By Sara Isenberg
Sara Isenberg Web Consulting & Project Management
January 5, 2017
I wear two professional hats. First, I am the Founder, Publisher, and Editor-in-chief of Santa Cruz Tech Beat
. Santa Cruz Tech Beat is an online publication with regional tech news, jobs, events, and resources for the Central Coast region of California, also know as the Monterey Bay region. Our tagline is: The go-to source for Monterey Bay tech.
Second, I work as a web consultant
. In this role, clients hire me to manage projects and to help them with strategic planning for websites, blogging, newsletters, and social media.
I receive frequent
requests from strangers, acquaintances, and friends that sound like these:
“Let’s meet for lunch. I’d like to pick your brain about my website and social media.”
“Let’s meet for coffee. I’d like to learn more about the local tech community.”
“I’m new in town, looking for a job in tech. <So and so> said you’re the best person to talk with.”
“I met you at <xyz event> and would like to learn more about <abc>.”
“My boyfriends and I would like to take you out to lunch so you can give him some feedback on his website.”
“I’m a college student and my mom said you can help me find an internship in Santa Cruz.”
“I’d like to talk about what’s new in Santa Cruz tech.” This frequently morphs to: “I’d like you to introduce me to your contact at Looker because I want to work there.”
Since launching Santa Cruz Tech Beat in 2013, such requests have amped up considerably. Here are my guidelines.
How to ask a busy person (me, for example) for some of their time!
- Introduce yourself properly. Tell me about yourself. Are you locally based or not? Have we met before or not? Be very specific. What was the context for our previous meeting?
- Do your homework. Indicate your level of familiarity w/ my product/service. I publish Santa Cruz Tech Beat (SCTB). I don’t run the SC New Tech Meetup (SCNTM). If the information you’re seeking is already in SCTB, find it and read it there rather than asking me. Honestly, if I knew about that job or event or company, I would have published it in SCTB already.
- Why do you want to meet me? What is your desired outcome? Tell me very specifically what you want to know from me. Provide enough information so that I can determine if I’m the right person to help you or not. Perhaps I’m not. Perhaps I can better help you in 2 minutes by email rather than meeting.
- Are you offering me anything in exchange? It’s not a requirement but it’s worth mentioning. For example, are you offering to write an article for SCTB? (I welcome guest feature articles.) Are you interested in becoming a partner? (YES, please!) Your offer need not be grand. If you’re seeking a one-way thing, that’s fine, too. Simply acknowledge it. (Bonus tip: Buying me coffee or lunch is not an exchange.)
- Remain responsive. If I take the time to respond to you and if I ask more questions, then please, for goodness sakes, reply. Answer all of my questions, not just the first one or the easy one.
- Make it easy for me. For example, two minutes in email might be easier for me (and more effective for you) than meeting. Dinner might be easier than lunch. I want to quickly assess whether to meet or not. Vague requests are a turn-off.
- Follow up. If we exchange email, talk by phone, or meet in person, follow up. If you said you were going to do something, do it.
- Keep in mind. For every 4-5 people who want some of my “free” time, there’s the one who wrote a great article for SCTB, the one I got to know well enough to write a letter of recommendation for and she got the job, the one who I respected well enough to send a job tip to, and the one who became a friend or colleague. You never know.