Before I get started today, a shout out to my dear “old” dad! He’s 64 today – not so old, really. He is a fabulous writer and the smartest guy I know, so I credit him with much of my interest, desire and relative ability to write this blog. Happy Birthday, Daddy Max!
Now, back to Coffee-Lunch-Coffee…
Where, one might wonder, is the best place to meet with networking prospects? I will illustrate through a list of my favorite haunts where might be decent places to meet. There are certain characteristics that I think about when choosing location such as geographic vicinity, atmosphere, adequate privacy, Wi-Fi availability, whether there will be a wait and the like. It may go without saying that you won’t want anywhere that is too quiet, too noisy, too far away or where, frankly, you’ll know too many people (who might come over for a “quick” hello and, without meaning to, interrupt the flow of your networking discussion).
Here are my top picks, really in no particular order:
- McDonald’s. Yes, I am one of the millions of people who frequent McDonald’s on a daily basis. Anyone who knows me well is aware of my serious Coke addiction – wait – that came out wrong, my Coca-Cola habit. Truth is, McDonald’s “makes” the best Coca-Cola, breakfast of champions in my case! Pathetic, I know. Anyway, McDonald’s stores really are a convenient place to meet – they are everywhere, they are appropriately quiet (especially during mid-morning and mid-afternoon times), there are plenty of booths for comfort and relative privacy and they offer free Wi-Fi so you can get some computer work done before or after Coffee. I probably would not recommend it for Lunch, but for one of your Coffee meetings, I say it’s great!
- Panera Bread. Panera is another good spot with high efficiency and, given the potential geographic diversity of my readers, is easy to suggest since there are more than 7,500 Paneras covering about 40 states, so you all can probably get to one or two of them! This is a great place to start with Coffee in the morning, then work using their free Wi-Fi until 11:30am when they shut down the Wi-Fi for lunch. You can take a quick refresher break and be back at your booth just in time to meet your Lunch appointment. Then, you can jump back on your laptop until your afternoon Coffee appointment…. You get the idea. For me, there were (and, sometimes, still are) three Panera locations that I frequented. I noticed that each location seemed to have its own little community of people who also discovered the comfortable atmosphere for meetings and free Wi-Fi, so I often saw (see) the same people there day-in/day-out.
- Starbucks. So, I couldn’t let this particular post pass me by without mentioning Starbucks, right? Plus, they, too, are everywhere, have a nice atmosphere, offer free Wi-Fi (see the trend?), etc. In fact, my husband says that Starbucks should exit the coffee business altogether to focus on their core competency…atmosphere! The warm cup held lovingly in your hands, the smell of the coffee, the cozy armchairs… it’s all so much more than the coffee itself! Anyway, I mention Starbucks at the risk of excluding some wonderful locally owned, independent, mom ‘n’ pop coffee shops that are equally, if not more terrific than Starbucks, such as The Roasterie, Aixois, Latte Land, etc. here in Kansas City where I also spent and spend significant time. Suffice it to say that coffee shops in general make for good meeting spots so long as they have tables and chairs, power outlets and are spacious enough to give you a little elbow room and privacy for your discussions. While Starbucks may seemingly be too obvious to have been included herein, my all-time most fruitful networking meeting happened on September 16, 2008 during a morning Coffee meeting (during which, by the way, I didn’t even purchase a drink) in 30 minutes at a Starbucks!
We’ll leave it at that for today – we’re off to celebrate my dad’s birthday. Tomorrow I will tell you about that brief, but incredibly productive discussion at Starbucks – I bet there is a lesson or two that will be useful for you, too.