Did You Know That Business Networking Is Like Growing Grapes?

Networking. It’s not just a profound concept, but it’s a dynamic word. In its root form “network”, it’s first a noun: “My network has grown in size by 50% this year.” “Networking” demonstrates its verb usage: “I plan to spend Wednesday evening networking”. In either incarnation, “networking” defines a powerful business technique that, when taken proper advantage of, can advance your career exponentially. But often, professionals don’t take networking seriously; I have numerous colleagues who avoid it like the flu, seeing networking events as emotionless gatherings where you shake hands with other professionals, exchange business cards, and then skip the follow-up.

But if we reframe networking, and as a result become more engaged with managing our networks, it becomes clear that the endeavor is similar to the role of a vineyard manager. So, I invite you to pour yourself a glass of wine and settle in as I give you a better sense of what networking really is through entertaining wine analogies.

Commonalities Build Upon Each Other

Managing a vineyard amounts to much more than just watching grapes grow. A strategic vineyard manager first plants specific vine varieties, chosen not because she prefers to drink Pinot Noir instead of Cabernet, but because the varieties are a good fit with soil type, weather conditions and altitude of the estate (if you want to impress your wine-knowledgeable friends, these considerations collectively are called ‘terroir’). Equating this approach to business networking, we must weigh carefully where we choose to spend our time. If, for example, you’re a vegetarian, perhaps you should pass on attending a dinner networking event centered around enjoying local cured meats. Since you’re not going to enjoy the topic (or the food), you won’t be able to enter into pleasurable discussions and thus, you may not be able to connect with people deeply. Each relationship we build has the potential of being a robust grapevine or a diseased one. The outcome has more to do with the origins than you might realize.

Getting To Know All About You

The next step for a vineyard manager is to nurture those vines. Understanding how much water the plants need and whether the grapes will grow best with or without abundant direct sunlight are vital to coaxing the best quality of juice from the fruit. To draw a parallel, nurturing your network ultimately equates to providing value to these folks, and begins with understanding each and every relationship. I call it the ‘getting to know you’ part of networking, and it not only makes business fun to engage in, but it functions as a time to plant the seeds that will serve to enrich these relationships in the future.

Dropped Like A Bad Habit

The third key function of the vineyard manager is the pruning of the vines and the elimination or “dropping” of some inferior, poorly-ripened fruit. If the vines are left to grow untamed, the overall concentration of fruit in the grapes will be diluted. To liken this to networking, we can’t keep endlessly adding contacts to our networks without ‘dropping’ some dead weight. It’s important to have a clear understanding of which relationships we should be laser-focused on, and which should be less prioritized or severed completely.

Effort + Time = Rewards

Ahhhh! The time has finally arrived for the vineyard manager to complete the harvest. She’ll have to pick the grape clusters, sort the berries, crush them, ferment the juices and craft a wine that will one day reward the drinker. In business, this is what I call leveraging your network. It includes benefits like getting an introduction or winning some sweet business in return for all the care you’ve given to your contacts from day one. But here’s the thing: It takes about six years of growing newly-planted vines until the fruit they yield is physiologically and chemically sound enough to create wine from. That amounts to plenty of money and other resources before we even see bottle #1. The same goes for the organic process of networking. Returns on your time and energy investments are not seen until months or years down the line. The good news is, like with grapevines, as your relationships mature, the rewards become richer and more concentrated. So the next time you see the words “Old Vines” on a wine label, acquire the bottle and toast to all of those valuable network relationships you’re about to build, and the key allies who will emerge.

To learn more, and to take your networking skills to the next level, consider the private client services we offer at DRIVEN Professionals. We’ve been known to open doors for countless business people across various industries. You’ll be just in time to take advantage of our big new announcement: DRIVEN’s first-ever online course in workplace productivity!


