When you’re connecting with someone for the first time, you want to make a strong impression. Trying to accomplish this when meeting in person is challenging enough. Learning how to network virtually presents a different set of challenges that you’ll need to overcome. In either case, the reality is that networking is important. If there’s an opportunity for you to sit with someone who can potentially impact your career, directly or indirectly, you shouldn’t pass that up.
Think about this: someone worth knowing and connecting with has agreed to share their time with you. You need to respect that time by being clear and intentional with your conversation. Before taking the first steps to prepare for your virtual coffee chat, you need to know what you hope to get out of it. This clarity will go a long way in driving the conversation and nurturing the relationship so that it’s not just a one-time thing.
What is a virtual coffee chat?
Coffee chats are usually in-person meetings you set up with someone you want to add to your network. A virtual coffee chat is the same thing, except you’re meeting people over a video app or software like Zoom, Skype or even Google Hangouts. In either case, coffee chats are an effective way to make networking more personal.
Why a coffee chat is important
There are many ways in which a coffee chat can help impact your career.
- Builds trust and genuine connection – Trust is one of the core principles of any relationship, and a business relationship is no different. A coffee chat, virtual or in-person, is a way to begin building that trust and showing the person that you value their opinion and guidance.
- Gives you an insider look at a field or position – Coffee chats give you an advantage. You’re able to get insight into what it’s really like working in your field, and possibly even your role. That kind of information should help inform how you go about preparing to not only land that job but thrive in it once you do.
- Builds your network – We can’t emphasize enough the importance of networking. It’s the main reason you’ve set up this coffee chat in the first place. Knowing people within your industry who have experience they are willing to share is a valuable asset. It’s important to continue seeking out opportunities to network beyond a simple coffee chat.
Be mindful of these things when chatting online
As we mentioned before, a virtual coffee chat has its own etiquette. The very fact that you’ll be communicating through technology means there needs to be additional steps taken on your end to be sure the conversation goes smoothly.
- Find a quiet place – You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where the person on the other end of the line is struggling to hear you. Having to repeat yourself because of background noise can be distracting and come across as unprofessional. For that reason, it’s a good idea to also close all the windows in the room you’re sitting in for the duration of the conversation.
- Do a test run – As advanced as our video technology has become, you should always do a test run. You want to make sure links are working, your microphone is on and at the right volume and that you’re not sitting too close to the screen.
- Pay attention to the details – Is your lighting right? What’s in the background as you’re having this conversation? If you have roommates, did you let them know not to disturb you during the time you’ll be on the call? These are all questions you need to ask yourself before starting the chat.
4 ways to prepare for your virtual coffee chat
Preparation is always the key. The more prepared you are, the better chances you have of making a solid and lasting impression. Consider these steps when preparing for your virtual coffee chat.
1. Research who you’re talking to and have questions ready
Very few things stand out more in a coffee chat then when you show you’ve taken the time to learn about the other person. The more detailed you can get, the better. It’s a good idea not to limit yourself to researching what this person has done in their career, but find out something personal. It’s a way to build the trust and genuine connection we mentioned earlier.
2. Rehearse your elevator pitch
This speaks to being clear about what your goals are. An elevator pitch is how you express your value in a concise manner. And just because you’re not face to face doesn’t mean you won’t get nervous. Practice it out loud and practice while you’re sitting in front of your screen. Get one of your friends on a video chat and practice while they’re on the other line. It will help with your nerves by recreating the scene as close as possible to what you will experience once you’re in your virtual coffee chat.
3. Be on time
We shouldn’t have to say this, but we will. Being on time means that you’re set up in a quiet spot with the windows closed and all the equipment tested well ahead of your scheduled chat. You should actually be waiting on the line before the other person gets on.
4. Write the person a thank you note after your virtual chat
Again, this person has given up their time to speak with you. Sending a thank you note acknowledges that you respect that time and are appreciative of them sharing their knowledge. Keep it simple but be thoughtful and genuine.
Having a coffee chat is only one element of networking – there’s a lot of pre- and post-work that all networking pros do. Prepped can help:
- Create your elevator pitch exercise: can be used to help you start networking or if you need a refresh on how to introduce yourself at events
- Email message and LinkedIn templates, when you just don’t know where to start
- Networking tracker: when you’re a networking pro, and you need a place to help keep track of all your networking activities
Now that you’ve learned how to take part in a virtual coffee chat, sign up for Prepped and gain access to additional tools and resources aimed to help you improve your networking.
This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.