Once upon a time, a boy wanted to meet. As an aspiring entrepreneur, he wanted to "network" and "connect" with entrepreneurs already hitting the hard hustle road. So, what did he do?

He reached out to the people who he admired and asked them to coffee and to pick their brains.

If you’re on the asking end (and I’ve done more than my fair share of asking for time on rockstars’ calendars), there’s a few things you should be aware of BEFORE you ask to "pick brains" and "meet for coffee."  These are unwritten, yet HIGHLY IMPORTANT RULES that need to be followed–otherwise, you’ll land in social capital Siberia–as time (even more precious than money) is the one thing we never get back.  (I discuss some of these rules in my book, The New Pharmacist, but here they are for all of us…)

Meetiquette 101: In 5 Steps

1. Confirm and reconfirm.  If you’re asking for the meeting and you’re lucky enough to actually get it, confirm it when you make the time.  Then reconfirm it the week before.  Then, reconfirm it the day of. If the person you’re trying to meet with has an admin, go through the admin. The admin will appreciate your follow up.  Stuff can happen to wreck a calendar with a quickness, but since you’re calling the meeting, you’re on it by confirming that the meeting is actually taking place. Gold star!

2. If you called or requested the meeting and it’s on, you better show up. Early.  Whoever said to be early is to be on time, and to be on time is to be late was correct.  Be on time at the very latest. If you’re the one asking for the appointment and you’re lucky enough to get it, you need to make sure that you’re there.  If you called the meeting and the other person is late, that’s still on you, because you called the meeting. You’re going to need to wait it out for them.  Get there early if the two of you have never met, and text them where you’re sitting and what color you have on to make it easy for them to find you.  If they never show–ask yourself if they are really someone worth chasing…?

3. If you’re late, apologize profusely and offer to buy the coffee or lunch.  If you’re 5-10 minutes late, that’s bad. You’re in the social capital red already.  You need to get back to the black again quickly by offering to pay for the coffee session.  Your conversation had better bring value to the person who didn’t call the meeting, or guess what? You’re never going to get to meeting #2.

4. If you cancel, particularly last minute, don’t even try to ask for another appointment now.  YOU called the meeting.  Then YOU canceled. Now you’re really in the social capital danger zone.  The last thing you can ask for at this point is the favor of a reschedule.  The only thing you can do here is damage control–apologize IN WRITING (yes, both with email and with that old fashioned stuff called snail mail), then ask to follow up with them at a later date–in the snail mail, and only if you dare).  But to email and ask for another appointment (particularly immediately after canceling) when you asked for the first meeting, then canceled, is tacky and borderline offensive, because you’re basically sending the message that your time is more valuable than the person you asked to meet’s time.  This is not the way to start off a positive, productive relationship.

5. If you meet, on time, and pick brains…you still have work to do. You called the meeting, so you offer to buy the coffee or lunch.  Then, everything during the conversation you said you’d do, you need to follow up on…whether that’s connecting the brain pickee with a lead you promised, or a book you loved, or an article you discussed during your networking time that they care about.  That means a hand-written thank you.  That means you have work before, during and AFTER the meeting, when you’re calling the meeting.  Give. Don’t keep asking and receiving.  It has to be a two way street.

If you’re on the receiving end of these "brain picking" requests – You have the right to say no to the requests the first time for any and all reasons, and I almost think you’re required to say no to a second request after a cancellation by the requester….at least then the bad networking behavior might stop.

While it’s cool to explore new worlds by picking others’ brains, we all need to be aware that time is precious resource. It’s limited, finite, and we never get it back.  Therefore, we have to treat it as such not only for ourselves and our own calendars, but also for those who we dare to ask to jump on their calendars.

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