I have successfully kept my single New Year’s resolution. It’s to avoid pointless, futile coffee meetings with startups or others in tech or edtech.
The key words here are “pointless” and “futile.” Other key adjectives are “time-sucking” and “agenda-less.” I go into full rant in my GeekWire column on the topic.
However, column readers have come up with their own creative ways to avoid the meaningless coffee meeting, as evidenced in the comments:
When someone new asks me for coffee, I ask them how I can help by email before we can schedule the coffee. Kind of like your agenda rule. Amazing how few people have any idea of why they are asking me to coffee. Those who do, some I know I cannot help and I try to be upfront with that or share what I know by email or in a quick call (person says “I’m looking for XYZ job”, I say “i don’t know anything about XYZ job” or “have you tried this..”). If there is a somewhat real reason to meet, I will meet but try to cut to the purpose.
Another option is to offer being available by email or a 15 minute phone call. The key is that the person requesting the coffee meeting must have a specific ‘ask’ in mind of how you can be helpful to each other. Then see if it’s worth the 15 minutes on the phone or just stick to helpful emails.
… Done well (there is a largely obvious and appropriate basis for the invite, the logistics are convenient and efficient for the invitee, and inviter is well-prepared with both the “What” and the “Why” for the meeting), I feel the face-to-face coffee invite/meeting is still a valuable means of connecting. Done poorly, like any other thoughtless crutch it can fail.
Decide for yourself (ideally over a cup of French Roast) and read, “No more coffees with startups: 3 ways they waste everyone’s time,” at GeekWire.