Coffee meetings are popular among entrepreneurs and professionals, who use them as an informal way to network with other people and discuss specific ideas. They require little investment of time and money, and they even work for people who don’t have a traditional office. Despite their informality and relative newness, though, coffee meetings are meetings, and every successful meeting has a few key components. Here are four tried-and-true techniques for hosting a worthwhile meeting, along with how to adapt them for a coffee meeting.
Deciding Who Pays
Meetings often include refreshments, whether they’re supplied by the person hosting the meeting or people bring in their own drinks and snacks. Coffee meetings, more than any other type of meeting, should include a beverage. After all, the coffee shop is providing space for your meeting; you should support them by purchasing something.
Determining who ought to pay for the drinks, is sometimes less clear than whether you should get a drink. A few guidelines that will help you decide who, if anyone, should treat:
- if you requested the meeting, offer to treat everyone
- if you were invited by someone else but you’re peers, pay for your own beverage
- if you were invited and the meeting is a sales pitch, feel free to take the other person up on their offer to pay
Have a Purpose
A coffee meeting is not the same as grabbing a cup of coffee with your friend. Meetings have purposes other than to simply chat. Before the meeting, you should clearly define its purpose. If you don’t, it’ll be impossible to assess whether it was productive.
If you’re requesting the meeting, it’s very easy to make its purpose clear. Simply tell the person: “Would you be up for getting a coffee? I’d like to discuss [a specific topic].” If someone asks for the coffee meeting, the easiest way to clarify a purpose is by replying with something like, “I’d love to meet with you. I’ve wanted to discuss [a specific topic].”
Keep It Short
With a well-defined purpose, you should be able to keep the coffee meeting short. To respect the other people’s time, limit coffee meetings to an hour, at most. Most meetings can be completed in half that time.
Once the designated time is up, remind the person that you agreed to a set amount of time and let them go if they need to. If you’re in the middle of a great conversation, they might elect to stay. They may, however, have other obligations that need to be respected.
Give the Coffee Meeting Structure
All good meetings, whether they’re brainstorming sessions or training seminars, have a basic structure, and coffee meetings should have the same structure. After pleasantries or an introduction, there is:
- a beginning, where the agenda of the meeting is detailed
- a middle, where the purpose of the meeting is pursued
- an end, where insightful takeaways are noted, and actionable items delegated
Following this structure in your coffee meetings will help you stay on track and on time. All you need to do is:
- open the meeting with “so, I/you wanted to discuss [the specific topic from above]”
- move the meeting along by asking questions that are directly related to the purpose
- close the meeting with “I appreciated [insight], and I’ll make sure to [actionable item]”
Coffee meetings are just like any other meeting, except they typically involve only a few people and are held in a cafe. As long as you follow some basic rules of meetings, such as allowing refreshments, defining a purpose, keeping the time short and following a structure, you should have a productive coffee meeting.