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Big Business Blunders: The Importance of Follow-Up When You’re On The Sell-Side

Here’s something funny: My clients are always amazed that when I schedule a 9am phone call with them, their phone rings precisely at 9am. Why is this funny? Because it doesn’t happen to them more often. Isn’t the number one rule in client relationships to have respect for the client? Well, what greater sign of respect is there than valuing someone’s time? As someone with services to sell, my sell-side effort must have a punctuality factor built-in.

What’s not funny about all this is hearing the numerous stories of sell-side blunders, particularly in the department of follow-up. Often, while caught in the trance of ‘keeping up’ with our jobs, we forget that there’s another person involved in the business transaction at hand. The short-sightedness that permeates the business world should serve as a wake-up call for all professionals. Here are three doozies to put things into perspective, along with their proactive solutions. Names have been changed to protect the ‘offenders’, since the following scenarios actually happened.

Blunder #1: Rachel

Sara graciously introduced Rachel, a website designer, to Jane. Sara knew that Jane was going to be in the market for a web designer, since she just launched a new business. When Sara asked Rachel the following week about her interaction with Jane, Rachel had to admit that she hadn’t yet gotten around to responding to the introduction.

The Solution: Knowing that she had a hot lead, Rachel should have reached out right away. Since she didn’t, Sara should note this and think twice about reaching out to Rachel in the future. If a repeat were to occur, Sara could begin to gain a bad reputation among her professional peers.

Blunder #2: Louise

Louise, a marketing specialist, was introduced to Andrea, a realtor who is progressive and expressed an interest in learning more about Louise’s services. Louise reached out to Andrea by email and suggested that Andrea find a convenient date on Louise’s calendar service and book the appointment. Then Louise sent Andrea a confusing note explaining “oops”….the spot she had chosen was actually double-booked and she needed Andrea to go back and choose again.

The Solution: Louise needs to make it easier for potential clients to book appointments with her. For instance, she should have offered Andrea three specific dates that were available in Louise’s calendar in the introductory email. This would have made it easy for Andrea to choose. The email should also have invited Andrea to suggest alternative dates, if none offered were convenient for Andrea. Buyers shouldn’t have to ‘work’ to buy.

Blunder #3: Carol

The Acme Law Firm was looking for a career coach to work with some of their partner candidates. Maggie introduced Carol (a coach) to the firm. Six months later, when Maggie was having coffee with her contact at the firm, the contact mentioned Carol’s work with the firm, revealing that Carol never told Maggie that she had scored a job as a result of her introduction!

The Solution: If Carol had remembered that an appropriate follow-up for a successful introduction takes no more than a quick email note expressing gratitude, she could have saved her professional relationship with Maggie and possibly been introduced by Maggie to additional clients in the future. If your handwriting is legible, a handwritten note goes even further. In the instance of a “big score”, a small gift would be in order. Consider the good deed doer’s interests, and personalize the gift (a bottle of wine shipped to her office, for instance).


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To Dine By Design: The Importance of a Seating Chart to a Successful Business Meal

The seating charts that used to be part of our lives when we were growing up were actually teaching us more about social interaction than we may have realized at the time. A grown-up seating chart comes in real handy during our professional lives when applied strategically, particularly when planning a restaurant business meal. Sounds a bit precious? Not if you zoom out for better perspective. Creating a seating chart is an exercise in forethought that will set your meetings apart and maximize their effectiveness for you and your guests.

So many logistical and communicative factors combine and intersect to create flow and balance during the business meal conversation that, without a seating chart in mind, the host and all her guests will find themselves at a disadvantage. Want to take FULL advantage of the next meal you host? Consider in advance where each of your guests should sit based on very specific factors. Here are some scenarios to think about when proactively setting yourself up for a successful business meal.

Practicality Over Tradition

Etiquette may dictate that you give the guest of honor the “best seat”. But strategically, this is not always a great idea. Sidestep this tradition in your seating chart, and position yourself to be able to catch a server’s eye by sitting in the corresponding seat, regardless of its “greatness”.

