In two weeks, I will have lunch with the president of a prominent tech. company and  his colleague, a nationally recognized analyst at a respected think tank. I'm an early career  analyst who is virtually unknown outside of the company I work for. I want to make the most of this opportunity, but am unsure how to do so, or how to prepare. Good advice will be much appreciated.

The context is this. While attending a work-social function as my wife's guest, I met the president of her company. After  a brief conversation, he invited me to have lunch with him and a collegue of his. The collegue works in a similar industry as myself (public sector consulting) and is extremely influential in the field. Many consider him brilliant. The president of my wife's company is also a rising star, and is also well known.

I honestly have no idea why I was invited to lunch. I know its naive, but I think that the president simply enjoyed speaking with me. At this point in time, there is nothing I want from either of them but clearly I'd like to bring them into my network. To do so, I think I should show value to them and am unsure how. I've already researched their companies and industries to get up-to-date. What else can I  or should I be doing? What should be prepared to discuss about myself?





As a result, I feel very unprepared. I would like to show value to them, but


GlennR's picture

Just be yourself. Evidently, that's why you received the invitation. This is not a job interview. I would advise you to focus on listening for comprehension (as opposed to debating) during the lunch. Perhaps there are others who have been invited as well. Perhaps the president does this on a regular basis as part of his networking process. Remember, the first rule of networking is to give, not take. Therefore, go into the meal in full blown listening mode. When you see how the conversation is going, ask a question to further the conversation. Volunteer an opinion or potential solution.

Send a thank you note immediately after the meal. In fact, if I were you, after lunch, I wouldn't turn on the engine in my car until after I had written it. Then mail it the same day.

Be prepared for the eventuality that nothing could come of this other than a nice meal and some pleasant conversation. Anything beyond that is lagniappe.

RDHodgson's picture

That's a good point there Glen. The thing is that Dave rightly recognises the importance of giving something, of contributing and impressing this guy, but in doing so he actually runs the risk of being a taker. His goal becomes impressing them, showing them value... in essence, his focus seems to be similar to a problem that I've had in such situations, where it becomes all about me, me, me and what can I do to impress them and show how great I am. 

Instead, I've found that that it's better to as Glen says above: just listen. And listening doesn't mean shutting your mouth. Listening is an active thing, but... not something I'm qualified to speak on. Maybe others can offer advice on how to be a good active listener? I'm much better at talking about myself and swinging my weight around so I can't really help you there. :P Maybe try reading, 'How to talk so kids will listen, and listen so kids will talk'. I know it sounds corny, but it's actually a really good book on effective communication and how to be a good listener and to get someone to open up to you.




falkb's picture

The book "Difficult Conversations" (related to the Harvard Negotiation Project/Getting to Yes) has an interesting take on active listening (p. 167 f.):

"Scores of workshops and books on 'active listening' teach you what you should *do* to be a good listener. [...] You emerge from these courses eager to try out your new skills, only to become discouraged when your friends or colleagues complain that you sound phony or mechanical. [...]"

"[...] People 'read' not only your words and posture, but what's going on inside you. [...] What will be communicated almost invariably is whether you are genuinely curious, whether you genuinely care about the other person. [...] If your intentions are good, even clumsy language won't hinder you."

"[...] Authenticity means that you are listening because you are curious and because you care, not just because you are supposed to. [...]"

By the way, I can recommend this book highly - as all the books related to the Harvard Negotiation Project.

Falk Bruegmann