Meeting important people. Tips on having a great conversation?
October 14, 2011 12:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm meeting some important people at individual coffee meetings. What can I do to ensure I have a quality meeting/conversation where the person feels like they had a rewarding time as well?

I went to the west coast to meet with a number of startup founders/entrepreneurs to talk about their past work.

I've got 7 meetings scheduled. I have to objectives:

1) learn from these awesome folks.
2) build a relationship with them to have future meetings.

For 2 to happen, I have to have a rewarding conversation with them, and I want them to leave the meeting feeling like it was a good conversation and that I was able to make them think.

My initial thoughts: share my own thoughts, make them think, talk about my experiences relating to theirs.

Anything else I should do? Here's to 7 great coffee meetings! Thanks!
posted by suburbs to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
"My initial thoughts: share my own thoughts, make them think, talk about my experiences relating to theirs."

The above phrasing doesn't sit well with me. You probably already realize this, but don't people love talking about themselves, and what they are passionate about or interested in? Maybe you should "help" the other person, so they are more willing to help you. That is, build rapport to help gain trust before jumping into what they can do for you. However, make sure that they know concretely what they can do for you before they leave.
posted by Mr. Papagiorgio at 1:21 PM on October 14, 2011

What do you want to learn from them? What do you want to get out of a future relationship with them? Being more specific about your objectives will help you figure out what to talk about, and what questions to ask.

Check out David G. Cohen's "Find and engage a great mentor" blog post for more concrete tips.
posted by chickenmagazine at 1:29 PM on October 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

You want to spend at least 70% of your time listening. How to Win Friends and Influence People is the canonical guide for this, IMO.
posted by COD at 5:38 PM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ask questions. It will help you learn from them (which you say is your first objective), and it will make them feel gratified and engaged (helping lead to your second objective).

If you'd like to share your experiences, pay close attention to how interested they are. Tailor your conversation to what interests them, and ask the little questions ("Have you found the same thing?" / "What's your experience with this type of thing?" / "How have you seen this change in your time in the field?") that keep them involved and get them to help build connections between you. Their responses should help fuel your own contributions to the conversation.
posted by bassjump at 10:11 PM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, genuine flattery is very useful. I mean, GENUINE. Like, if they found an inventive way to approach a problem - say, "That's so inventive. What lead you to figure it out this way?"
posted by generic230 at 12:07 AM on October 15, 2011

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