The Trade-Out

Historically, the guest of honor is seated to the right of the host. If you are hosting more than three guests, you may choose to relinquish your seat if there is someone else at the meal who should meet and communicate with your up-and-coming colleague. It should be someone who will get the deal done or move the relationship forward, ultimately acting in your interest.

A Left-Handed Solution

Lefties have it tough. They often knock elbows with others at the table because their knife is held in their left hand. As the host, if you’re aware of who the south paws are in your party, they would much prefer to be positioned at either the head or foot of a table, or at a left corner. To truly have mercy on the lefties, avoid choosing a round table.

Gender Bender

Emily Post suggests you should alternate male and female guests around a business lunch table. As a business host, take the liberty to bend the rules here. Consider business compatibility over gender, and when creating your seating chart, place people together strategically according to who ought to be connecting with whom.

Don’t Forget Your Personal Space

For women, a one-on-one business dinner can become uncomfortable if you’re out with a client whom you find a bit imprudent. Since it’s not a romantic date, make sure to choose a table that’s NOT kitty-corner. You and your guest should be sitting across from each other….no chart necessary.


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With Power Comes Responsibility: Rules For Hosting A Business Meal With Momentum

It breaks my heart when I see great opportunities lost.

Hosting a business meal can present a powerful opportunity, provided the occasion is managed and designed to spotlight its own benefits. When their role is played expertly, a host conveys executive presence, exudes a sense of curiosity and compassion, and provides an entire lunch hour full of valuable business insights for their guests.

A host should realize that he or she has the “home field advantage”. But that alone doesn’t win the ballgame. Responsibility for orchestrating and setting into motion a well-rounded and polished restaurant meeting requires you to command a table of guests gracefully, without coming off as domineering. If you find yourself playing the host role, either frequently or only periodically, I have direction for you in three early phases of the meeting. Mastering these techniques will start you off in the right direction each time, earning you respect as well as motivating your guests.

A Meeting of The Minds

Always arrive early to the venue and, if practical, sit at the table before your guests arrive. This will allow a brief meeting of the minds with your server for decisions about how to pace the meal. If the server knows that you’ll need to be in-and-out within an hour, or that you and your guests would like 10 minutes to speak before menus are presented, it will prove valuable to that pacing. This also serves to curtail routine interruptions by the server, allowing you to convey your ‘opening message’ in a seamless manner.

The Dance Begins

The moment your guests arrive is the official start of the meal, despite the absence of food and beverage. If you’re introducing people, begin with the “why”: “I’ve been looking forward to getting the two of you together because…”. If it’s a prospective client you’re courting, courtesy is the theme: “I’m grateful to have this time to learn about your business needs and challenges”. The words are yours, but the official welcome indicates subconsciously to the guests that you are directing this meal and that the ‘dance’ has begun.

Taking The Lead

Ordering food is a juncture where second-guessing may become a distraction. As the host, it’s your duty to try and prevent that second-guessing. What others should order is not your responsibility; How much to order is a valuable bit of data you should provide for your guests. Put yourself inside their minds: “I might seem gluttonous if I order an appetizer, but then again, I don’t want to stand out as the only person without one”. Once someone’s attention is diverted from conversation by this mental tug of war, it might be difficult for them to reengage. Avert this predicament by offering clues as to how they should order: “I’m going to order a starter”. Another approach is to mention that you’re not getting a starter, but that everyone else should. You may also opt to let your guests take the lead by inquiring about how heavy their appetites are, or suggesting “If you’re hungry, the 3-course prix-fixe is a great way to go. If you’re up for it, I am too.”

With a little practice of these opportunistic techniques, you’ll become a natural host, full of grace and charm, with a knack for keeping everyone focused on the business at hand.

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Start The Year Off Right: Memorize The Business Dining Dirty Dozen

In wrapping up a professionally eventful 2017, I thought I’d take a look at the 12 most important business dining missteps that I’ve covered over the years. This review can be a lesson for all of us, since often, while we find it easy to criticize others for committing business meal faux pas, we might be inadvertently breaking these very rules ourselves.

