Coffee Chat Etiquette

Reading Time: 5 minutes | February 20, 2020

Within the last year, I’ve gone on 75+ chats with individuals. Each chat ranges from 30 minutes to 3 hours+. That’s at least 2,250 minutes spent in chats! I love it and I want to share some best coffee chat etiquette.

I get a fair share of requests to go on coffee chats or hop on phone calls – I’m honoured! I’m not a celebrity by any means.

I find that there is a lot to learn from having a chat, regardless of whether someone asked me or I asked them. Everyday is a learning process, I’m all in.

Let us assume that someone is requesting a chat with me.

Here are my thoughts:

Why are you asking me for a chat? ⁉️

Out of all the people you could have asked for a chat, why did you choose me? You should be able to articulate why you chose me EVEN if you found me randomly on LinkedIn.

  • Who are you?

  • What makes my profile so interesting to you.

  • List out questions in advance.

  • How do you foresee me being able to help you?

I want to hear your story and the last thing I want to do is waste your time. Giving me some context will help me understand if I can actually benefit you the way you are expecting me too.

How much time are you requesting from me? ⏳

Over the years, I have become extremely picky in terms of how I spend my time. To me, and many others, prioritization is key.

I’ve received requests in the past to have a chat for 10 minutes. That’s outright unrealistic! By the time we finish intros, it’ll be 10 minutes. When I see these requests, you will be ignored.

If you book a meeting for 1.5 hours, please elaborate on what exactly we are chatting about. Especially if this is our very first time meeting one another on the phone, this will freak me out! Remember, there can always be follow up chats so you don’t need to jam everything in one go.

Just think about it for a second before you send generic requests throughout your LinkedIn to request for chats or “pick someone’s brain”. In a week, the person can get anywhere from 1 to 50+ requests a week. Needless to say, it can get overwhelming. If this person says YES to every single request that comes in, it’ll be a full time job!

Are you asking for an in-person coffee chat or a phone call? 📞

The economics of an in-person coffee chat and a phone chat differ greatly. Here’s a break down of how I’ve spent time with others when they or I have asked for a chat. I take chats very seriously because I want to make sure I can actually help you.

Phone Chat:

Total 1 hour | Cost: $0 spend, though remember time is money.

  • 10 minutes picking a time, date, method of call

  • 15 minute meeting preparation

  • 30 minute meeting (typical)

  • Potential 5-10 minutes overtime buffer

  • 15 meeting wind-down, follow ups, connections

In-Person Coffee Chat:

Total >2 hours | Cost: >$10, also remember time is money.

  • 10 minutes picking a time, date, location

  • 30 minutes to 1 hour of getting to venue (think: transport, parking)

  • 15 minutes of meeting preparation

  • 1 to 1.5 hours meeting (typical)

  • 30 minutes to 1 hour of getting back to where you need to go (think: transport, parking)

  • 15 meeting wind-down, follow ups, connections

If in-person, offer to pay for coffee (or tea, or juice, or breakfast etc.) 💰

If this hasn’t crossed your mind and you don’t extend an offer to pay for a $3.00 coffee, it won’t be a great impression on you from the onset of the meeting.

There was a time when a company’s CEO asked for a chat and the objective wasn’t too clear. I agreed to it and to the venue she chose. As I walked into the coffee shop and she’s already drinking her coffee. She greeted me and I went to get my a tea. She ended up trying to sell me her product and only talk about her experience with VCs the entire meeting. Needless to say, I didn’t end up buying her product or spend time with her again. I learned.

Chances are, the person you requested a coffee chat with might be more senior than you, or have great etiquette themselves. They’ll offer to pay. Whether they are or not the circumstance, if YOU requested a chat with them, you should extend an offer.

It’s basic etiquette because they are spending time with you – remember you invited them!

Pay it forward.

Note: this might not be the case if you are both good friends and have met up many times. Then, each person might foot their own bill and that’s OK. Or, maybe you do a this-time-I-pay-next-time-you-pay ordeal.

Picking Dates & Sending Calendar Invites 🗓

If I say yes to a meeting, follow up immediately with a few times you are available in the next week or two weeks. Or, maybe I’ll send you a time right away. Overall, please don’t make me go back and forth picking a time with you. Make it easy for me (or whomever you are requesting a chat with). Think about the user experience!

Once a time is set, collect the rest of the details such as email, method of contact, venue, or anything else needed. Please do not make me (or whoever you’re talking to) ask you the day of what they need to do. This should all be laid out already!

Most importantly, SEND A CALENDAR INVITE IMMEDIATELY. Don’t expect others to remember a meeting with you Sunday morning at 7:00AM if you didn’t follow up with an invite. If I don’t get an invite that lays out the details, it’s not official.

In the calendar invite, make sure you write out your questions in advance, fill in all the details, and thank the person in advance.

There were times when I’ve agreed, and no invite comes. On the day of, people are panicking about how they forgot the chat. OK, if you forgot and you didn’t send an invite, maybe you should re-evaluate your meeting etiquette.

After the meeting 😇

Follow up and say thanks. Include your key takeaways from the meeting. Basic etiquette.

This seeds the way for a good future relationship.

After-After the meeting (going way beyond the extra mile) 🏃🏻‍♀️🏃🏾‍♂️

There’s a relationship now. At least a beginning of one. Think about ways you can add value to me such as: send me an article you wrote, tag me in a LinkedIn post you made, introduce me to another person you met, keep me updated via your newsletter, or share a a resource you came by.

Because this is what I’ll do for you, where fitting. & even more.

I’m here to grow and I hope you are too.

Why is meeting etiquette so important to me? 📍

Time is something we can never get back. Every minute that can be saved is a minute worth it. If you don’t value your time or someone else’s time; I would prefer we don’t meet…

Take a look at my blog on how I failed at hosting a meeting and wasted everyone’s time!

Hope this helped, or will help, you!

Feel like going on a coffee chat with me? 🙌🏼

Find me on LinkedIn! Let’s chat!