The Art of Coffee Chats: How to Elevate Your Networking Game

December 12, 2023
/
7 mins to read
The Art of Coffee Chats: How to Elevate Your Networking Game

Master the art of networking with our comprehensive coffee chat guide, offering valuable advice on conversation initiation, dressing etiquette, and effective follow-ups to advance your career.

Mastering the art of a coffee chat is a valuable skill for building meaningful connections and advancing your career. While there are many different ways to network, coffee chats are unique since they allow more informal conversations and authentic connections.

Coffee chats can be broken down into three stages: Before, During, and After a Coffee Chat. We’ve carefully curated tips and tricks below for each stage so that you can kill it at every coffee chat!

What do Coffee Chats Mean?

Fun fact: you don’t have to have a coffee with someone for it to be a coffee chat! Before learning tips for a good coffee chat, it’s important to know what a coffee chat means.

Coffee chats are not merely social niceties – they are gateways to opportunities for career growth. The connections forged during these informal meetings can lead to unforeseen professional advancements, from job offers to collaborative projects. Other examples of positive outcomes from coffee chats include gaining career advice, exploring industry trends, or simply expanding your professional circle.

Before: How to Prepare for a Coffee Chat

Perhaps the most important stage of a coffee chat is the preparation stage. The key to making these meetings impactful lies in the preparation that happens before you even take that first sip. This is where you will research the individual thoroughly to understand what questions to ask and what to talk about. 

Listed below are the essential steps on how to prepare for a coffee chat beforehand and ensure that you make the most out of this valuable networking opportunity!

1. Research Your Coffee Chat Partner

Look up the person you plan to meet. Leverage online platforms, such as LinkedIn or their company website, to gather insights into their professional background, recent projects, and achievements. This knowledge will not only help you tailor your questions but also demonstrate your genuine interest in their work. Understand their background, achievements, and current projects.

2. Define Your Objectives

Clarify what you want to achieve from the coffee chat. Plan out what you will say when reaching out to your coffee chat partner. Figure out which platform they are more likely to see your message on. Define your goal: do you want to expand your network and get introduced to more people? Do you want to learn more about a specific industry?

Once you have sketched out your goals, prepare specific questions targeting these goals, such as questions about their industry or position.

3. Reach Out to the Individual

It is important to take the initiative when you are planning a coffee chat. Make it clear that you are passionate and interested in talking to the other person, especially since you are asking for their time.

Make sure your message stands out from the rest. In an inbox flooded with emails, a compelling subject line can make all the difference. Craft a subject line that is concise, intriguing, and conveys the purpose of your invitation. Stand out from the crowd to increase the chances of your message being opened.

4. Choose a Suitable Venue

There are many different types of coffee chats.

If meeting in person, select a quiet coffee shop conducive to conversation. Alternatively, if the other person is open to it, you could ask to get dinner or a beer together.

For virtual coffee chats, ensure you are in a quiet and well-lit space.

5. Dress Appropriately

Understand what setting your coffee chat will be in. 

For a casual coffee shop or Zoom call: opt for smart casual attire, such as well-fitted jeans or khakis paired with a neat shirt or blouse. Avoid overly casual clothing like gym wear or overly formal attire.

For a Professional Setting: If your coffee chat is in a more formal or professional environment, consider business casual attire. This might include slacks or a skirt with a blouse or a collared shirt.

What to Do During a Coffee Chat

1. Initiate the Conversation

Start with a friendly greeting and a brief introduction. Express your gratitude for their time and interest in meeting. Make sure to be friendly and engage in small talk – don’t directly get into your questions. Treat them like humans before anything else.

Use respectful but friendly language to make them feel comfortable. Take this opportunity to share your background and the reason you wanted to have the coffee chat. 

2. Be Engaging

Listen actively to what the other person is saying. Ask follow-up questions to demonstrate genuine interest. Make sure to not interrupt or cut the other person off. Take notes if possible: it will probably come in handy in the future.

3. Share Your Story

Throughout the coffee chat, provide a concise overview of your background and experiences. Make it clear that you are a hard worker. Highlight relevant skills and achievements. Impress your coffee chat partner by showcasing your hard and soft skills, as well as your ability to foster communication.

4. Explore Shared Interests

A great way of building rapport is through finding common interests beyond the workplace. Talk about some hobbies and interests to get the conversation going. You never know, your coffee chat partner might be interested in the same things! This is a great way to expand your network, since your partner might suggest partaking in a sport together, or a group activity in the future.

5. Attentive Body Language

A key aspect of creating a lasting good impression is through your body language. The more attentive you seem, the more likely your partner is to help you out and provide valuable insights. Make sure you maintain eye contact and your body is turned towards them when you engage in conversation. Don’t look at your phone while speaking to them, since this suggests disinterest and complacency.

What to Do After a Coffee Chat

 A coffee chat is not over the moment you leave the meeting. It is important to take out the time to follow up with your coffee chat partner to display your ability to take initiative and be proactive.

1. Send a Thoughtful Thank-You Email

The moment your coffee chat concludes, extend your gratitude by sending a well-crafted thank-you email. Express appreciation for their time, reiterate key takeaways from the conversation, and convey your enthusiasm for potential future interactions. This simple gesture reinforces your professionalism and leaves a positive impression.

2. Summarize Key Takeaways

In your thank-you email, summarize the key points and insights discussed during the coffee chat. This not only showcases your active listening skills but also reinforces the value of the interaction. It serves as a tangible reminder of the meaningful exchange you shared.

3. Connect on Professional Platforms: Expanding Your Network

Take the next step in building your professional relationship by connecting on platforms like LinkedIn. Send a personalized connection request, referencing your recent coffee chat, and express your interest in maintaining the connection. This online connection provides an additional avenue for staying engaged and updated on each other's professional journeys.

4. Engage with Their Content

Regularly engage with your connection's content on professional platforms. Like, comment, or share their posts to demonstrate an ongoing interest in their work. This consistent engagement keeps you on their radar and fosters a continuous connection.

5. Reflect and Adjust: Evaluating the Conversation

Reflect on the coffee chat and evaluate its outcomes. Consider what you can improve and work on in a professional context and start building your professional network accordingly. If your coffee chat partner introduced you to resources or people who can help, make sure you conduct research and get acquainted with them. 

Summary: Do’s and Don’ts for Coffee Chats

Do’s

  • Initiate the Conversation
  • Do Adequate Research
  • Be Attentive
  • Dress Appropriately
  • Explore Shared Interests
  • Send a Follow-Up
  • Reflect and Be Flexible

Don’ts

  • Don’t Neglect Clear Objectives
  • Don’t Skip Small Talk
  • Don’t Overshare
  • Don’t Disregard Professionalism
  • Don’t Overlook Venue Selection
  • Don’t Disconnect Online
  • Don’t Skip Research
Bhavna Ganapathi
Bhavna Ganapathi

Bhavna is a Marketing and Content Intern at Litespace. She has a background in digital marketing and psychology. She is passionate about combining content strategy with creativity to build meaningful connections within hybrid and remote working environments.

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