“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 a flat white?
I understand life gets busy, but I also believe we need to be a little more truthful when we suggest a coffee catch up. Simply saying, “I look forward to next time we meet” is a perfectly acceptable parting statement. It’s better than offering an experience that you have no intention of participating in.
So no more empty promises! Stand by your invitation and connect with those who you really do want to share a latte with. With that in mind here are some tips to help:
- Why meet?
If it is you who suggests the meeting, then state why you would like to catch up. Be open and frank if you plan to discuss something specific. If it is just to get to know someone or catch up on things then say that too.
- 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 the response and, if positive, say “great, I’ll organise it”. Easy!
- Who pays?
You invite, you pay. That is usually how it should be for a simple coffee. I say ‘usually’ because I am amazed by how many times the rule is broken — and often without so much as a thank you! If you invite you get the bill, or at least offer to pay and be prepared to insist on paying 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.
- 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. Put a date in your diary sooner rather than later, even if that date is a month or two in advance. Believe me, the date will arrive before you know it!
- How long?
One hour is the standard time for a meeting, coffee meeting or something similar, so try to stay within this out of respect for the other person’s schedule. If you need to discuss business then aim to have your conversation finished 15 minutes prior to the end of the hour, allowing time for a general chat afterwards.
I can recall 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 a 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. Flat white, one sugar thanks….