Commit to avoiding these dirty dozen restaurant no-no’s, and you’ll allow yourself and everyone else at the table to keep focused on the business dealings du jour. In the process, you’ll come off as a seasoned, nuanced professional that everyone will remember in a positive light. Start 2018 out on the right foot. Happy New Year, and let the countdown begin!

12. Forgetting Your Business Cards

What seems like a rookie mistake is actually pretty common. But it’s also the simplest mistake to avoid. Keep a stash of cards in the pockets of all your suits and handbags, and you’re less likely to be the one who shows up without them.

11. Eating With Your Mouth Open

When Mom tried to teach us to chew discretely, she was onto something. If you’re eating a sandwich alone in your car, that’s one thing. But in the presence of others, be conscious and eat like an adult. This one pairs nicely with “Don’t Speak When Your Mouth is Full”.

10. Bringing a Large Coat or Bag Into the Dining Room

Restaurants offer a coat check for a good reason: Many dining areas have limited space, and resting a bulky coat over the back of your chair cuts into that space significantly. While you’re at it, check your larger handbag too, as keeping it on the floor can create a dangerous obstacle for the servers.

9. Being Fussy About The Food You’re Served

The business meal is about the business conversation, not the food. Although it’s lovely when your steak is cooked the way you like it, when it isn’t, simply make due instead of sending it back. Unless you feel you’ll be in danger for eating what you’re served, don’t focus on the food.

8. Wearing Fragrance

This really should be Number 1 on the list, but its implications reach beyond business dining. When you’re in a restaurant, others in the room may be dining for sport, and spending hard-earned money to do so. When you’re wearing perfume or cologne, it cancels out the aromas and flavors in their food and wine. Plain and simple: Be kind to others and avoid wearing fragrance in dining establishments.

7. Ignoring The Wait Person

When a server approaches your table, it’s polite to put your conversation on hold and acknowledge them. Ignoring them until you’re good and ready is not only rude and degrading, it will leave a bad impression in front of your business associates.

6. Monopolizing The Conversation

Speaking more than you listen is an easy way to turn someone off, and is unconstructive for building rapport. For the extraverted amongst you: Teach yourself how to engage in a balanced conversation. Besides, you’ll never learn from others if you’re always talking.

5. Drinking Too Much Alcohol

It goes without saying that becoming intoxicated at a business meal will not earn you too much respect. If you’re unsure how to pace your consumption, consider cutting yourself off after one glass of wine. But the best approach is to avoid ordering alcohol altogether.

4. Arriving Late

Arriving at or after the scheduled time for a business lunch is a many-folded mistake. You’ll be seen as irresponsible, you’ll take longer to settle into being present, and you can indirectly cause anguish to others partaking. Make a deal with yourself that 10-minutes early equals on-time.

3. Not Following Up

It would be such a waste for you and everyone else at the meeting to have spent the time and effort gathering if you didn’t commit to follow-up communications afterward. Make it a priority to go through the email protocol to connect with everyone after the lunch or dinner meeting.

2. Gossiping About Confidential Matters

Some teenage habits are hard to break. But when you drag your urge to gossip into the business world, there are real consequences. Be smart by being intuitive and self-disciplined: Never discuss confidential matters at the business meal….you never know who’s listening.

And, the number-one most important business meal faux pas….

1. Mishandling Your Silverware

Bet you didn’t see this one coming. I can’t stress enough how essential it is for exuding class, polish, and a sense of experience to handle your eating utensils like a civilized adult. This includes knowing which utensils to use for which course, and avoiding “playing the cello” while trying to cut your steak.

For further reading on why business meals are such powerful platforms for gaining business advantages and developing your network, link to my article on Forbes.


