I often receive invitations from fellow media professionals asking to meet for coffee or drinks. This is a common networking tactic in many industries: Snag 30 minutes of face time with a professional in a similar line of work, and you’re guaranteed to come out of it with at least a few ideas about how to work together.
While I can’t always spare the time, I do try to set up at least one “networking coffee” a month. They’re a more efficient, personable method of discussing possible ways to collaborate than a lengthy email thread or a rushed phone call. It also gets the person a solid “in” with me: I’m far more likely to remember someone with whom I’ve had a face-to-face conversation over someone whose name is buried in my never-ending inbox.
When you’ve only got 30 minutes or less of someone’s already-limited time, you want to make the most of that half hour. Here are a few tips to ensure a successful and productive one-on-one meeting with a professional contact.
Know who you’re looking for — and make sure they can find you.
When you’re meeting someone for the first time, you might waste five or 10 minutes looking around for each other, only to discover they’ve been standing near you the whole time. Hopefully you and your contact will have looked each other up on social media to get a picture for reference, but to expedite the process, you should let them know how to find you before they arrive at the meeting location — for example, “I’m at a table near the back window,” or, “I’m wearing a blue shirt.”
Ease into “business” talk.
Making plans to meet with a professional contact isn’t the same as introducing yourself at a networking event. You don’t need to cram a sales pitch about your agency or clients into a few brief minutes. There’s a little more time for pleasantries and small talk, and you should take advantage of that to build up a rapport with the person. Ask how their day is going, where they live, or what they like about their work before diving into business. Taking a genuine interest in the person as a human being, rather than a means to a business partnership, sets the foundation for a great professional relationship.
Pay attention to information about the person’s job.
You likely already know this person’s job title, but ask them about their work anyway — and then really listen when they answer. You might learn something you didn’t know about working with people at that company. Armed with this knowledge, you can make informed, calculated decisions that help both of you.
Common networking wisdom dictates that following up with the people you’ve met will keep you fresh in their minds and remind them to keep the wheels moving on any opportunities you discussed. Make sure you send the person a quick note thanking them for their time and recapping the conversation you had. It will pay off when the person responds with a potential opportunity to work together.
A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack.
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