In an age of screens and devices, real human interaction means more than ever. Suddenly, face-to-face chats are rare—people would rather just text and IM than talk. But texting doesn’t land a job, nor does it make for successful recruiting. And that’s where a coffee can help create meaningful connections.
Today, coffee is as much a concept as it is a drink. We meet co-workers for coffee; we grab coffee with a job recruiter or business mentor. Coffee is the world’s primary social elixir during business hours—it is synonymous with networking. Why make coffee meetings a priority? Because it’s the one thing everyone is willing to make time for—it allows you to create social capital with people who can help you in your career (and who you can, in turn, help with theirs).
50 Coffee Meetings
99u Magazine calls the coffee meeting “the Swiss Army knife of networking”—it’s the perfect way to connect over business. Business Insider goes even further—after citing the oft-repeated rule (attributed to author Malcolm Gladwell) that mastering a skill requires 10,000 hours, the article claims that the networking equivalent for today’s entrepreneur is “50 coffee meetings.” A change of scene does wonders for productivity. “Get out of your office,” says Steve Blank, a professor at Stanford and Berkeley and creator of the “customer development” process. Coffee provides the perfect “break without a break”—stepping out for some fresh air while continuing to do business.
Coffee gets the nod over lunch because it’s less of a commitment, less fattening and less expensive. It also allows networkers to converse without their mouths full—coffee by nature is more secondary, an accessory to the meeting, whereas a plate full of food rivals for the networkers’ focus. When networking, business is the purpose; coffee is the excuse. Keeping these priorities straight is the key to a successful business encounter.
The Coffee Shop: Where Business Happens
Coffee’s appeal is partly chemical—the caffeine it contains is a well-known energy-booster, giving a little push to get that extra bit of work done before deadline, as well as prolonging the ability to fight fatigue. Coffee has wonderful antioxidant properties; moderate consumption has been linked to better heart health and even increased short-term memory.
But there are other factors as well. A coffee shop is one of the most conducive environments to conduct business, thanks to its popularity as a so-called “third place”—a neutral location (separate from the home and the workplace) dedicated to community-building and social interaction. Third places such as coffee shops are now a part of the workplace experience, and seem engineered to encourage networking. In a study of coffee shops as third places conducted by Lisa Waxman, Ph.D., at Florida State University, it was shown that factors such as comfortable furniture, appealing aroma and access to natural light all contributed to the universal popularity of the typical American coffee shop as a meeting location.