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Ask And You Shall Receive: Networking As A Two-Way Street

Interviewing seasoned professionals has been a great way for me to gain wisdom and insight into industry trends, company challenges, and corporate culture, and has provided me with a sounding board for new ideas. I value such opportunities, and during discussions I actively reciprocate for these individuals and for other professionals for whom I could be of added value. But when someone asks if they could “pick my brain”, I instantly feel less excited about the prospect of helping them. Their intentions might be harmless, but the imagery in their language reminds me a bit too much of a famously disturbing movie scene starring Anthony Hopkins and Ray Liota.

Even if I hadn’t had the misfortune of viewing and remembering that scene, I would still remain somewhat apprehensive about the request. A subtle negative vein of intent runs through this stale idiom, and it’s related to the one-way benefit that it implies. It shouts, “You give, I get”, exhibiting zero evidence that any interaction with this person will yield an opportunity for discussion. The value that I bring to the table is worth more than that, and so is yours….a notion that young professionals in particular often forget.

When you find yourself on the ask, it lends enormously to your professional credibility if you use a creative and polite approach. Here are some suggestions that, if properly employed, can open a spigot of sought advice from other professionals.

Linguistically Speaking

“I’d be grateful for your perspective.”

 “I admire your accomplishments. Would you be willing to share your wisdom?”

 “I’m actively working to understand your industry’s challenges, and have great respect for your perspective.”

 “I value your viewpoint” or “I’d benefit greatly from your outlook. Would you be willing to invest in a 15-minute phone call?”

These are all examples of sincere, well-received spoken language possibilities useful in appealing for favors or advice from someone in your network.  Notice that not only do they express respect for, and gratitude to the other party, but they intrinsically imply a sentiment of sharing, leaving open-ended the possibility for the person to tap you for your perspective. It’s a learn-learn situation. Master this eloquence, and you will not only receive as often as you give, but you will find yourself at the center of a well-oiled network.

Beyond Words

In addition to knowing what to say and how to say it, it’s wise to have a specific agenda or goal in mind before you engage in the ask. Without this sense of purpose, your request will run the risk of being mistaken as random chat or catching up. Organize your thoughts in advance, don’t beat around the bush, and proceed with confidence in a manner that will make it entirely clear what you are seeking. Fear not that your confidence will be interpreted as presumption or arrogance; with the use of right language, you will earn respect and likely receive what you set out for.

Never Forget To Follow Up

Once your request is granted (because true professionals genuinely want to help), there are two rules of protocol that are necessary for showing your appreciation and maintaining the momentum in your relationship. First and foremost, if the favor was a lead or an introduction, do not blow it off! Formally thank the person by email, indicating your big takeaway or plans for taking next steps (give yourself bonus points for a handwritten card!). I like the touch of sending the person a published article or an idea or even a lead, based on what I’ve learned from them.

The 2nd rule: Keep the person in the loop regarding your progress with the lead by periodically checking in. This will not only serve to demonstrate what they’ve done for you was a good move and worth their efforts, but it is a clever way to keep their awareness of you refreshed.


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How ‘bout Those Mets?: Networking for Women in a “Man’s World”

A woman once admitted to me that she worked “alone”, indicating that she was on her own in a workplace of mainly men, and wasn’t getting ahead. This is a truism, as many corporate women have come to realize, particularly in the hedge fund world. Often, by design or inadvertently, such male-dominated workplace situations are squeezing the female constituency out of the equation, and both parties suffer as a result.

That same woman sheepishly asked me if it would be to her benefit to learn to play golf, since that’s what the guys do together to network. Not a bad idea. However, it’s not the only approach to penetrating the “boy’s club” and networking in settings other than conventional networking events. In fact, with minimal effort asserted in a few specialized areas of interest, you will begin to command respect and gain the confidence to seize the same opportunities afforded to men in the business world. Consider some favorites, which have worked well for me and countless other successful women.

