Here’s the scenario: You met someone at an event who works in your dream industry; you follow up in hopes of speaking with them 1-on-1. They say yes! And suggest meeting over coffee (or cocktails). Sounds great, you email back.
Meanwhile, your head is spinning:
Am I paying because I initiated? Are they paying because they suggested it? When I arrive, do I get my own drink or wait?... What’s the protocol for this informal networking situation!?
Here's her advice
Get there 10-15 minutes early. This way you’re in control of being the first to arrive.
Find a seat that gives you a clear view of the door and wait.
If it’s 5-10 minutes past the time you scheduled to meet, and the other person has yet to arrive, then it’s appropriate to order your drink.
While waiting, don’t hesitate to catch up on email - who knows, the other party may have emailed you that they’re running late! - but don’t go down an internet rabbithole. You should always be keeping an eye out for the other person.
Who should pay?
If you would like to offer to pay as a gesture of gratefulness, mention that during the informal networking planning process. In your “sounds great” email include something like; “it will be my treat - I appreciate you taking the time out of your day.”
If it’s too late for that and you’re reading this post while waiting for the other person to arrive, offer to pay upon greeting them but don’t push it. They may not feel comfortable having you pay, or maybe they want to rack up their own Starbucks points, either way, it’s not worth wasting precious networking time arguing over the bill.
Put your phone on silent before going inside. This will eliminate any awkward distractions once the conversation starts.