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Have a Meeting? Accept the Drink

by Dave Kerpen

3 minute read


    This piece was originally published on Monster.com.


    “Oh, no thanks,” I said to Sue, the marketing director for a major bank in Boston I was about to pitch on a sales call, in response to her offer of coffee or water. “I don’t want to be a bother,” I thought to myself. I was running a couple of minutes late, and I wanted to make the most of our time, so I did not accept the drink that I actually craved.

    But I was really thirsty. And that got me to thinking that maybe I should have taken the water. It was hot in that room, I realized. I was nervous about the meeting, as it was a big pitch. Nervousness plus the warmth of the room led to some sweat, and now I wanted that glass of water more than ever.

    As anyone who’s ever been in sales or ever presented for business knows, once you start sweating, it’s simply a bad, bad situation. Now I was so worried that Sue would notice I was sweating profusely, I lost focus on what I was there to do. As you can imagine, Sue’s meeting with sweaty Dave didn’t go very well, and it all started with my saying no to water to keep from being a bother.

    You surely have had the experience of going somewhere for an interview or meeting and being offered water, coffee, tea, or soda. You may have thought the same thing I thought that day: Don’t be a bother.

    After that disaster of a meeting with Sue, though, I decided to do an unscientific study. At my next twenty meetings, I alternated between taking the water (or whatever the other party offered) and politely saying no. Then I compared the results of each meeting.

    As it turns out, it’s best to be a bother if that means taking the coffee, soda, or water you’re offered. The meetings at which I took the offer went significantly better than did the ones at which I didn’t. I know, small sample size and totally unscientific study, but it makes sense, doesn’t it?

    In doing this experiment I learned that there are two reasons taking the drink sets you up for success. First, it puts you at ease and allows you to relax, cool off, or warm up and get ready for the meeting. Second and more important, it puts the other person at ease.

    Think about when you have people over to your home. I’m sure you offer them water or a drink or a snack, and typically they take it. When they don’t, it throws you off: “Why won’t this person take my drink or snack?” you think. “Am I a terrible host?” “What’s the deal?” Your mind may wander, and now you’re distracted and maybe even annoyed at your guest for putting you in that situation.

    When the tables are turned and you’re offered a drink at the start of an interview or meeting, take it. Even if you’re not thirsty, take the drink. If you’re offered coffee and you don’t drink coffee, politely ask for water instead. This very simple act will make the person you’re meeting with feel like a good host, put him at ease, and prime you to be able to read him well and exert influence as needed.

    Remember, being liked is all about making people feel good, and accepting a drink allows the other person to feel good. Two quick caveats about this approach: First, if you’re not offered a beverage, don’t ask for one; that could easily have the opposite effect, making the other person feel bad that she doesn’t have anything to offer. Second, when food is offered, unless you’re actually having a lunch meeting, it’s best to decline politely. Food is simply too distracting when you want to be at your best.

    By the way, ever since I completed that study, I always accept a beverage at every meeting. It’s usually water, but I’ve had my share of soda, juice, and even the occasional beer and wine to kick off a meeting. Cheers!

    FAST First Actions Steps to Take:

    1. Commit to accepting a beverage at all your meetings and interviews.
    2. Be sure to offer one whenever possible when people are meeting you at your office.
    3. When you are waiting for the beverage. use the opportunity to settle in, relax, and set up for success mentally and physically.

    Above was an excerpt from my new book, The Art of People: 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want, out now. Order your copy here!

    Dave Kerpen

    Dave Kerpen

    Dave Kerpen is the cofounder and Chairman of Likeable Media, an award-winning social media and word-of-mouth marketing firm, and founder and CEO of the social media software platform for SMB's, Likeable Local. Dave and his wife Carrie lead teams of over 100 people in working with brands, organizations, governments, and small businesses to better leverage social media to become more transparent, responsive, engaged, and likeable. Likeable has been on the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing private companies in the United States twice and Crain's Best Places to Work list 4 times. Dave’s first book, a New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon #1 bestseller, was Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook (and Other Social Networks). His second book is titled Likeable Business: Why Today’s Consumers Demand More How Leaders Can Deliver. (McGraw-Hill, November 2012). Dave is a frequent keynote speaker at venues around the world and a contributing writer for Mashable, Inc, Fast Company, The Huffington Post, Forbes, and The Washington Post. His work has been featured on CNBC’s “On the Money,” ABC World News Tonight, the CBS Early Show, BBC World News, and the New York Times, among others. Dave is proud of his Likeable business accomplishments but prouder of his other joint venture with Carrie: Charlotte, Kate, and Seth, their three children at home in Port Washington, New York. Dave’s first book, a New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon #1 bestseller, was Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook (and Other Social Networks). His second book is titled Likeable Business: Why Today’s Consumers Demand More How Leaders Can Deliver. (McGraw-Hill, November 2012). Dave is a frequent keynote speaker at venues around the world and a contributing writer for Mashable, Inc, Fast Company, The Huffington Post, Forbes, and The Washington Post. His work has been featured on CNBC’s “On the Money,” ABC World News Tonight, the CBS Early Show, BBC World News, and the New York Times, among others. Dave is proud of his Likeable business accomplishments but prouder of his other joint venture with Carrie: Charlotte and Kate, their two daughters at home in Port Washington, New York.

     
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