The Gender-Neutral Sport

In New York City, dining out is a sport for many, and it can be an even playing field with respect to gender. Fine-tuning your business dining etiquette is your ticket to playing in the big leagues. Along the way, consider familiarizing yourself with the hottest NYC restaurants, get a feel for modern cuisine, and treat yourself to a course in understanding wine. Being in the know can ultimately bridge the gap between you and the business networking scene.

The Sports Section is Your Friend

It might sound like a dreadful task if you don’t follow professional sports, but you should strongly consider skimming the newspaper sports section before you line the birdcage with it. If you’re up-to-date on the latest local sports news, you have no excuse not to be able to tap into any male-oriented discussion. It’s not like you’ll need to follow the games; just keep an eye on the team standings, and you’ll never be left out of the conversation.

Use Your Poker Face

One way to think like a successful man is to partake in the traditionally male hobby of poker playing. Poker Prima Divas teaches women introductory poker skills, and equates those poker principles to the business world. Joining one of their sessions can be effective in growing your teambuilding, leadership and negotiation skills, and can double as an evening of fun and networking for you and a colleague or client. Check out the Poker Prima Divas website, and get into the game.

Bypass the Gender Stereotypes Altogether

Don’t lose sight of the fact that not everything men enjoy doing is exclusively “male” in nature. Poke around and discover the other hobbies or interests of the men you work with, and then get creative. Visiting museums, attending the opera, walking in Central Park, and touring Manhattan are all popular, gender-neutral activities suitable for group participation or one-on-one meetings.


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Seizing The Spotlight: 6 Tips for Speaking on a Panel

If you had told me five years ago that one day I would be asked to speak about business on a panel, I would’ve assumed you had the wrong Deborah. Today, I find myself not only doing so periodically, but in some lucky circumstances, have had the honor of moderating such panels. Along this short journey, I’ve already picked up enough pointers to author an advice column about the ins and outs of the panel appearance format.

If you aspire to be a discussion panelist, or already find yourself winging it in the panel arena, it helps to understand that there are many layers to the art of effectiveness when you’re in the spotlight. This article will take you through the six essential aspects of maximizing your panel opportunities. If you perfect these techniques for boosting your confidence and polishing your demeanor, you can also prepare to be asked back to speak again and again.

State Your Name

Strangely, it’s not unheard of for even an experienced panelist to forget to begin by stating their name, occupation and their relevance to the discussion. I don’t have to explain why it’s fundamental to the effectiveness of your contribution for the audience to know who you are and what company you represent. What I do have to stress it how important it is to remind yourself to tell them, first and foremost.

Ease On In

This one’s for the introvert in us all: It’s completely normal for you to be nervous as the panel discussion commences. My advice is to just accept this as human nature, and do your best not to let on about it. A good approach is to be mindful of your posture and breathing before you speak the first time around. Exhale deeply before you introduce yourself. If you can pull off a smooth opening, just watch how relaxed you suddenly become.

Mind Your Speech

As we’ve discussed before in our articles about “unspeakable speech”, it’s to your benefit to be conscious of your speech patterns and vocal delivery. When presenting to a group or audience, your message is in danger of being taken less seriously if awkwardly intoned. Make every effort to avoid uptalk, vocal fry, monotone speech, and swallowing your words.

Grow Into Your Space

As the discussion unfolds, take note of how long or short the other panelists’ answers are, and make sure you take your allotted time to speak your own answers. You’ve been asked onto the panel because it has been established that you have something important to add; Stay politely within bounds, but don’t be a pushover or shortchange yourself.

photo 1 (17)Dress Strategically

Remember: Many modern panel discussions take place from behind a table, rather than at a dais. This is your cue to dress comfortably, as you’ll be sitting down for a while. Ladies: Consider wearing slacks rather than a skirt, so you can focus on the discussion instead of being conscious of keeping your legs crossed.

