3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Professional Meet Ups

I know you are dying to meet the women and men that you read about or follow on social in person for the ingredients to their secret sauce. You want them to sit across from you and share the keys to success, the playbook of climbing to the top and the instruction manual of how to be them. Sometimes you don’t even want the keys, you just want a job or an opportunity to work for him or her.

Networking is the easy part in relationship building, but what do you do when it’s time for a one-on-one encounter.

It’s not hard to get a business card at an event, and once you are successful at getting your follow up email answered and a meeting scheduled, it’s up to you to make the most of your professional meet-ups. It’s imperative that your upcoming informational meeting with an industry professional is flawless. Besides being prompt and professional during the meeting you need to set concrete objectives for what you will discuss and how you will cultivate the relationship moving forward. Here are some tips to make sure your meeting is impactful:

Know Your Ask

What would you say to Oprah if you were able to have lunch with her? Can you envision it? Every informational meeting should be approached with the topic of conversation in mind. Every week people ask to collaborate with me or meet with me, but once we meet the only thing they really wanted was to pitch themselves for press opportunities in the outlets I write for. That’s not a collaboration that’s work! It in no ways benefits Lemons 2 Lemonade, so I we both leave annoyed that the conversation was not mutually beneficial. Don’t waste people’s time by alluding to a topic of conversation that you don’t really want to discuss.

The first thing that people get wrong during their professional meetings is not being clear on their reason for the meeting. Before you send your email to request a moment of someone’s time, do your research and know what you want to gain from the meeting. If in your email you mentioned that you want to meet-up to discuss ways to collaborate and partner together then make sure that is the topic of conversation. If you are wanting to know more about the person’s job or the company they work for and a position that may be open at their company then ask. Don’t try to catch the bait and then switch things up once you have them in front of you.

Know Your Audience

Before you have your meeting, make sure you know a little bit about the professional. Take a peek at their blog and social media pages to see what they’ve been up to. This will help you navigate the conversation and warm things up before you get to the reason why you are meeting. Questions like, “Where do you work?” shouldn’t be asked if you already did your research. You never want to ask questions about a person if you could find the answer online.

Also, by knowing your audience you can also get a sense of what to say or not to say and how invested this person is in your career trajectory. One thing I had to learn early in my job search was who I could share my job interview struggles with and who I couldn’t. I learned who I can shed a tear with and who would not empathize with my struggle to gain employment. Learning body language and conversation cues will help you gauge when you should change the topic, dig a little deeper or let it all out.

Know What You Bring to the Table

Sometimes just “picking someone’s brain over coffee won’t help you take your professional meetings to the next level. When I first moved to New York, I didn’t know what I could bring to the table. I quickly learned that many professionals are looking for an exchange for their time, network and opportunity. I could barely pay for the lunch or drink that we were indulging in during the meeting. I knew I would pay my dues once I get on my feet, but all I needed was an opportunity. I couldn’t offer anyone tickets to a concert or a sports game. I didn’t have access to a sneaker connect, beauty products or any other swag to gift them. So what would I bring to the table?

You don’t always have to bring materials things to the table, but you can offer your services. You can first start by volunteering. Find ways to assist and volunteer for those you meet with based off of their needs. Offer to manage their social media at their next event or assist them. You can also offer support by engaging with their online community, showing up to events that they are producing or participating in, and finding ways to incorporate them into the work you do. I may not have access to concert tickets, but I can help build and manage your e-newsletter or I can support you at church while you sing in the choir. Showing that you are just as invested in them will make them more invested in you.

Being clear on your intentions, understanding the scope of what your industry professional does and knowing how you can contribute to the work they do will turn your meeting into a fruitful relationship. People appreciate honest and hard-working people who are serious and passionate about what they do. Let those characteristics shine and you’ll go far in building your networks.

Photo by Bruce Fields

Originally published at Brittney Oliver.