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Thinking about expanding your network? Try doing it over coffee.

One of the first thing many people do every day is grab a cup of coffee. Why not incorporate that daily first step into an exercise to help expand your network?

Not sure how to start?

1. Research. Learn about your intended guest by researching them on social media. Connect with them on LinkedIn, look at their Facebook page, read any articles or books that they have written. The more you know about them, the better the conversation will be. Then reach out. Start with people that you know and then graduate to people that you want to get to know.

2. Offer something up. Do you have information or ideas that they may find interesting? Offer to share those first so that you create interest in meeting you.

3. Keep it short. Don’t beat around bush. Typically, the people that you want in your network are busy. If your day is packed, which are you more willing to commit to, a full lunch hour or a 15-minute coffee break?

4. Be transparent. Make sure that you let your intentions be known from the outset of the conversation. Don’t say, “I want to pick your brain on something” if you really want to ask them to be your mentor. Don’t ask for a mentor when you really want a job lead.

5. Schedule it yourself. If possible, handle of the “where” and “when” details. Pick a time and place that is the least amount of burden on their day.

Want to get the best ROI from your coffee investment?

1. Be on time and keep track of time. Nothing says “I don’t respect you or your time” quite like showing up late though losing track of time and rambling on come close. Make sure that you are early and can make sure that you have a decent place to sit and chat. Stay on point and if you asked for 15 minutes, make sure you stick to that. If you think that you’ll have an issue with that, put your phone on vibrate and set a 10-minute timer as a warning and start wrapping things up.

2. Don’t assume they’ll pay. Offer to pay. It’s the polite thing to do. If they refuse to let you pay or if they suggest splitting the check, accept their offer without any back and forth.

3. Be appreciative. You do this by sticking to your agenda, being specific about your request, taking notes, and giving a genuine thank you at the beginning and end of the conversation. Remember to follow up with a thank you email or call a few days after your meeting.

4. Pay it forward. If there isn’t anything that you can do for your guest, find out if there is a specific charitable organization that they care about or are affiliated with and donate an hour of your time.

5. Keep the big picture in mind. These coffee meetings should be a part of your overall strategy to expand your network. Stay in touch with these people, keep them up to date with your success stories. Send them links to articles or research that they may find interesting. successful coffee meeting can be the beginning of something much bigger. Stay in touch with your contacts. Tell them when you manage to implement one of their ideas. Send them referrals or research studies that you think they’ll enjoy.

If you make these coffee meetings part of your regular routine and have 4-5 coffee meetings a month with your current and expanding network, you will build a strong network of people with whom you have deep and meaningful relationships.

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