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Every week, I maintain THE TEMPLATE, an award-winningWinner of the 2015 Plank Center Award (public relations org.) for commitment to mentorship. blog that's been viewed more than 1.5 million times by people all over the world. In every column, I provide step-by-step instruction to help you become a stronger communicator. Like I always say, "Write well, open doors!"

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The 4 Essential Steps for the Perfect Networking Meeting

It’s without a doubt the most expensive cup of coffee ever ordered.

As of this writing, someone has agreed to pay $600,000 to share coffee with Apple CEO Tim Cook. To the person who wins the bidding war: sip your latte slowly. Every gulp will run you about 50 grand.

The coffee chat is sponsored by Charity Buzz, which raises money for great causes by allowing people to bid on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. The proceeds from the Tim Cook fundraiser will benefit the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

Why would someone pay $600,000 for an hour with Tim Cook? Because a networking meeting with the right person can open doors never thought possible. That’s why it’s important for young professionals to maximize every coffee chat, lunch date and after-work happy hour.

4 Essential Steps for the Perfect Networking Meeting

Step 1. Come prepared

Before you sit down to coffee, do your homework. If you’re meeting with a respected scientist, read one of her published works. If the person is in marketing, study up on a project he recently completed. Check them out on LinkedIn and see where they went to school; maybe you went to the same school. Always look for conversation talking points.

Step 2. Ask deep questions

Armed with the knowledge from your fact-finding mission, you’re ready to probe. Forget about typical questions like ‘So what kind of work do you do?’ Thanks to your research, you can drop something like this: ‘I saw your company just finished a big PR campaign with Pepsi. What was the most interesting part of that project for you?’

More next-level networking questions to ask

– What makes an employee valuable to you?

– Where do you think the industry is going? What are the trends in the market?

– What kinds of skills do young professionals need today?

– If you were me, just starting out in the job world, what do you wish you’d have known?

– Do you know of any trade groups, industry associations or networking opportunities I should check out?

For even more smart questions, check out Dennis Grubbs’ piece at Jobfully, which offers ‘job search intelligence software.’

networking meeting
Networking meetings are incredibly valuable. Case in point: an hour with Apple CEO Tim Cook is worth $600,000. Here are the four steps to make sure your coffee chat is everything it should be.

Step 3. Cut to the chase

Once you and the person have exchanged life stories, it’s time for the golden rule of sales: ABC or ‘always be closing.‘ Come right out and say ‘I’m hoping you can put me in touch with other people in our field who might be hiring.’

The secret to networking emails

Most people don’t mind sending out emails on your behalf, but no one loves to do it. It’s extra work that they’re not getting paid to do. You need to meet the person halfway. Say ‘Feel free to copy me on your emails, and if the person responds, I’ll take it from there.’

Now, your networking partner knows all they need to do is send one email, and you’ll handle the rest. Aren’t you awesome.

Step 4. Wrap it up with a bow

Once the networking meeting ends, write a thank-you email before the end of the day. Under no circumstances can you forget that final step. Here’s what the person will think if you don’t send the email: ‘I just spent an hour of my precious time with some young kid who isn’t grateful.’

Need a little help writing the note? Below is a template. Remember, be specific and prove you were paying attention.

Mr./Mrs. ________,

Thank you again for meeting with me today over coffee. It was really helpful to learn more about the work you do and the industry, in general. I think your Pepsi campaign is so interesting because I’m always looking for new and creative ways to use hashtags. I’ll make sure to keep an eye on that project.

Also, thanks so much for sending those networking emails on my behalf. If it’s OK, please ‘cc’ me on each one, and I’ll make sure to respond when necessary.

Thanks, and have a great day!

– You

An effective networking meeting can change your life forever. To give yourself the best odds, do your homework, ask great questions, ‘always be closing,’ and remember the thank-you note.

Oh, and don’t forget to finish your coffee.

It may not cost $600,000, but every cent counts.

 

At a networking session, should the person who asked for the meeting pay for the coffee? Or at least offer to pay?

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Feature photo: bpsusf (Flickr)

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