Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Why Coffee Works Better Than a Networking Mixer

I promise there's more to this post than coffee and slacking off, but we're not too far off actually. Let me explain.

This year was the year I had to get out of my comfort zone and do some real networking. My goal was go to at least 2 networking events a month, if not more. I figured that I would be able to meet the most people, pass out the most business cards and have a great level of influence. Sounds like a solid idea, right? I went to 35 networking meetings and mixers, had countless fingers foods, visited many country clubs and shook a lot of hands, but in the end I got one piece of business and made 3 solid connections. Sounds pretty bad? Well, my goal was never to make sales or even to make connections. I really wanted to make some solid relationships. What I found this year is that these events are attended mostly by people looking out for themselves. They are the social equivalent of spammers. I don't regret this experience though, because it taught me a valuable lesson. So what is the answer to this dilemma?


Ironically, I don't even drink coffee, but a couple of months ago I decided to experiment with making coffee meetings. I would find someone on linkedin or twitter (or they would connect with me) who looked interesting and I would invite them out for a coffee break. It has worked wonders. Why? 4 Reasons.

1. People love midday breaks and if you make it in a part of town they like, they'll be up for it

2. When making a lunch meeting, the person may be looking forward to the meal more than the meeting. Coffee lets you know right away they really want to meet you, because they can get it any time

3. Coffee is relatively cheap. When you pick up the tab you're not jeopardizing your retirement plans

4. It's a laid back meeting and therefore you get to really know the other person and then talk about cool stuff like graphic design, for example

I have made more of the relationships that I was looking for in just a few months than I did in almost a year of mixers. So you should stop with the networking meeting and mixers, right? No, keep going to them, but be picky. Make sure you're going to events where you're paying $25 (for example) instead of $10, because that assures an attendance by people who are serious about being there. Find as many free meetings as you can and use that time to practice. Make coffee meetings a goal at least 3 times a week. It will make a great difference in your business and the best part is you'll be making some new friends. Isn't that the goal these days?

So what are you doing that's unconventional in order to network? Do you have any other ideas? Or do you still think big events are the way to go? Please share.



Sarah Wu said...

I think you have been talking to me about his in DM. This year is pretty rough but glad you still made good connection. If I was in LA. I'll definely go out for coffe break or maybe even Disneyland ;D how's that sounds.

Unknown said...

I would LOVE to go to Disneyland with you, Sarah! I used to go there all the time when I worked closer to the park. I have yet to try the corn dogs there, which I hear are supposed to be really good, but I have never ever tried in my 32 years. That is a great idea. :)

Dave Fisher said...

Great post. Taking the business out of the business meeting is the way to go. Who wants to hang out with a stuffy shirt? I suggest a donut meeting. No kidding. I met this guy and when we got to talking he said how much he loved sweets. I recommended a donut shop near my office so I invited to it and it went really well.

Jeannette Paladino said...

This is a terrific post, Dennis. I agree that networking meetings, particularly large ones, make it difficult to connect. I have found that smaller meetings are more intimate and you have the opportunity to really talk to someone. But I agree with your idea about coffee. When I meet someone who I think would be a good contact, I invite them to coffee. They like it, too. It's inexpensive, doesn't take a lot of time and the informality breaks down barriers. I'm glad to see that this system is working so well for you.

Unknown said...

Thank you, Jeannette. You said it in a nutshell.

Keyuri Joshi (on the ball parent coach) said...

Sage advice Dennis. Thank you! You actually caused me to re-think networking. I hadn't been able to articulate what I was thinking... that most people are present to promote themselves. Your perspective to build relationships is a brilliant one that takes the pressure off of "performing" or being "salesy".

Carol Lopes said...

I loved your coffee strategy. It's a shame that in our case we would need cross de ocean. Maybe on day! Until there, I can already say that I knew a good person to share at Linked in :)

Michaele Razi said...

Love the post, Dennis. Great advice to anyone, no matter what their industry!

Unknown said...

@Keyuri Glad I could help! :)

@Carol Absolutely! We'll meet someday I bet.

@Michaele That was the plan! Thanks!

Susan Oakes said...

Hi Dennis,

Good to her your coffee meetings are working. I like them better than larger networking and what I also do is have virtual coffee chats over Skype with people from interstate and overseas. Have connected and formaed good relationships that way.

Unknown said...

@Susan That is a great idea. I have used skype very little, but thank you for the idea.

Sheila Atwood said...


Coffee sounds like a great idea. It is kind of an "in thing" to do. And so casual.

I have often treated my clients to coffee when we go out. It is much less expensive than lunch or dinner and we actually get in some work.

Unknown said...

And a lot more fun.

Phil said...

I was never a Coffee drinker either. But great post and some good ideas here.

One of my main goals for 2011 is to network more. After Christmas has passed I will be looking into finding small business startup meetings in my area.

I just moved from Canada to the UK so I am mainly looking for good ways and events I could attend within the area.

All the best with your goals Dennis and have a good Christmas!

Kate F. Eaton said...

Big smile here, Dennis. With two excellent coffee shops (Hi, my name's Kate, and I'm a javaholic)in my neighborhood, I love the idea of networking over coffee. Hmm...which local tweep to invite first?

Small Business Internet Marketing said...

Great points Dennis. Yes - it is all about relationships. Face-to-face networking is definitely something I have been lax in. That would mean I would have to get out from hiding behind my computer, actually get dressed and brush my hair LOL. There is no doubt in my mind that getting in front of smaller groups of people has some major advantages. Note to self for 2011 - brush your hair and get moving :)

BTW - your image is funny. I made a video way back using similar images here: If you need a laugh, check it out :)

the Citizen Rosebud said...

What is up with your string of excellent posts?
This is valuable and validating information, perhaps it's something I know instinctively, or probably more like I know myself. I'm someone who translates best as casual and informal, and those mixers which kinda bore me (attended by too many grown-ups!) while a good cup of coffee and an attending stimulating conversation always make my day!

So far the best networking for me has been deciding to put myself outthere as a blogger on a local level. In fact, if I'm worth any sort of salt at all (getting some recognition AND yes, employment) has been me reaching out and providing group meetings with other bloggers.

There wasn't any community so I decided to make it. And boy, am I glad I did!

Melanie Kissell said...

Super post, Dennis.

And it reads like an excellent case study. :)

I'll all for the kaffeeklatsch idea! (a.k.a. A casual social gathering for coffee and conversation)

I've never been one who's even remotely interested in rubber chicken luncheon meetings. Yuck. I'll pass.

Melanie Kissell said...

Oops ... meant to write, "I'm" all for the kaffeeklatsch idea"

Seem to have problems hitting the submit button a little too quickly sometimes. :)

Unknown said...

@Kate :)

@Julie Haha very good. Thanks!

@Bella That is really awesome. You saw a need and filled it. Great!

@Melanie Not a problem. Glad you came back. Thanks! :)

Heather Fonseca said...

ah networking! I know what you mean about networking events. Everyone there is looking for work! I do love your coffee idea, and I think there really is something to connecting with people in a real way.

Now where should we have coffee? Wanna come to Barney's with me next time?

Unknown said...

I would love to. :)

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