“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will always remember how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou (1928 - 2014)
I have recently invested more time into building my network, which means scheduling more coffee meetings to get to know other agency owners and even more meetings to recruit potential staff. Though the benefits of these connections may not reveal themselves right away, getting a conversation started expands more resources within my network, and I can add value as a resource to these new connections as well.
One of these meetings in particular left a lasting impression. I wish I could tell you it was a positive one, but it was actually quite the opposite. It’s a lesson shows how we need to be very aware of every interaction we have with others, because it represents who we are, and like it or not, we will be judged consciously or subconsciously.
So here’s the story.
A marketer reaches out to me on LinkedIn, expressing an interest in our work and asking for a time to meet to find out more. I agreed that it would be good to meet, and the next email I received asked that I go and book a time in their schedule.
Point 1: If you are asking someone to meet you for coffee because you are asking for something from them, making them go through another step to leave their emails, open another app and set up an appointment makes them feel like they are your secretary. Not everyone agrees on this one, but let’s agree to disagree if you like using these apps.
On the day of the meeting, I arrived on time, grabbed a coffee, and sat down at a table. I send an email letting the person know I had arrived. Note that we were scheduled for a 45 minute meeting. Roughly 15 minutes past our schedule meeting time, the person hastily rushed in and siat down at the table. I noticed they didn’t have a jacket or a bag with them, just a phone.
After a quick hello, they pushed a bag of snacks across the table to me, saying that they thought I would like it (in my mind I was thinking that this was the first time we had ever met, so how would they know what I like to eat?)
Point 2: Upon their arrival I was already a bit skeptical of how the meeting would pan out, as I had made note of the 45 minute time slot and made sure to be on time, whereas the other party gave me the feeling that they did not respect my time as much as I theirs. Also, when you arrive short of breath, looking like you had hopped out of a car and forgotten all of your belongings does not give the other party the best impression of how organized you may be.
After about 20 minutes of sharing what we do in our respective businesses, the person asked how they could get involved with the non-profit organization I run in Vancouver, and initially I thought, well, they probably want to volunteer with us, and so I explained the roles available. It turned out that they were actually looking for a speaking opportunity to build their personal brand.
Point 3: Let’s make clear that there is NO issue with asking for an opportunity from someone, but I recommend approaching the ask directly, instead of mentioning a different intention in your meeting invite. This is a a definite networking turnoff for me. Yes, additional unforeseen opportunities and synergies may come up through conversation, but the turn of the conversation felt contrived, and how many of us can say that we like feeling duped?
Close to the end of the 45 minutes scheduled meeting time, the person started to get up from the table mid-sentence, saying that ‘it was great to meet you and we should follow up by email’, to which I nodded and agreed ‘definitely’. Moments later they left in a haste through the door, while I was still seated at the table.
Point 4: Do we really need to clarify how I felt about this interaction?
What are the takeaways from this interaction?
Arrive on time for a meeting, especially when you had requested the person’s time and you know there is a hard stop;
Make a composed entrance. If you arrive looking like you ran the last two blocks and left your belongings elsewhere, that is NOT composed.
Ask directly for what it is that you are looking for. Most people are allergic to BS.
Wrap up a meeting with next steps, and exit the meeting together.
None of the above steps are difficult to execute, but a lot of it relies on your preparation and time management. If you are like me and hate wasting time, then schedule a bit more travel time in the car or transit and take business calls during your commuting time; you can maintain productivity and also get to your meeting on time.
Reflect on your recent interactions, do you neglect to return emails? Do you not return calls? Do you do a good job of following up? Step into the other person’s shoes, how would you feel if you received the same treatment?