Beware the “quick” cup of coffee!

After some serious deliberation, I decided that 2017 would be the year of networking for me, so I set out to find some worthwhile networking events I could attend. So far, I’ve been to a few breakfasts, lunches, dinners and evening cocktails, and as I expected – they ranged from some of them being an absolute waste of time, to a few of them being really good. Therefore, in my humble opinion, it’s been time well spent overall.

Part of my planning phase for 2017, was to do what any good coach would advise, which is to get my goals onto paper. After attending the first couple of networking events, I very promptly added one more rule to my time management goal. I decided that I would do all I can to avoid having meetings just for the sake of having them.

Every meeting I attend this year, whether it be online, or face to face will have an agenda that makes some business sense, otherwise I will respectfully decline. The agenda could have just one item and the outcome might be something as simple as “send John Susan’s e-mail address before COB today”. Just as long as the host puts some thought into it and the meeting agenda indicates that it might have some potential value to me.

 

Why am I emphasising this point?

Well, after attending a few networking events, I found that a number of the attendees began requesting follow up chats over a “quick” cup of coffee. However, most of them had absolutely no real reason for inviting me to coffee, except to say that they thought it might be a great idea to get better acquainted after our initial introduction at the networking event.

Now let me clarify, before anyone becomes too annoyed at me – I’m all for face to face meetings when they have some value to at least one of the parties involved. So, remaining true to my new time management rule, every time someone contacted me for a coffee, I said I’d get back to them and went directly to their LinkedIn profile, website, or wherever else I might be able to gather a little more information about them and/or their organisation.

Based on what I learned from my research, I then returned the calls and asked what I believe to be the all-important question “Would you be okay if we schedule a ten-minute phone call first, so we can both get a clearer idea of whether or not a coffee would be worth your time and mine?”. This was in no way meant as an insult to anyone, because I honestly do not want to be responsible for wasting another person’s valuable time, if it can easily be avoided by spending no more than ten minutes on the phone.

I’m pleased to say that some people actually respected and even appreciated my approach, but there were those who were not even prepared to call me back for that ten-minute conversation – yet they were quite prepared to have me drive my car to the city (at least 45 minutes, including parking and walking to the venue), then spend at least another thirty minutes having coffee, before trekking back to my office (another 45 minutes).

So, besides costing me $12 for parking, unless I was that guy who moved faster than a speeding bullet and leaped over tall buildings, I would use up two hours of my working day (25% of the average 8hour day) to achieve very little more than I could have during that ten-minute phone call I suggested.

So, I ask you this – If someone thinks a ten-minute exploratory phone call is a waste of their time, then why in the name of Superman would they be okay with taking up a massive two hours just to drink a cup of coffee with me? By all means, if after the telephone call, we both agree that a face to face meeting is something worth having as a follow-up, then let’s schedule it and get it done. Otherwise, we can rather wait for the next networking event and see each other there. I’ll even drink coffee.

Now, I have a feeling this article might just create a bit of a storm in a tea cup (excuse the pun) for those of you who disagree with me and that’s okay, because I welcome any and all arguments/debates about what I’ve said. You see – another great belief I have is that we’re never too old to learn something new, so if I’m wrong then please tell me why I’m wrong and teach me a better way of handling it.

DC. West