re more intentional than chance conversations at networking events.

Here are four tips on how to successfully navigate your upcoming coffee chat. 

1. Know Your Desired Outcome, But Start With Small Talk

It’s important to have a goal in mind before going into a meeting. But a coffee chat is more informal and it’s normal (or even expected) to bond with the person in front of you a little before “getting down to business.”

So start with some small talk for 10-15 minutes, before asking for what you want. 

2. Connect by Asking Rapport Building Questions

Human beings prefer working with people we like. So focus on forming a personal connection with the person in front of you. 

Build with them rapport by relating to their situation. We trust people that understand us. One way you can convey this is through bringing up topics about things you have in common with them outside of work. Here are some great questions to ask them. 

You’re goal is here to find something you like about them, and then telling them about it.

3. Give Them A Genuine Compliment

Two rules of thumb for giving awesome compliments:

It’s better to cautious with compliments. Undershooting your compliments will give the other person a chance to accept your compliment and talk about how awesome they are. 

Avoid generic compliments (“That’s good/great/awesome!”). You’ll know it’s a generic compliment if you can give it to anyone. Try to come up with a compliment specific to them. Here are two examples:

  • "I’m so glad we connected because [actual reason about them that makes you glad].
  • “You’re so awesome at asking insightful questions about XYZ.”

4. Know When To Leave

To wrap up a conversation gracefully and leave on a high note, try this:

  1. Book a second meeting right after your coffee meeting so you genuinely have to leave, eliminating the risk or temptation to stay longer than planned.
  2. Practice your exit lines, so you can leave confidently.

Inspired by Reva Seth.

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