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Advice / Job Search / Networking

3 Ways to Guarantee Conversation Will Flow at Your Follow-up Coffee Meeting

In the world of networking, there’s a lot of emphasis on landing that first elusive coffee meeting: how to ask for it, what to do during it, and how to act once it’s over.

However, no one really talks about the second meeting. And that’s probably because everyone assumes that you no longer need advice after you’ve turned this stranger into your newest professional contact. This time around, all you have to do is show up—right?

Nope. In fact, I’ve learned from experience that it’s not uncommon for a second meeting to be lackluster, even if the first one went beautifully. While most people spend time preparing for the initial encounter, they often just try to wing the second one. Trust me on this: You can’t assume that conversation will flow just because you both recognize each other this time.

So, how do you avoid things getting awkward? You can start by checking out the three easy ways below.

1. Have an Agenda (and Share it With the Other Person)

I don’t mean “agenda” in the way Frank Underwood does. Instead, I’m talking about the importance of knowing why you want to meet again in the first place. Don’t schedule a networking meeting for the sake of saying you went to coffee or drinks with someone—have a purpose. (Even it’s as simple as, “I bet Mike could give me some really good advice on this problem I’m dealing with” or “Sharon’s doing cool stuff and I want to hear about it.”) People are busy, so if you can communicate exactly why you want to meet to the other person, the more likely he or she is to say yes. Not to mention, having a discussion topic ready means the meeting will probably go better in general.

If you find yourself stumped for a good reason to get together, it’s probably time to re-consider your in-person relationship. Are you adding anything to this person’s professional life? Is he or she doing anything for you? While it’s important to be friendly with people in your professional circles, you don’t need to have a monthly meeting with everyone who shows up on your LinkedIn newsfeed.

2. Stay Up-to-Date on the Person’s Life

It’s easy to assume that if you’ve met someone once, you must know enough about him or her to get through another coffee meeting. But don’t forget that people (and their careers) are constantly changing. In the time since you last met, it’s not crazy for your contact to have changed jobs, received a promotion, or even gotten laid off. And while he or she may not say anything to you, you’ll appear really ignorant if you’re completely unaware.

Before you head out to a second meeting with people, do a quick Google search, check for LinkedIn updates, and complete a little old-fashioned Twitter stalking. While you obviously don’t want to come across as a creeper (“So when I was going through your last three months of tweets…”), you do want to seem in the know (“I saw that you got promoted—that’s awesome!”). And, well, that you care.

3. Keep in (Some Form of) Contact Between Meetings

I’ve seen lots of people meet up for coffee, go radio silent for months, and then reach out to meet up again. Some people won’t mind, but others will find this follow-up to feel very random.

Just because you established contact doesn’t mean that’s the end of it. Strong relationships grow over an extended period of time, not just whenever you physically see someone every couple of weeks, months, or years.

Obviously, social media’s a great, informal, and easy way to keep in touch with people. (Or at the very least, keep tabs on them.) However, if you’re more of an email person (or you want to do more than share an article or like a status), try using Google Alerts. Writer Aja Frost wrote a great piece about using them to boost your networking efforts, which you can read more about here.

A first coffee meeting is just the beginning of a great professional relationship, and every subsequent email, comment, or tweet could be what strengthens that bond further. And hey, keeping up with contacts is awesome productive procrastination.

Photo of women at coffee shop courtesy of Shutterstock.