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How to Schedule a Meeting With Someone You Don’t Know

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So you are looking to schedule a meeting with someone you don’t know very well…

  1. What is the correct protocol to ask for a meeting ?
  2. How do you get the meeting without seeming like a jerk?
  3. What if they turn you down?

These questions can cause you anxiety, especially if you’re an introvert who is not good at talking to new people (like myself).

Below are my tips for how I approach getting a meeting with someone new:

NRF

How To Get A Meeting

1. Have Context

I generally avoid asking someone for a meeting that I don’t have context for. I define “context” as a point of reference… either you met them at an event, or you know someone who knows them, or you’re a big fan. Context is anything reason valuable enough for you to reach out to them.

Request a follow-up meeting on the spot

If I talk to someone at an event, I try to get a follow up while the conversation is still fresh.

Example: “I would love to chat more about ABC, would you be interested in grabbing coffee or lunch sometime this week?” If possible pull your phone out and send a meeting invite right away.

Get their business card

Make sure you write some information about the discussion on the back of the card to refresh your memory if you send out an invite later on. When you send out a email after an event, be sure to mention where you met them and what you discussed, e.g. “It was great meeting you at the fundraiser on Friday. I enjoyed chatting with you about ABC. Per our discussion, I would love to grab a meeting this week to chat more about ABC.”

Find mutual friends or contacts

LinkedIn can be pretty useful for figuring out who knows who. If someone you know has a connection with the person, don’t be afraid to ask them for an intro. e.g. “Hey Jamie, I am looking to reach out to Kris Smith to pick his brain about mobile UX. His presentation on his blog really resonated with me. I saw on LinkedIn your are connected to him. Would you be able to introduce me?”

The key is giving them a sense of why you want to talk to the person and allow them to filter the information in advanced of introducing you. The more details the better. This will allow them to provide as much information as possible.

Important: Do not burn someone who referred you. If someone refers you and you piss off their connection, they may never refer you to someone again.

You’re a “fan” of their work

Being a fan of someone’s work can be flattering, but it can also come across kinda creepy. I would recommend having a strong reason to reach out to someone if you’re a fan. If you aren’t able to meet the person at an event or get a referral, you have to go with the old “cold request”.

When you send a cold request, you need to be very clear about why you want to meet them. If you send a email that reads: “Hey, I would like to have a meeting with you. Thanks!” – you probably won’t get a response. Your intro should be very clearly crafted.

Example: “ Hi Kris, My name is Brett Cooper and I do mobile dev work on iOS projects for a company here in Atlanta. I saw you speak last year at Web Afternoon, and I really enjoyed your presentation. I was wondering if could buy you lunch and pick your brain about a mobile problem that I’m looking to solve around multi screen size format. Do you have any availability this Thursday or Friday? Thanks!”

2. Scheduling the meeting

So they respond back to your meeting request with “Sure, what time do you want to meet?” Your objective is to quickly get something set on the calendar.

  • The calendar game – My rule of thumb is to ask for 2-3 time slots within the next 5 days. If they can’t meet any of the time slots, ask them for some alternatives.
  • Target the morning – Try to get something first thing in the morning (e.g. a coffee meeting) so you are less likely to get bumped because one of their other meetings ran late.
  • If all else fails, try the phone – If you are struggling to get something scheduled, ask if you can do a quick 90 second phone call to resolve calendar alignment issues.
  • Pick a specific location – Try and pick a specific location near where they work or ask them if it would be most convenient to meet at their office. The more specific you are in the request, the more likely it will be to that you successfully schedule the meeting.
  • The invite format– When you schedule a meeting, send out a calendar invite to make sure each attendees time gets blocked on their calendars .

The key things you should include in a meeting invite are:

1. Title – the Title of the meeting invite should be clear on what the meeting is about.

2. Location – Include the location in both the location field and body/comments. Preferable the the address if you are driving there.

3. Summary – Have a summary of the meeting request in the body.

4. Objective – Clearly state the objective of the meeting.

5. Agenda – When you send a meeting invite, make sure to have a clear agenda (with some time-boxing). Thinking about the agenda and time boxes ahead of time will help you get a clearer picture of what you want to talk about and whether you actually have enough time to cover everything.

6. Notification – Be sure to included a notification equal to the amount of travel time (or 5 minutes if it doesn’t require travel).

7. Contact – Include your cell phone and their cell number (if possible). This makes it easy for them to reach you if they are running late.

8. Use helpful tools – There are a lot of tools out there that try to solve the scheduling puzzle. I had previously used tungle, Assistant.to, Timebridge.com, ScheduleOnce.com, and Calendly.com. These tools can be very useful for larger groups, but I would stick with emails and the phone for 1:1 meeting scheduling.

