3 scheduling tips for meetings with people you don’t know

Many of us reach out to people we don’t know every once a while. It could be for advice, for potential opportunities or for help of some sort. Here are 3 tips I’ve learnt from scheduling meetings on both sides of that table.

1. Be open to an email exchange. There are folks who prefer email if it is a simple ask. The best way to solve for this is to outline your ask clearly in the email. That way, if it just means investing 5 minutes into typing a detailed email, it is almost always preferred to the overhead of scheduling a call.

Related, the clarity of the ask matters a lot as it clearly illustrates the difference between those who are prepared and not.

2. Asker’s responsibility. If you ask for time, it is your responsibility to find times that work. My sense is that there is a three strikes rule of sorts here. I would try to avoid more than three emails going back-and-forth to find a time. And, as an asker, you can do that by being flexible.

3. Make it easy for them to say yes/no or propose a new time. When you have permission to find time on their schedule, draft a detailed email that outlines all the times you might be available in the next week. Assuming you are located in different time zones, a simple way to show thoughtfulness is to send times in their timezone instead of yours.

There’s a new trend of sending people links to online calendars. I think online calendars are great. However, I don’t think sending these is the best idea if you are asking someone else for help. There’s too much friction – clicking a link, finding a time that suits you, etc. That doesn’t mean they don’t or can’t work. I just think adding friction is not the best idea if you have no relationship.

A bonus tip – the best calls are those where you’ve made a good enough impression that the person on the other side is happy to take another call. Your preparation for the call will always come through. And, your follow up will go a long way as well. Always send a thank you note – ideally with what you learnt and what you plan to do next. And, if possible, stay in touch by giving them updates on your progress.

Cold calls are a wonderful way to build connections that might lead to relationships. Very few of them go great – that’s subject to chemistry. But, preparation can ensure none of them go badly. And, that’s a worthy outcome to work toward.