So you managed to get a 30 minute coffee meeting with a key stakeholder. Now what?
Think strategically — What does success look like for you? In some cases, success might be something as simple as “let’s meet again”, “let me introduce you to someone” or something very profound like “you’re hired!”. Whatever the case may be, think about what that looks like for you as an end goal, and we can work backwards from there, developing a sequence of questions that take us to the conclusion.
Time is everything — If all you have is 30 minutes (possibly less sometimes) then plan to ask 2–3 substantial questions, with time for an icebreaker in the beginning and thanks/next steps at the end.
Relationship is key — Establish trust and respect with the other person, having them value you as an individual first, with integrity. Find common ground — what do you and the other person have in common to establish bond over?
Show you did your homework by reviewing them on LinkedIn or their website, so that the questions you ask them are doing a deep dive on their interests rather than rudimentary questions about their career timeline.
Let them talk more — this should be obvious but in our enthusiasm we sometimes forget that the best communication skill is actually being a great listener.
Connect with them afterward over email and maybe even LinkedIN, send a thank-you note, it means the world and makes a bigger impact than verbal thanks.
What’s your follow up? It may be you got a verbal offer from them to connect you with someone who’d be a useful contact for you. Thank them for the kind offer and mention this in your note to them, showing you are very much interested in their gesture.
If your networking interaction doesn’t pay immediate or near-term dividends, don’t be disheartened. It is amazing how many times a contact I made years ago might pop up suddenly in my inbox with a great opportunity, and this only happens because when they think of our interaction they remember the relationship first, and trust you’ll come through for them.
So, be sincere, earnest and patient, and you never know what might come your way.