What to do when...you're offered a coffee in a business meeting

If you are a coffee aficionado or in any way fussy about your hot beverages - you might want to stop reading this now. Because I see the acceptance of an offered coffee in a business meeting as an opportunity. Not only an opportunity for the a nice hot cuppa but an opportunity to guide the tone and pace of the meeting.
And if that means sipping through the last cold dregs in the bottom of your cup to buy you a little extra time…that’s something I am prepared to do.

In an earlier post Why i drink cold coffee in business meetings I talked about how accepting a coffee can help with a meeting. The question I then got asked was "how does it all work when I get offered a coffee?

So here's some quick guidelines...When offered a coffee in a business meeting:

Say yes

It can help with the pace of the meeting as I’ve described. It’s also polite to say yes as the person making the offer is extending their hospitality and it sets a more relaxed tone for the discussion ahead. It could be that it’s just the other person’s first chance to have a coffee that they have been hanging out for. Don’t deny them the opportunity!

Request an alternative

If you are not a coffee drinker it’s perfectly okay to ask for a replacement. “Would a tea be okay?” or “I’ll take a water, thank you” are more than reasonable requests. ‘Coffee’ has become an euphemism for any type of drink on offer. So don’t feel compelled to accept something you just wouldn't

 drink. There are only so many sacrifices you can make for your career!

Or decline politely

What? “I thought you said to say yes?” you are probably thinking about now? Well I did. But there are always exceptions and sometimes it just doesn’t feel right. You might pick up from the mood of the room or the body language of the other person that the offer has only been made out of politeness and that they really want to get straight down to business.

If you're not sure ask "Are you having one?" and if they're not I would decline. You don't want to slow a meeting down because everyone is waiting on you. 

If the offer is made by a third party and the most senior person in the room looks impatient to get on with stuff, if that’s the case, thank them for the offer and say no (nicely!)

The thank you

Even though you have said thanks when the coffee is served and regardless of what has been achieved or not during the meeting make sure you include a “thanks for the coffee” acknowledgement in your meeting wrap up. It’s a nice acknowledgement, it’s respectful and it also widens the meeting wrap up from just purely business issues. (And your mother would probably be proud of you too!) 

Thanks for your time..I'm going to grab a coffee!

- Karen

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  1. I am meeting a future business partner just right across hotels in paddington and since there are a lot of coffee shops there that I'd like to try, a little discussion over coffee seems like a great idea. Thanks for this post. Very helpful.

  2. That's easy - I'd drink the coffee. What can I say? I'm so much of a coffee person that the thought of a coffee franchise has already crossed my mind a few times.