Anatomy of a Coffee Meeting

Posted on December 22, 2015

I had a friend recently admit that he is looking at asking someone for a cup of coffee as he is trying to find a work-term option. The only issue is that he has never actively networked into a position. Sure he has gotten a job from a friend but that is really different from the process of asking someone to informally network with you and straight up ask for help.

The other side

This got me to thinking the first time some asked me for a cup of coffee because they wanted some advice. I had honestly never considered myself an authority in my area, sure I knew a lot and had a bunch of friends in the industry but I never thought about myself that way. I did however immediately know what the person wanted.

Coffee isn”t Coffee

Sure it might actually have coffee but it could be water, tea, or really anything just as long as you are in a coffee shop but coffee is coded language for I want to pitch you. What you are actually asking is can  someone who is more established in an area I would like to learn about give you a 30-45 min of their time to talk. Most people that are working know what coffee means, they know that you have an agenda and so when they agree to a coffee you should feel comfortable.

Time Break Down

When having coffee remember to make some small talk, every coffee I have ever been invited to or invited someone else to has gone the exact same way.

  • Hello
  • Small Talk – 5-10 min
  • What you asked them to coffee for (straight up say it) – 15 min
  • Thank you”s and goodbye – 5 min
  • Maybe a follow up – after the coffee

anatomy (1)

Hello: You may know what they look like but odds are unless you have a picture of yourself on twitter or LinkedIn (and are connected) they may not know what you look like so make sure to keep your eyes open for them and say hello.

Small Talk: 5-10 Min You already know about the person you are having coffee with and they may know a bit about you but they will most likely want to do some basic small talk, what you do, what work they have done that prompted you to talk to them, a mutual interest or contact that you know you have from some basic research.

What you asked them for: 10-15 At a point in the conversation, usually in a pause, you will have the moment where you can ¬†openly tell them why you wanted to talk to them. I generally come right out and say it “So I wanted to have coffee with you because of X” they know you wanted something and by coming to coffee they have at-least agreed to hear what you want. Tell them what you want to do or have them help with and discuss why this would be something that would be good for both you and them. In the case of networking if they are able to hire you or refer you to someone let them know what skills you have that would be applicable and why you think you would be a good fit. This will in all likely hoods turn into a discussion and you want to talk it out and see where it leads.

Good Bye: You have made you ask and have hopefully had a good 30 min coffee meeting. Now you just thank them for their time and start to get ready, if during your conversation you have brought up a resource or topic that you think they might be interested in you can leave a hook. A hook for me is any reason to contact them after the meeting beyond a thank you follow up, I want to show them that I am more than thankful for their time but that I can enrich their life. This can really be anything a blog post you mentioned or an Ebook that you had talked about but make sure it is relevant to their work or your potential work with them.

That”s it, if it worked out you may find yourself with new connections, maybe a potential job, work term, or client, at the very least you have a new relationship that may come in handy down the line or be someone to hang out with at an event.


Coffee is coded language for 30 min meeting
Breakdown of what to actually do and tell you it is a set time limit
I talk about the first time I got asked for coffee
No this isn’t in order
I introduce the concept of a hook

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