Does the word "networking" make you want to puke? Me too. For one thing, I get sick of hearing verbs turned into nouns. The "ask." The "tell." Teh gag.
For another, mixers and networking events rudely distract from the noble pursuit of happy hour drinking. I love taverns for the way the foster wild, open, uninhibited conversations about anything at all. Call happy hour a "mixer," and people feel obliged to make dull small talk. About themselves. And only with people they think can do something for them.
Along Came Aubrey
When Aubrey Bates invited me to "free coffee with Aubrey," I was intrigued. Her premise was simple: "Let me buy you a coffee and I'll blog about you."
Remarkable. Coffee and tea thrive on such purposeful conversations. Beer and whiskey shrink at the constraints. (And I'll back that up with science in a bit.) Coffee with Aubrey gives regular Joes like me a platform without wasting one of God's precious and few happy hours.
I met with Aubrey last fall at Kaldi's in Kirkwood. Something went wrong with the audio recording, though, so we had to meet again at Starbuck's in Webster Groves in early March. This time, everything went well.
Here's What You Get From Coffee With Aubrey
Aubrey's coffees exemplify my definition of Persuasive Design: "Helping people get what they want in the context of your business."
In Free Coffee with Aubrey, the subject gets what he wants (free publicity and coffee--most mostly coffee) and Aubrey gets what she wants (exposure, a new contact, and something to write about.)
Aubrey is a marketing professional with a St. Louis tech start-up, so she has a strong purpose in these interviews. She's connecting. She's building a network. And she's doing it damn well.
She's also gaining international attention as a marketing genius. A New Yorker recently took the franchise to the Big Apple, and someone in London wants to start the practice there. Soon, expect a "free coffee with" franchise in every major city.
Too Much About Me, Not Enough About Free Coffee With Aubrey
If you want see a sample of her work, check out her 56th Free Coffee With Aubrey interview. She posted it last week. You'll learn too much about Bill Hennessy, but you'll also get a taste of her fantastic interview style. While this wasn't my first interview, it's my favorite in print. (Mostly because it's all about me, me, me.)
The Science of Drinking
But I owe you a little science to back up my contention that coffee is better than beer for purposeful conversations.
Researchers at the University of Chicago gave half their subjects beer and the other half coffee. Then they asked them to take a simple creativity test. The beer drinkers blew away the coffee drinkers. (Read more about this study on Lifehacker.)
The results showed that men who drank solved 40 percent more of the problems than sober men. It was concluded that a blood alcohol level of 0.07 (about two drinks) made the participants better at creative problem-solving tasks, but not necessarily working memory tasks where they had to pay attention to things happening in their surroundings (like driving a car).
Making connections with potential employers or business partners requires more detailed focus and less wild creativity. That's why happy hour should be reserved for creative fun and coffee meetings for interviews.
And that's what I love about Free Coffee with Aubrey: she's smart enough to respect the sanctity of happy hour.
Now, grab a latte and read more interviews at Free Coffee with Aubrey.