Having coffee is always fun. Coffee meetings can provide great opportunities to sound people and ideas out. The only problem is that they can also be incredibly time consuming. To get the maximum value out of “grabbing a coffee” it’s mission critical to set an agenda. Setting an agenda defines the context for the meeting and also helps to keep things to a natural timetable. A quick catch up coffee can take anywhere from 45 mins to and hour. A more deep and meaningful session can average 90 mins.
Outcomes from Coffee sessions can be as high level as catching up to shoot the breeze or as focused and intense as pitching and agreeing a funding round. Either way it’s always a good idea to set some kind of agenda so that all parties have a sense of the energy they need to bring and the time they might want to budget.
Most importantly, one should always respect the value of the other person’s time if you are the one requesting the meeting. It’s always polite for the host to pay for their guests coffee but in many circumstances the senior party will often insist on paying which is usually ok once the invitee has made a solid effort to pay in the first place! It’s also worth remembering that if you are the one doing making the invitation that you endeavour to meet the other party at a location most convenient for them.
Finally, if you are working for a large company and are seeking a meeting with a startup or self employed person then you should bear in mind the fact that you are probably being paid to find a solution to a problem that they are probably giving up their time for free to help solve in the hope that this meeting will lead to a sale. Unfortunately, for various reasons, even if this meeting leads to a solution to your problem, the startup / self employed person may never see any reward for that interaction.
Too many of these meetings and the startup / self employed person could slide into financial difficulty. These factors are worth the careful consideration of both parties involved before setting up any such coffee meetings. In my own personal view, I think it’s worth avoiding all face to face meetings were a video call would suffice, video calls where a phone call could work, emails instead of phone calls or instant messaging in place of email. Simplify things as much as possible!