So you are looking to schedule a meeting with someone you don’t know very well…

  1. What is the correct protocol to ask for a meeting ?
  2. How do you get the meeting without seeming like a jerk?
  3. What if they turn you down? 

These questions can cause you anxiety, especially if you're an introvert who is not good at talking to new people (like myself).

Below are my tips for how I approach getting a meeting with someone new: 

How To Get A Meeting

1. Have Context

I generally avoid asking someone for a meeting that I don't have context for.  I define “context" as a point of reference… either you met them at an event, or you know someone who knows them, or you're a big fan. Context is anything reason valuable enough for you to reach out to them. 

Request a follow-up meeting on the spot

If I talk to someone at an event, I try to get a follow up while the conversation is still fresh.

Example:  “I would love to chat more about ABC, would you be interested in grabbing coffee or lunch sometime this week?” If possible pull your phone out and send a meeting invite right away.

Get their business card

Make sure you write some information about the discussion on the back of the card to refresh your memory if you send out an invite later on. When you send out a email after an event, be sure to mention where you met them and what you discussed, e.g. “It was great meeting you at the fundraiser on Friday. I enjoyed chatting with you about ABC.  Per our discussion, I would love to grab a meeting this week to chat more about ABC."
Find mutual friends or contacts

LinkedIn can be pretty useful for figuring out who knows who.  If someone you know has a connection with the person, don’t be afraid to ask them for an intro. e.g. “Hey Jamie, I am looking to reach out to Kris Smith to pick his brain about mobile UX.  His presentation on his blog really resonated with me.  I saw on LinkedIn your are connected to him.  Would you be able to introduce me?” 

The key is giving them a sense of why you want to talk to the person and allow them to filter the information in advanced of introducing you. The more details the better. This will allow them to provide as much information as possible.

Important:  Do not burn someone who referred you. If someone refers you and you piss off their connection, they may never refer you to someone again. 

You're a “fan” of their work

Being a fan of someone’s work can be flattering, but it can also come across kinda creepy. I would recommend having a strong reason to reach out to someone if you're a fan.  If you aren't able to meet the person at an event or get a referral, you have to go with the old “cold request”. 

When you send a cold request, you need to be very clear about why you want to meet them. If you send a email that reads: “Hey, I would like to have a meeting with you. Thanks!” - you probably won't get a response. Your intro should be very clearly crafted. 

Example: “ Hi Kris, My name is Brett Cooper and I do mobile dev work on iOS projects for a company here in Atlanta.  I saw you speak last year at Web Afternoon, and I really enjoyed your presentation. I was wondering if could buy you lunch and pick your brain about a mobile problem that I'm looking to solve around multi screen size format. Do you have any availability this Thursday or Friday? Thanks!” 

2. Scheduling the meeting

So they respond back to your meeting request with  “Sure, what time do you want to meet?” Your objective is to quickly get something set on the calendar.

  • The calendar game - My rule of thumb is to ask for 2-3 time slots within the next 5 days. If they can’t meet any of the time slots, ask them for some alternatives.
  • Target the morning - Try to get something first thing in the morning (e.g. a coffee meeting) so you are less likely to get bumped because one of their other meetings ran late.
  • If all else fails, try the phone -  If you are struggling to get something scheduled, ask if you can do a quick 90 second phone call to resolve calendar alignment issues.
  • Pick a specific location - Try and pick a specific location near where they work or ask them if it would be most convenient to meet at their office. The more specific you are in the request, the more likely it will be to that you successfully schedule the meeting. 
  • The invite format-  When you schedule a meeting, send out a calendar invite to make sure each attendees time gets blocked on their calendars .

 The key things you should include in a meeting invite are: 

  1. Title - the Title of the meeting invite should be clear on what the meeting is about.
  2. Location - Include the location in both the location field and body/comments.  Preferable the the address if you are driving there. 
  3. Summary - Have a summary of the meeting request in the body. 
  4. Objective - Clearly state the objective of the meeting. 
  5. Agenda - When you send a meeting invite, make sure to have a clear agenda (with some time-boxing). Thinking about the agenda and time boxes ahead of time will help you get a clearer picture of what you want to talk about and whether you actually have enough time to cover everything. 
  6. Notification - Be sure to included a notification equal to the amount of travel time (or 5 minutes if it doesn’t require travel). 
  7. Contact - Include your cell phone and their cell number (if possible).  This makes it easy for them to reach you if they are running late. 
  8. Use helpful toolsThere are a lot of tools out there that try to solve the scheduling puzzle. I had previously used tungle,,,, and These tools can be very useful for larger groups, but I would stick with emails and the phone for 1:1 meeting scheduling.
  9. Try A.I. - Recently I tried out which offers a virtual personal assistant AI that will work to look at your calendar and coordinate with multiple other parties to finalize a meeting time. The experience was pretty smooth, but it did still require 2-3 emails to get the meeting finalized. 

Here is an example of a meeting invite. 

Title:  Cooper / Kris Meeting to talk about Mobile UX Challenges

Attendees:  Brett Cooper, Kris K. 

