|The old stand-by|
If there is one activity that is really the center of good networking practice, that would be the one-to-one meeting. This is just an opportunity for two people to get together for thirty minutes to an hour in order to learn more about each other and how they can help each other. Obviously, the biggest challenges to performing this activity are time and place. We’ve talked about scheduling in other places. Let’s cover some of the options for location.
- Coffee Shop. This is the old stand-by and for good reason. In most towns you can’t walk more than a block without running into a coffee shop. Be aware, though, depending on the popularity of the shop and the time of day, it can be quite crowded and noisy. I always have a hard time hearing the other person over the sound of the milk steamer. It does cost money as usually coffee shops don’t like it if you take up a seat without ordering something.
- Restaurant. Definitely second to coffee shops, restaurants still make up a healthy percent of one-to-one meeting locales. I have a few of these on my list of default venues. It doesn’t hurt to get to know the manager of your regular spots. They can actually help out a lot when it comes to making your guests comfortable. The main challenges that you can run into here are crowding and noise. Check out the restaurant during a busy time of day to see whether the noise levels might prevent useful conversation. The other downside is that, of course, it costs money. For some reason, those greedy restaurateurs expect to be paid for the meals they serve.
- Library. Believe it or not, libraries have come a long way from the days of shushing librarians and piles of books. As more and more information is available in electronic form, libraries have tried to reposition themselves as community centers. Many have designated meeting spaces and conversation areas. Some even have cafes and coffee shops available. Most of the facilities are free to card holders. Of course, there are areas where conversation would be an intrusion, so be respectful. Also, the conversation areas are often limited in size and can fill up quickly. Still, for alternatives to the old stand-by choices of restaurants and coffee shops, your local library may well be worth checking out.
- Grocery Store. OK, this one was a surprise to me. A friend offered to meet me at the local Whole Foods market for a one-to-one. I thought it wouldn’t work at all, but it turned out to be a great place to sit and chat. Of course, this particular store had chairs and tables where people could sit and snack on the tasty treats you could purchase throughout the store, so it really wasn’t much different from a restaurant. Still, during non-peak hours, the store is remarkably quiet — perfectly suited for chatting. Then after you finish you can do your shopping for the week.