9. Try A.I. – Recently I tried out https://x.ai/ which offers a virtual personal assistant AI that will work to look at your calendar and coordinate with multiple other parties to finalize a meeting time. The experience was pretty smooth, but it did still require 2-3 emails to get the meeting finalized.

Here is an example of a meeting invite.

Title: Cooper / Kris Meeting to talk about Mobile UX Challenges

Attendees: Brett Cooper, Kris K.

Location: Octane Coffee Emory Village

Reminder: 15 minutes before

Body:

Kris,

Per our email discussion, I would like to grab coffee and pick your brain on mobile UX topics

Objective:

Discuss mobile UX challenges on iOS 8.

Agenda:

1. Intro and key problem areas – 5m

2. Deep dive into use cases – 15m

3. Discussion and Recommendations – 20m

4. Next steps / take-aways – 10m

Contact:

Brett’s cell: 855-529-6349

download (5)

3. Follow-up After the Meeting

Having a post-meeting reason to discuss things is a good way to build a longer term relationship or conversation.

Send a thank you email – Send a note thanking the person for meeting with you. I will also typically include any meeting notes and any action items that I took away from the meeting. I know some people who send classy hand-written thank you notes, but I have the worst handwriting… so I normally stick with an email thank you.

Try to followup within 2-5 days – Try to followup with any actions you had within a week of the meeting. You want to show that you were seriously paying attention and valued their help and input.

Offer reciprocal help – Be sure to offer your reciprocal help if they helped you with something. Keep it simple: “ Tina, Thanks for your recommendations on sales frameworks, this will really help me out. I owe you one. Let me know if i can help you with anything.”

Leave the door open for next steps – If someone gives you advice about a situation or challenge you are facing, have a followup status that you send them in the future to show how you resolved it or how it played out.

General Expectations

  • Mail 2-3 times before you give up. More than 3 times verges on stalking, annoying, desperate, or even worse… being a sales guy.
  • Don’t expect someone to work miracles for you.
  • Time is a very valuable commodity, don’t waste someone else’s time.
  • Get out and meet people, build valuable relationships, and help other people out… it will eventually come around to you.
  • Be grateful. Life is full of people who are looking to help out where they can. Be thankful even for small amounts of help.

8 Meetings Worth Attending

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It’s no secret that leaders have differing views on meetings.  Some meet far too often, while others don’t believe in meeting at all. Frankly, it’s not about how often you’re meeting, but rather what those meetings are accomplishing.

We wanted to see what type of meetings work at successful businesses, so we asked Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year winner, David Cummings about how he creates a healthy meeting culture.

David Cummings

Image Source- Creative Loafing Atlanta

David has been an entrepreneur for over a decade. In 2001, David founded Hannon Hill, which was recognized as the 247th fastest growing company in the U.S. by Inc. magazine. In early 2007, David co-founded Pardot, which was recognized by the Atlanta Business Chronicle as the fastest growing technology company in 2010. Pardot was named to the Inc. 500 in 2012 and shortly thereafter Pardot was acquired by ExactTarget in one of the largest SaaS acquisitions ever of a bootstrapped company. Most recently, David founded the Atlanta Tech Village, which at 103,000 sq ft is the largest technology entrepreneur center in the Southeast.

Read More

Words of Wisdom For The Project Manager

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ElizabethHarrinProjectManager

This week we had the pleasure of speaking with Elizabeth Harrin about some of the pain points project managers face and how to fix them.

Elizabeth Harrin, MA, FAPM, MBCS is Director of The Otobos Group, a project communications consultancy specialising in copywriting for project management firms. She is the author of Shortcuts to Success: Project Management in the Real World, Social Media for Project Managers and Customer-Centric Project Management. She also writes the award-winning blog, A Girl’s Guide to Project Management. You can find Elizabeth online at www.otobosgroup.com or on Twitter @pm4girls.

As a project manager, what is the biggest problem you face in meetings? Read More

Stay Comfortable At Your Desk

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The business world used to be a lot more “active” 100 years ago. You’d hop on a horse and buggy to meet with potential customers, walk up several flights of stairs to ask your boss a quick question and eat whatever was in walking distance to your office.

Today, you don’t even have to leave your desk to get most things done. You can control the temperature of the room with the tap of your finger (with nest), have an instant conversation with your coworker half way around the world (with iChat), and have delicious food delivered to your door step by making a simple phone call.

Technology makes our lives significantly easier, but it also tends to confine us to one area- the desk. Mobile phones and iPads give us more flexibility, but according to ScienceDaily, the average adult still spends 6 hours a day sitting at their desk. It’s no wonder we’re getting arthritis earlier, hunched backs sooner, and exercising less each day.

You can help combat the negatives of desk-convenience by taking regular breaks, doing simple stretches, and utilizing well-designed products.