One Last Simple Detail

As with all business gatherings, meetings and networking events, always have business cards on hand for after a panel discussion. When people approach you, it’s a nifty way of keeping the conversation going after everyone departs. Your card has the power to prompt folks to visit your website, read your blog, acquire your book, and hopefully engage in future dealings with you.


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The Show-Up: Conveying Your Business Values in One Swift Move

As we run around frantically from meeting to meeting, bobbing and weaving through our business day on the street, our minds can sometimes work against us. The more coordinates we jam into our schedules, the more time our brains spend trapped in the past and the future, treating the present as an afterthought.

When I deliver workshops, seminars or addresses about Strategic DiningSM, I always stress how important it is to take a moment, breathe, and come to the present before walking into a business meal. This clearing of the mind should include reviewing your personal goals of the meeting while predicting what the other diners’ agendas might entail. Such an exercise is essential for influencing the direction of the approaching business conversation.

An Additional Consideration

For those of you who are ready to take their business presence to the next level, I’m pleased to announce a supplementary point to consider before you walk into that meal, meeting, or networking event. Perhaps even more important than all other aspects is being mindful of how you want to “show up”. We all show up differently depending on the scenario. But by making the way we show up deliberate, instead of swayed by mood or circumstance, we visibly deliver a premeditated message. For instance, did you have a rough start to your day that threw you off-focus? Or, did you just receive a message that your plans will be altered later that afternoon? Learning to re-channel such past/future stressors so you can be fully in the moment when you show up can make or break your impact at the meeting.

You Can Pull It Off

What do you want people to say after meeting you or working with you? What are your most cherished values, and how do you convey them? You can also think long-term. What would you want people to say at your retirement party? A solid way to start is by thinking of three adjectives you would desire people to use when describing you. Think about yourself, meditate on your standards and principles, make your list, and then show up with confidence!

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Let’s Do Brew: Troubleshooting The Strategic Coffee Meeting

Sometimes, “Let’s Do Lunch” isn’t entirely the right “Do”. Honestly, not every small business meeting needs to involve the expense of a 3-course prix fixe, two glasses of Sancerre and a 20% tip, not to mention the 60 to 90-minute commitment.

My own solution to this is “Let’s Do Coffee”, which turns out to be the setting for 3 to 6 of my most effective one-on-one business meetings each week. The coffee shop option is full of practicality on all levels, but like fine dining, also comes with potential pitfalls ready to trap those of us who lack experience or intuition. For anyone who fancies the caffeinated conference format, take the following bits of advice from someone who leads the charge.

Tick, Tock.

The first thing to keep in mind about coffee meetings is that the timing is not as defined as it would be with lunch meetings. For instance, I’ve had half-hour coffees that, in actuality, were 15 minutes too long; On the flip side, there have been two-hour coffees where we’ve just scratched the surface of our business at hand. Good practice is to get a feel for how much time the other person has, and set a cell phone alarm for a “hard stop” about ten minutes before a departure is required. This will preserve the flow of any deep conversation, while promising that scheduled commitments are met.

The Walking Coffee

To state the obvious, you can’t make a reservation at a coffee spot. If the line is long and the tables are full, it could carve an enormous chunk out of your meeting time. This is why arriving early for a coffee is even more important than for a lunch meeting. An additional technique I use for keeping on schedule is scouting out a public space near our date location that we can walk to once we’ve purchased our coffee to go. Now that the weather is mild, walking coffees will prove far more practical. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to get a little sunshine and exercise in the process. Here’s my secret cultured coffee hideout, if you happen to be meeting between 9 and 10:30am.

The Ambiguous Hour

Often, the coffee meeting time that works for both of you will fall close enough to either side of lunchtime as to suggest a small meal is in order. The androgyny of an 11am or 1pm coffee will certainly prompt you to choose your spot differently. My advice is to be mindful of the other party’s food preferences or lifestyle when making your choice. I know it’s hard to believe, but not everyone likes Starbucks! Just some brief online research the day before will help you zero in on an appropriate venue in any neighborhood.


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