If you work from home, you might not really want to invite a potential client round for a meeting. That’s fair enough. You’d perhaps feel under pressure to clean the entire house, spruce up the small corner of the house that you call an office and generally, things might not look professional. Have you lost the contract before you’ve even spoken about it?
An alternative could be to hire a meeting space but then there’s the nightmare of shelling out on a meeting room space when you don’t know if you’re going to get the job or not. This could look more professional in the short term but what if they want to meet up again and that room is unavailable? Or the meeting space isn’t quite what you expected it to be, or has been left in a state by the previous hire, or the Wi-Fi doesn’t work. In the long run this might not be a good idea.
This is where coffee shops come into play and there are many positives of organising a meeting at a Starbucks or perhaps your local independent coffee house. Firstly, it’s neutral ground so everyone feels more comfortable. There is no pretence about it. They usually have free Wi-Fi & I challenge you to say no to coffee, especially if someone else is buying! You don’t need to book a table and there is usually a spare space or one opens up pretty quickly once you’re in the venue.
So we’ve established that it is casual. With that, there is the eradication of boring PowerPoint presentations. Hurrah! It’s more of a chat, a conversation which flows easily rather than a slideshow of where the business has been and intends to leap forward to. You have a drink to sip on if you’re thinking of an answer to an awkward question but generally things are much more chilled. This casual meeting vibe often lets you bring up and talk about common interests, or even mutual friends or associates, getting to know one another. Even though you’re in a coffee shop, be sure not to gossip as that does come across as unprofessional but having a casual chat instead of a full blown business sit down keeps the heart rate lower for everyone. Consider time limiting your meeting, even though you might have the afternoon free. Half an hour is long enough for you to make a Long Macchiato last. This also lets you schedule in another meeting or catch up at a later date, perhaps once you’ve both gone away and thought about proposals or ideas.
Coffee shops are great for working in as they tend to enhance productivity. There’s something about the atmosphere of the place, the smell of coffee and the general hustle and bustle which helps aid work. If it’s good enough for working from – we’ve all seen a professional freelancer pounding away on their laptop with one hand whilst holding a Grande Americano in the other – then surely they are good enough for meetings? Creativity seems to be boosted in a coffee shop. The noise of the coffee grinder, the milk frother and active surroundings must have something to do with it and when you are relaxed, talking about one bit of business can often lead to another. Before you know it, you’ve shaken hands on a deal for more work than you first thought. You don’t know who else you might bump into, an old colleague, or someone overhearing what services you offer might speak to you once your potential client has left. The coffee shop itself might even need some work doing!
Be sure to listen, there is no excuse for starting to nod off like there perhaps is in a boardroom. Stay humble, follow up with an email later in the day and be sure to let them know that, if they pay, the Lattes are on your next time.
The power of a meeting over a coffee is much greater than that caffeine fix from a Cappuccino. There are conversations and business deals which just wouldn't come about from sitting in a stuffy boardroom. Oh and don’t forget to grab your receipt! That Flat White & blueberry muffin is an expense you can put through your business.