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Anatomy of the perfect coffee meet-up

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Last week I had, in my estimation, the perfect coffee meet-up with a new friend: Abby Reimer.

In a typical year (this hasn’t been one), I usually have 80-100 coffee meet-ups, so I see my fair share of approaches. Abby nailed almost every facet of the coffee meet-up. And since many of us are just getting back into the swing of meeting other humans for coffee in person again, I thought this would be a good time to share some useful tips–and talk about what Abby did so well.

#1: THE ASK

I think a lot of people struggle with the ask. But, to be honest, the ask is the easiest part of the coffee meet up. In Abby’s case, she used an approach I have used many times: The after-the-speaking-engagement coffee ask. We both spoke at the Digital Summit here in Minneapolis a couple weeks ago. She came to my session and after it was over, she was first in line (yes, somehow there was a line), to chat with me. She quickly introduced herself, said she loved the prezo (thank you!), and then asked if I’d be interested in coffee. This is super smart for a few key reasons: 1) Speakers are usually insecure after their talks and wondering how things went; when people like Abby come up after and tell us how awesome it was, well, that just feels damn good; and 2) She was fast; the entire conversation was probably less than a minute; in and out and she got the coffee ask in there and I quickly said “Of course!”.

Then, just a couple days later, she followed up with an email to set up the coffee. The strategy was, once again, very smart. Make it as easy for the person you’re asking to coffee as possible. In this case, she said she’d come to me (perfect–there’s a Starbucks right by my house where we met) and she was flexible on day/time. The ask is all about making it almost impossible for the person to say “no.” Come to them. Find a time that works for them. And, massage that ego a bit when you’re making the ask. In this case, it was the “after the prezo” strategy. But, if you’re cold-asking someone, talk about how you’d love to hear more about their current job. Or, maybe you want to learn more about a big project they worked on. People love to talk about themselves! Just give them the opportunity to do that.

#2: THE PREP

Here’s where Abby really nailed it–and where so many people (me included for the last few years!) really fall down. In her note to confirm the coffee, Abby sent me a list of questions she’d like to discuss during the coffee. BRILLIANT! Why? Because this instantly sets the agenda. And, it gives me time to think about how I might answer these questions. And, it gives her a tool to refer back to when we’re actually having the coffee. If we get off-topic a bit, she knows she could always come back to those questions she put in the email. So smart. And, I’m totally stealing that idea!

Also: Do your research. Should go without saying in 2021 given all the tools we now have available to us, but don’t forget this key part. So many people don’t do this. Stalk the person on LinkedIn. Find out what they’ve been talking about recently there. Look them up on Insta–usually that will give you more insight into their passions and personal interests–things you want to talk about during coffee! In this case, Abby had done her research and knew that I was an adjunct professor. Turns out, she wants to pursue this, too, so we talked at length about the process and what it’s like. That would have never happened if she didn’t look me up and see that I was doing that!

#3: THE COFFEE

This is probably the toughest part of the whole deal only because there’s really no playbook for what makes a great coffee. Sometimes it’s just chemistry. But, I believe the key lies in executing #2 above well (Abby did) and then just making sure it’s more of a conversation vs. a Q&A. Sure, you want to make sure you’re listening and asking a lot of question if you are the one asking someone else to coffee. But, you ultimately want it to be a back-and-forth. After all, the other person can (and should) learn as much about you as you do about them! In my coffee with Abby, this is exactly what it felt like. And, you know you’ve made a real connection when it almost feels like you’re talking a good friend you haven’t seen in a couple years. Well, at least that’s what it feels like to me. And, that’s what it felt like in talking with Abby for an hour last week.

#4: THE FOLLOW-UP

Nothing too complicated about the follow-up, other than it needs to happen. And it needs to happen rather promptly (within 24 hours is my rule). In this case, I beat Abby to it, but it was only because I was excited to share some information with her (she’s speaking at my class at the U of M this fall!). I’m 100% sure she would have sent a note to me within 24 hours or so. The follow-up doesn’t need to say much more than how great it was to meet, thanking the person for their time and hoping you might see them again soon. Of course, provide any information and/or links you talked about or promised during the coffee. But really, the follow-up is the easiest part–you just have to make sure you do it. And promptly.

So, there you have it–the anatomy of the perfect coffee meet-up, as laid out by one Abby Reimer.

Kudos, Abby. I’m looking forward to having you in class this fall–and to keeping in touch with you in the future!

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