Here are a few of our recommendations:


1) The Aeron Chair 

If you’re going to be sitting for 6 hours a day, you might as well be comfortable. The Aeron chair was created by the master mind behind the famous Eames Lounger, Herman Miller. With over nine different adjustable positions, this chair can fit just about any body type comfortably. Designed to be ergonomically sound, these chairs significantly reduce body fatigue and enforce better posture .

The only downside is the price at $679, which may seem like a big upfront cost now, but your back will thank you in 20 years.

*Pro-tip: Search Craigslist to find them for half-off.



terra pro

 

 2) Standing Desks


The consensus best standing desk is NextDesk’s Terra. The Terra is incredibly easy to adjust, very well built, and available in a wide variety of options. At just over $1600, this can be quite expensive, but luckily there are other cost effective options as well.



The Ergo Depot AD17 adjustable height desk is a third of the cost, has a very clean design, and is a great option for smaller spaces.



3) Exercise Ball Chair

The exercise ball chair is great for strengthening your core while typing. Be careful with how you are sitting, as they have a tendency to roll away a bit more easily than a typical office chair, but at $79, this is easily the most cost effective solution to getting some much needed “bounce” to your day (zing!).



What types of office furniture / techniques do you use to stay comfortable at work?

The Lunch and Learn

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How do you get the smartest people at your company to share their expertise without taking additional time out of their already busy schedules? After all, it’s a rare occasion when employees in marketing, sales, and services (etc.) actually get a chance to interact and share new ideas. I mean, who has the time to learn something new when your schedule already looks like swiss cheese?
 
Sure, being an expert in marketing may not require you to understand programming trends (and vice versa), but it certainly helps to learn about the challenges other departments face and gain beneficial knowledge about different professions in the company. As the business world moves forward, it’s no longer viable to just be a great marketer or sales manager. People that see the big picture tend to move up faster and are often the most respected leaders.
 
This is where the ‘Lunch and Learn’ comes into play. As we learned last week, food brings employees together and convinces them to do extraordinary things (like attend meetings). Some companies are starting to take this free lunch idea and use it as an incentive to get employees to spend that hour lunch break learning about new business trends and topics.
 
Pardot, a marketing automation company based out of Atlanta, GA offers a bimonthly ‘Lunch and Learn’ where employees happily dedicate an hour to quality food and education. As a marketing SaaS company, topics range from email deliverability to understanding the sales process. It creates a culture of collaborative, well-rounded employees that are educated on an array of industry topics.
 
How to implement:
  1. Ask for volunteers to present information about areas they are experts in. This gives them a chance to show what they are passionate about, without feeling obligated.
  2. Schedule some dining options during a day that most employees can attend (avoid holidays and fridays where most people will be gone).
  3. Have volunteers create a presentation about their topic using materials they are comfortable with (powerpoint, keynote, video software).
  4. Be amazed at how many employees actually want to learn more about different areas of your company.
Tips:
  1. Start off slowly- don’t offer too many too quickly. It can be overwhelming to spend most lunches in the office. This should be a special treat!
  2. Leave ample time for people to sign up and clear their lunch schedules.
  3. Offer recordings of the presentations for those that cannot attend.
 
Any other tips?

“Will There Be Food?”

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Do you have low attendance in your meetings? Are people leaving before the meeting is actually over? Sounds like you might need some sandwiches.

It’s no secret that people love food. In fact, people love food so much that they are willing to hear what you have to say just to have a bite. Not only will more people come, but a 2011 study on group dynamics by Creighton University found that meetings with food/refreshments directly increased meeting quality.

This is not a new concept- people have been putting candy on their desks to attract visitors even before jolly ranchers were recognized as something more than just happy farmers raising livestock. Although candy can temporarily increase energy levels, here are a few better long-term health foods that will pack more brain power for your next meeting:

Improve learning and memory (omega-3 fatty acids):
flax seeds, walnuts, salmon, grass-fed beef, soybeans

Protect the brain and boost your immune system (antioxidants):
blueberries, green tea, apples, and spinach

Support brain activity (food rich in B vitamins):
meat, brown rice and soy products.

Food brings a sense of community, opens communication between different teams and raises morale in the work place. Sure, you have to fork over a few Benjamins, but it’s a lot cheaper to invest in a meal for 20 people (bulk orders cost less and are tax deductible) vs. individual employees spending $10+ on a meal out of pocket (without spending valuable time with their coworkers). This tiny company investment quickly turns empty stomachs into productive, sociable employees.

Need some ideas? Here are just a few of my favorites:

  1. Chipotle: healthy options for meat lovers and vegetarians alike
  2. Food trucks (Happy Belly, Yumbii): unique options and supports local entrepreneurs!
  3. Corner Bakery: great breakfast and lunch varieties
  4. Yoforia: Who doesn’t want yogurt?
  5. Trader Joe’s: packs of healthy nuts and dried fruits

What are your favorite options?

sources: whfoods.com, ehow.com, ibitimes.com