Networking Etiquette 101
“We must catch up for coffee” is often the parting phrase at the end of networking events. I know this first hand, I’ve heard those exact words uttered thousands of times between thousands of people. How many of those flippant coffee invitations actually transpire into a latte or flat white?
I understand life gets busy, believe me I do, but I also believe we need to be a little more truthful when we suggest a coffee catch up. There is definitely a trend towards the empty promise in this department. Simply saying “I look forward to next time we meet” is a perfectly acceptable parting statement rather than offering an experience that you have no intention of delivering.
So no more empty promises! Stand by your invitation and connect with those who you do really want to share a Latte with. With that in mind here are some tips to help:
1. Why meet?
If it is you who suggests the meeting then state why you would like to catch up. If it is to discuss something specific then say so. If it is just to get to know someone or catch up on things then say that too.
2. Who books?
If it is you who suggests the caffeinated catch up then it should be you who arranges it so don’t offer unless you are prepared to follow through. You can always ask rather than invite by saying “We have a lot to talk about, should we catch up for coffee sometime?” Then you can gauge response and, if positive, say “great, I’ll organise it”. Easy!
3. Who pays?
You invite, you pay. That is usually how it should be for a simple coffee. I say usually because I am amazed at how many times it is not! And often without so much as a thank you! If you invite you get the bill – or at least offer and be prepared to insist past the first counter-offer. If you have been invited by someone and then decide to have a three course meal, then you cannot expect the other person to pay so you need to offer your share.
Learn to say thank you in a gracious manner if it is their turn to pay. Rather than start the “oh no, let me pay” banter – just say thanks and be truly grateful.
4. What next?
If you have been invited to coffee and wish to continue the business relationship then offer to arrange (and pay for) the next coffee. Then make sure that you do! Put a date in your diary sooner rather than later, even if that date is a month or two in advance. Believe me, it will be here before you know it!
5. How long?
One hour is the standard time for a meeting, coffee meeting or otherwise. Do try to stay within this out of respect for the other person’s schedule. If you need to discuss business then try to have your conversation finished 15 minutes prior to the end of the hour so that you have time for general chat afterwards.
I can remember a number of times coming away from a coffee meeting feeling a little flatter than my flat white because of poor etiquette, being purely sold to, or lack of understanding about why we were meeting in the first place. On the flip side, I have shared many a flat white with inspiring, polite, energising people where connections were made and business was done in the most wonderful way.