Having been in the business of PR for a decade now, I often get a lot of young hopeful publicists who reach out in hopes of having a coffee meeting. As I was in their position once, I know all too well what it’s like to reach out to someone in the industry. It can be quite intimidating and all you can think about is, “What do I do if they actually say yes?”
More often than not, I have had some great coffee meetings with people who are looking to grow their career and are just looking for any advice I can offer to help get them started. Unfortunately, sometimes I come face-to-face with what I like to call “tire-kickers.” You know the type. They come unprepared, they don’t have a particular agenda and they look to you to lead the meeting. I’ve come across too many of these which inspired this no-fail step-by-step guide on how to have the perfect coffee meeting.
Perfect your e-mail invite
The first step is to perfect your email invite. I often get ask, well how do I even reach out to someone and ask them for a coffee meeting. Understandably, it can be nerve wrecking.
get your pitch across quickly in the first few sentences
The number one thing to keep in mind is to get your pitch across quickly in the first few sentences. Why do you want to meet them for coffee? What is the purpose of the meeting? What are you hoping to get out of it? Remember, when you ask someone to meet, you need to have the utmost respect for their time. These are busy people so you need to be clear as to why you want to meet, and what you want to speak to them about.
Plan an Agenda
So they said yes to a meeting, now what? I would say this is probably the most important step. Too many times, I show up to a meeting and the other person is not prepared, which can be quite frustrating.
Before heading to a meeting, make sure you plan an agenda.
Before heading to a meeting, make sure you plan an agenda. It doesn’t need to be a full meticulous schedule, but it should outline the body of the meeting. Have a plan for the beginning, middle and end. The purpose of creating an agenda is to ensure you stay on topic and that your thoughts aren’t all over the place. An agenda creates a purpose for the meeting. If your goal is to learn about the industry of that person you are meeting with then plan an agenda that addresses that. Perhaps the beginning is about asking them on how they got started, the middle is asking them about the state of the current industry and how to navigate through it and finally the ending can be about how someone like yourself can enter the industry and their parting advice on how to do that.
Research, Research, Research
treat a meeting like this like it’s an actual job interview
The one thing I always tell people is to treat a meeting like this like it’s an actual job interview. You are there to make a lasting impression so being prepared ahead of time is crucial. This means doing your research on them. Nothing is more embarrassing than sitting in a meeting where you know nothing about the other person. Take your time and go through their company website, their LinkedIn profile, and learn all about some of their accolades and proudest accomplishments. This information not only makes for a great conversation starter but will really show the other person that you took the time to get to know who they are and what they do.
Write out your Questions
I cannot emphasize enough how important this step is. There have been meetings I have attended where the other person is just sitting there, staring at me and waiting for me to speak to them and lead the meeting. If you show up to a meeting with no prepared questions, you are completely wasting their time.
you need to take the initiative and lead the conversation
Remember YOU called this meeting so you need to take the initiative and lead the conversation. Think about what you want to ask them and write it all out. More importantly, do your research on this person so that the questions are centred around what they do, their experiences and what you hope to learn from them. This doesn’t mean asking questions like “How do I get a job at your company?” (believe me this happens a lot) or “Can you help me find a job?” They are not there to show you the magical recipe on how to succeed. Instead, use this time to learn more about them and their journey.
use this time to learn more about them and their journey.
Ask questions like “What inspired you to start your company?” “What are the challenges you face on a daily basis?” or “What could someone like myself do in order to succeed in the industry?” Having prepared questions beforehand will allow for a much better flowed meeting and will open up the conversations to get things started.
Keep on Schedule and be weary of the Clock
Always be mindful of how precious people’s times are. The fact that they took time out of their busy lives to meet with you is something you need to take very seriously. An hour is a standard meeting time so stick with that.
Make sure you take the initiative and check the time to ensure that you are right on schedule.
Make sure you take the initiative and check the time to ensure that you are right on schedule. I was so impressed when someone who I met with gave me a heads up that we only had 10 minutes left and they’d like to take the time to wrap up the meeting and thank me for my insight. This again shows initiative and great professionalism that will leave a long-lasting impression.
Write a follow up Thank-you note
I can’t say enough how time is a precious commodity and a great gift that someone can give you. Be thankful for that and make this gratitude evident. You don’t need to send flowers, although those are great bonus points.
This gesture is a non-negotiable and absolutely needs to be done
It’s as simple as sending them a thank you note expressing your appreciation for taking the time out of their busy lives to meet with you. This gesture is a non-negotiable and absolutely needs to be done. Remember, they didn’t need to meet with you, they could have said no. So, take this time to thank them for the meeting and include any great lessons you learned. Let them know you’ll stay in touch and will keep them posted on your journey as you take the lessons, advice and tips that they kindly shared with you.