With vacancies for remote roles on LinkedIn increasing 350% from 2020 to 2021, informal virtual coffee chats have become the standard for many businesses, brands, and organizations.
But how do you stand out in a world where virtual communication has become the norm and most of our interaction happens on a screen?
At CoffeePals, we know you only get one chance to make a first impression. Thus, today we’ll take a closer look at what a virtual coffee chat entails, some example questions to get you started, and some pro communication tips, so you always make a great first impression.
What is a virtual coffee break or chat?
A virtual coffee chat is an informal meeting between two or more people lasting approximately 30 minutes and is an effective tool for informal networking. These meetings are carried out using a form of video conferencing like Microsoft Teams.
This typically takes the form of a virtual meeting with a potential employer, team members, virtual mentors, or external stakeholders relevant to your responsibilities.
Why are virtual coffee talks important?
Virtual coffee offers a break from the busy working day, but also has a myriad of benefits for organizations and attendees.
Networking - Effective networking can help you establish a range of contacts relevant to your role and industry. This can be particularly helpful when you come across challenges you haven’t faced before, and many mentorship arrangements are conducted via short virtual coffee chats.
Try to establish connections with experts in your field, ask if they’re happy for you to reach out to them with occasional questions, taking on the role of a casual mentor.
Building relationships and trust - Building long-lasting relationships require communication and virtual coffee chats provide the perfect space to nurture and grow these connections over time.
Building good relationships with team members at your organization builds trust in your own and others' competencies and abilities, often leading to better productivity in cross-departmental projects. Check out our short guide on how to encourage virtual coffee meetings in your organization for some creative virtual coffee ideas.
CoffeePals is the perfect way to encourage virtual coffee chats at your organization. We actively match team members for virtual coffee, start conversations and build friendships, all with a simple add-on for Microsoft Teams.
Take a look at our guide on 5 Ways Companies Benefit From Random Coffee Chats to learn more about the benefits of matching your staff or team up for short informal chats.
Reduces friction - Virtual coffee chats allow face-to-face communication with stakeholders outside your organization. This helps people put faces to names and adds a personal touch to your relationships.
This can be particularly helpful when facing issues or obstacles that might concern stakeholders. We’re all guilty of taking emails out of context, but having a casual line of communication via video call can alleviate miscommunication and conflict.
Examples of good coffee chat questions
Now that we’ve covered why you should start incorporating virtual coffee into your work week, let’s look at some of the talking points you can use to keep the conversation flowing and make a great first impression.
Personal coffee chat questions
Personal questions are a great way of building real relationships and are paramount if you’re meeting someone for the first time. Always start your virtual coffee with at least one personal question as it sets the tone of the conversation, and most importantly, displays empathy.
Question: How’s your day going?
This simple gesture shows you genuinely care about your attendee's well-being and starts the conversation with an easy-to-answer query that often acts as a launch board for the meeting.
Question: What do you do for fun outside of work?
This keeps the conversation casual and avoids immediately diving into work. Typically, you would only ask this to people you’ve never met before; if you meet regularly, you can ask more detailed questions about their sports or hobbies.
Question: Do you have or would you like any pets?
Asking people about their pets will often reveal a softer side you may not have seen before, if you meet regularly try to remember their pet's name for extra brownie points.
Virtual coffee chat questions about goals and strategy
These questions are typically suited to fellow team members, virtual mentors, potential employers, or stakeholders relevant to your current project.
Question: Have you encountered any issues relating to your work in the last week?
This is a fantastic way of getting a different point of view from your fellow team or advice from a mentor that may have experienced the issue before.
Question: What’s the next big goal in your career?
This is an ingenious way of discovering how others are choosing to upskill themselves and develop their career and can lead to inspiration for your own professional development. Ask them about the course they’re taking, how they’re opting to learn, etc.
Question: Is there any way I can help you grow professionally?
This question pops up a lot in mentorship meetings and should be met with gratitude by the mentee. If you suspect this question may arise in your next virtual coffee chat, try to prepare beforehand, identifying routes to improve your career and any obstacles to doing so.
Coffee chat questions about work and experience
Questions about work and experience are great for team members and potential employees/employers to learn more about each other in a professional setting, asking questions about day-to-day work and past career experience.
Question: Why did you choose x as a career?
Potential employers often ask this to try and decipher why an individual picked their path of work. There’s no wrong or right answer here; just be honest about what made you passionate enough about your role to pursue it as a career.
Question: How has switching to remote affected your workflow?
It’s fascinating how we’ve adapted to remote work, and finding out how others approach this monumental shift in our lives can be very revealing. You may even uncover some lesser-known work-from-home hacks you can incorporate yourself.
Question: Tell me about your relationship with your colleagues?
This covers how people work and communicate with other members of their team and organization. Great for new employers and mentors, answers to these questions will often reveal if someone is a team player or not, with excessive blame placed on others being a bad signal.
Question: What do you consider the greatest achievement of your career?
Another question you will likely face from a potential employer. This is your opportunity to shine and detail how you’ve overcome your biggest obstacle or a project you’re incredibly proud of. Try to think of examples you can relate to real-life outcomes that people can relate to - like reach or increase in sales.
Tips for great virtual coffee talks
Now you’re fully equipped with questions for every situation, here are some best practices for smooth, successful virtual coffee chats.
- Always be on time or early. Never be late to a meeting, no matter how casual. Your time is important, and by being late, you effectively signal your time is more important than the other attendees (not a good look).
- If you’re meeting someone new, try to spend a little time researching them. What’s their current role or previous achievements? People are always impressed if you’ve taken the time to learn about them beforehand.
- Avoid eating unless it’s something you’ve agreed to previously. There’s nothing worse than watching someone eat (especially when you’re hungry), and it’s much harder to make a good first impression with a mouth full of food.
- Following up your virtual coffee chat with an email or short message is a lovely touch often overlooked by many. You can highlight what you gained from the meeting and how it’s affected you, such as any changes you’ve made or anything you've actioned.
- Plan ahead and find a suitable quiet location to host your meeting, avoid placing objects in your foreground and ensure there isn’t any distracting activity in your background.
Virtual communication is becoming a key skill in many employees' arsenal, and standing out from the crowd requires planning and training. Check out our guide on the best practices and challenges of virtual communication with carefully curated tips on how to communicate and structure your interactions to achieve the best outcome.
Start building relationships remotely
Now you’re all set to start planning your next virtual coffee meeting like a pro. Refer back to this guide to remind yourself of key points for success, and in no time, you’ll have a system that makes virtual coffee a breeze.