Some people strongly believe in, and promote the importance of business networking, while others believe it is a waste of time. Whether you belong to the former group or the latter, it is virtually impossible to do business in 2019 without the occasional coffee meeting.
What we can all agree on, is that if you are already taking the time to meet someone and talk business, you want that meeting to be as effective as possible. In order to maximize any business meeting, it is your responsibility to take these three steps before walking into the meeting:
1. Do your research on the person's work.
There are few things more offensive in business than someone asking you to do something for them that is totally irrelevant to what you actually do. Imagine walking into a doctor's office and asking the doctor to represent you in court. Ridiculous, and yet, it happens every day on LinkedIn or in inboxes everywhere. A person pitches you on something without doing a second of research on what you actually do.
In my case, as someone who writes for various leading sites, I get endless entrepreneurs pitching me to write about them or their company, when a thirty second Google would reveal that I have never written about that space or that topic.
Before walking into a meeting, make sure you use Google to research what that person actually does and does not do. Otherwise, things can get awkward fast.
2. Don't forget to check how you originally connected.
Context is everything. One of the first things I do in the morning after I wake up and brush my teeth is go over my schedule for that day. I look at each of the meetings I have, who the person is, and most importantly, who connected us. If no one connected us, how did the meeting make its way onto my calendar? Was it a LinkedIn thing? A Facebook connection? The context and background of the meeting are crucial pieces of information going in.
If, for example, the meeting is about marketing, I would need to do some extensive research on the company before the meeting. In fact, in many cases, such an email exchange includes documents about the company and its challenges. I would need to read those before going in.
On the other hand, if the meeting is a more casual meeting that was requested by a close friend, that is also important context to know before going in.
Bottom line, make sure you know what led to the meeting before it begins.
3. Check that person's social feeds for some good insights.
This might seem like a bit of a creepy thing to do, but in my opinion, it will make the meeting significantly more effective. You can do your research on that person's work and professional background, but knowing what they have been tweeting about for the past 24 hours or what their Facebook reveals about their morning is invaluable not only as an ice breaker, but also to get to know their personal side a little bit before walking into the meeting.
Also, it is important to remember that just like you might be checking that person's tweets, they might be checking yours so careful what you say publicly as it might come back to haunt you, but that is a topic for another time.
The most important thing is that you don't walk into any business meeting blindly without knowing who introduced you, what the person does, and what their challenges, interests, and pet peeves are. Try to come as educated and knowledgeable about that person as possible, which will enable you to skip the basic questions and get straight to work.