It’s coffee date time! You show up to your meeting spot, sit down and wait for the person you are meeting. You are looking around the room and you make quick eye contact with someone you think you recognize from a LinkedIn picture. They wave to you, you stop panicking and head over to their table. You meet, greet, get some coffee and then sit down. Then, it all turns for the worst when you say these deadly words…
“So…where do you work again?”
Bad. Bad, bad, bad. Bad. Right away, you show your true colors: you did not do ANY research before this meeting. But, it’s really not your fault, right? You got home late from work the night before, needed to stop at the grocery and had to finish up that sales proposal all while on the way to your mom’s house for dinner. You didn’t have time to look at everything they do, his/her hobbies and the name of their first pet. So, you got to coffee just in time to look up a picture of them, and that was it.
We are all busy, and I guarantee that the person you are meeting is just as (maybe more) busy, and still took the time out of their schedule to meet with you. Nothing is worse for your coffee date than if they feel like you didn’t even put time into thinking of good questions they could answer. It’s important to know who you are talking to and what they have accomplished in their career journey so that the conversation has a direction and so they can tell you have interest in their advice. The good news is, you don’t have to spend tons of time getting prepared to meet someone! In 15 minutes, you can become a mini expert on a person:
STEP #1: LinkedIn. The motherland of information. This is your first stop so that you can learn all those basics: jobs, previous employers, skills, certifications, charity work, etc. Even if you have not connected with your coffee date, research them. Yes, yes they will get a notification that you looked a their profile. But for the first time in social media history, this level of creepiness is welcomed! Chances are, your coffee date will be flattered that you took the time to get to know their professional history.
STEP #2: Google. I am a big fan of what I liked to call the 1 page Google research project. Simply type in the name of your date (and maybe their current company as well) and see what comes up. You may get linked to articles they have been quoted in, new ventures they are apart of, and other great events they have participated in. LinkedIn is like the outfit and Google articles are the accessories: the details matter!
STEP #3: Twitter. I think twitter is really underutilized — It has a ton of information! As a last piece of research, search the name of the person or their company they are a part of to see the most recent things they are up to. You will also get connected to what other people are saying about them, which could offer some great insights and possible questions to ask your date that you may have not thought of.
Don’t be afraid to research…it really doesn’t take long! Nothing is more impressive than being able to engage with your coffee date at multiple levels and showing them respect for their time by knowing the basics.