Ever since IBM acquired Xtify, I have been flooded with requests to “have” coffee. Whether deserved or not, an exit to a sought-after acquirer makes you a pseudo-oracle. I am usually flattered, often assent, but too frequently disappointed. Some people just don’t know how to prepare for coffee.
In an age of ubiquitous Starbucks and ever-more affordable Nespresso and Keurig machines, getting the making of coffee right is not the challenge. I am good with any dark roast. I am less good with light preparation. Here is what I expect from coffee:
There is nothing embarrassing about coffee. At some point in most of our careers we’ve all sought to “do” coffee. (Some have even counseled doing up to 250 coffees a year.) There is undoubtedly a direct correlation between the transparency of the coffee request and the productivity of the coffee time. If you are looking for a job, a career change, a specific introduction, or insights into a particular issue, communicate it ahead of time. A prepared coffee interlocutor will make that first coffee much more valuable and substantive.
I have left a rich trail of professional breadcrumbs. My tweets, posts, social likes, webinars, articles, and connections can paint a very rich picture of whom you are about to share coffee. It will certainly provide fodder for discussion and perhaps insight into my sensibilities. There is no excuse not to invest time into this type of pre-coffee prep. (And new tools like Accompany and Trove make this exercise even easier.) Checking for Twitter, Linkedin, and Google News updates until right before our coffee will make you smarter, more prepared, and much more impressive. You should also expect that I might do the same for you, so don’t be surprised if I know more about you than expected.
In addition to favoring a drop of cinnamon in my coffee, I have one coffee peeve that I insist on: unless you have a photographic memory (or its aural equivalent – Eidetic Memory), please (please!) come with a pen and paper. If you felt time with me was important, surely taking some notes – my ideas, suggested introductions, related businesses – are worth recording. Even if you conclude that I do not have much to add, humor me and create some random doodles.
This is not always necessary, but I have found it a good way to be sure you accomplish what you are looking to cover before running out of time. It can also give your coffee partner some insight into your own style.
Here is an agenda I recently used for a coffee I requested with a leading VC:
Steve: Not sure if I will have more than the 30 minutes allotted – so below is a bit of a selfish agenda.
-11:00 – Thank you for coffee
-11:04 – Admire your new books
-11:10 – Catch you up on what I know re: IBM
-11:15 – You thoughts on point solution vs. full stack start-up
-11:28 – Who should I meet next
-11:30 – Any way I can help?
Not that I won’t be flexible, but figured your time is valuable. 🙂
To fulfill the promise of coffee being “good to the last drop”, a post-coffee strategy is essential. Regardless of the substance of the coffee takeaways, a follow-up note of thanks is in order. If a company or technology was mentioned, try to find some new materials or recent news and mention it in your note. If specific introductions were promised, follow up with a separate note for each one (see Chris Fralic’s excellent guide to the art of the introduction request). Also, always consider including a mention of how you might be of help to your coffee partner.
Finally, if you don’t like coffee, add plenty of cream and sugar and fake it.
Originally Published by Josh via LinkedIn Pulse