On Thursday, I posted about how meetings can easily take up a huge chunk of one’s time. Meetings are a very necessary part of doing business, however not all meetings are directly conducive to actual work. They are for that dirty, dirty word: “networking.”
But I know this as well as anyone and I’ve leveraged intros and connections from one person to the next in a beautifully serendipitous discovery of great people in the startup ecosystem. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for all of the awesome people who have helped along the way and I try to honor that help by paying it forward as best I can.
So, let’s break down the actual cost of “a quick meeting” and I’ll drop some tips on how to effectively get meetings with busy people, make the most of that potential relationship, and together, we’ll make this process better for everyone…
- Scheduling. Most likely over email… it’s a pain in the ass and no, Tungle.me, has not made it easier for anyone. If you take more than a few emails to schedule, you’re sucking. Tip: Offer exact windows of time to start. How is Mon 3-5pm, Tue 10-12 or Thu 1-4pm?
- Travel time. If a meeting requires someone to leave their office, that means looking up location, getting there and back. Tip: If you request the meeting, be willing to play an away game. If you have to meet in the middle, find a great location. Pro tip: Pick the favorite place of your intended target. ie. - Don’t askBrad Feld to meet at Shake Shack (he’s a pescatarian).
- Doing research before. I do at least some basic research before every meeting I have and I think all people should. This is the way to get the most out of a meeting. Usually it’s to get to know someone else’s product/offering so I can offer advice, but sometimes it’s just to see what’s new in their life so I can be on point. If I don’t know what we’re meeting about, be ready to ask some pointed questions to steer the convo, but be ready for me to go “ummmm… let me think about that.” Tip: Do your research in advance so you have a chance to make a real connection with someone. Super pro tip: Never use the phrase “pick your brain” or “compare notes.” SO VAGUE and abused.
- Allotted time. In theory, this is just the actual cost of the meeting time - an allotted 30 minutes or an hour usually - but these often go long for one reason or another. That’s not fair to the person you’ve asked for a meeting. Keep meetings to your allotted time, or better, finish a few minutes early so they get a few minutes of their day back.
- Defined agenda. I’m not saying you need an itinerary or that your meeting needs to only be about business - connecting personally is important - just don’t waste all of the time BS’ing around, especially if you know the other person has 1000 other things on their plate.
- Follow up. Most meetings have some sort of follow up exchange (if they don’t, you’re not doing it right). These usually take the form of an ask for an intro or some other exchange over email, but it requires at least one person to do some work for you. Tip: Make it easy. Follow up quickly with a “thank you. I’m going to do ABC and will follow up IN A SEPARATE THREAD about XYZ.” Then… do that. Sending a well crafted email in a separate thread that they can easily forward to ask for an intro for you makes it 10x more likely that they’ll help you out.
- Follow-up follow-up [sic]. Once you’ve connected with that other intro, let the original introducer know and thank them. This goes a long way to show that when they help you, you’ll follow up and do it right.
As you can see, the actual cost of a meeting can easily add up where Time = (pre-meeting + meeting + post-meeting x #asks), so it’s important that we all know and respect one another’s time as we help each other build the greater startup ecosystem and do more faster.
What else can we do about it?
- Phone calls. While I admit that face to face meetings are better than phone calls, I love taking calls while walking or driving. Some of my best connections with other entreps started this way.
- Meal meetings. Breakfast/lunch meetings are great. If you really want someone’s time, you can offer to take them to lunch. That being said, realize that some people simply don’t have an hour for lunch or they use that time to hang with their team (I do).
- Moving meetings. I haven’t done a ton of these, but I think they’d be fun. Either sharing someone’s commute or going for a run can be a cool creative way to find time. I’ve done both.