Location:  Octane Coffee Emory Village

Reminder: 15 minutes before



Per our email discussion, I would like to grab coffee and pick your brain on mobile UX topics


Discuss mobile UX challenges on iOS 8. 


1. Intro and key problem areas - 5m

2. Deep dive into use cases - 15m

3. Discussion and Recommendations  - 20m

4. Next steps / take-aways - 10m


Brett's cell: 855-529-6349

3. Follow-up After the Meeting

Having a post-meeting reason to discuss things is a good way to build a longer term relationship or conversation.    

Send a thank you email -  Send a note thanking the person for meeting with you. I will also typically include any meeting notes and any action items that I took away from the meeting. I know some people who send classy hand-written thank you notes, but I have the worst handwriting… so I normally stick with an email thank you. 

Try to followup within 2-5 days - Try to followup with any actions you had within a week of the meeting. You want to show that you were seriously paying attention and valued their help and input. 

Offer reciprocal help - Be sure to offer your reciprocal help if they helped you with something. Keep it simple: “ Tina, Thanks for your recommendations on sales frameworks, this will really help me out. I owe you one. Let me know if i can help you with anything."

Leave the door open for next steps -  If someone gives you advice about a situation or challenge you are facing, have a followup status that you send them in the future to show how you resolved it or how it played out. 

General Expectations 

  • Mail 2-3 times before you give up. More than 3 times verges on stalking, annoying, desperate, or even worse… being a sales guy. 

  • Don’t expect someone to work miracles for you.

  • Time is a very valuable commodity, don’t waste someone else’s time. 

  • Get out and meet people, build valuable relationships, and help other people out... it will eventually come around to you. 

  • Be grateful. Life is full of people who are looking to help out where they can. Be thankful even for small amounts of help. 

AuthorBrett Cooper

Problems- we all have them.

But how do we identify, understand and implement a solution to make sure to avoid them in the future? Print off this check list and run through a few helpful tips below. 

Understand The Problem:

  • What is the problem?
  • What are the steps to reproduce the problem?
  • What is the impact of the problem, when does it need to be solved?
  • Why is it a problem?
  • Is this a new problem or existing problem?
  • Is there a baseline, or how should it behave?
  • When did it start happening?
  • Did it ever work?
  • What components does it involve?
  • What Data does it involve?
  • Is it functional, technical, both, or unknown?
  • Can you decompose the problem into its parts?
  • What are the simple reasons the problem could have occurred?

Is it a functional problem?

  • Do I understand how the process should work?
  • Is the problem related to data?
  • Is the problem related to timing, order, or sequence?
  • Do we have a copy of the data that caused the problem?

Is it a technical problem?

  • What locations or environment is it happening in?
  • Do I understand what components are involved?
  • Are there any steps to validate the environment?
  • Run diffs of things that have changed.
  • What tools do I have at my disposal to test this (remote debugging, soap sonar, ethereal, web service studio, benthic, toad, test harnesses, debug logs)?
  • Look at logs before and after.
  • Look at all of the log information available.
  • Look at the code and data for yourself, don’t take someone’s word for it
  • Research the problem online

1) Identify Solution

  • If this problem has occurred before, check my emails to get details on it (Google desktop, coppernic, ms search)?
  • Is there a solution for this type of problem already (check KX, emails, project, account, and internet)?
  • Is there a solution for a similar type of problem?
  • What solution is the quickest and has the least amount of impact?
  • Are there any creative solutions we have not thought of yet?

2) Implement Solution

  • Ensure that solution is agreed upon by peers, and superiors;
  • If it is a production solution, it will need to be agreed by the client.
  • Once the solution is in place make sure that the problem is gone.
  • If anyone is impacted by the solution, do they need to be notified that it is fixed?

3) Post-mortem

What can be done better next time to avoid the problem?

  • Did I send an email of the problem and the steps to solve it to everyone involved?
  • Is the process documented correctly?
  • Is the problem solving approach documented correctly?
  • If there is change that could prevent this problem in the future?


AuthorBrett Cooper

A long while ago, I read an article titled “Mythical Man Weekend“ ( a take on the classic software engineering book The Mythical Man Month ).  The article discussed how people claimed that they would be able to build a web application in  a weekend.  It got me thinking about all of the stuff that I typically plan to do during the weekend.  Leading me to plot out my own “Mythical Man Weekend”

Exhibit 1. Mythical Man Weekend

mythical man weekend.jpg

Unfortunately the "Mythical Man Weekend" typically turns into the "Actual Man Weekend"

Exhibit 2. Actual Man Weekend

actual man weekend.jpg
AuthorBrett Cooper

If you work in a business job or knowledge worker job, you most likely get a ton of email every day.   When you glance through your inbox, how many bad emails do you spot?  Can you pinpoint why they are bad?  Problems with these messages typically range from "I have no idea what this person is asking for!" to "Did they get a monkey drunk and have him write this?"

Unfortunately people are not intentionally trying to send bad emails (that might be forgivable).  Most of us have just never had any training on how to send "decent" emails.  


The following are 20 rules I try to follow for writing "decent" business emails: 

1. If you ask for action on something, use a bulleted or numbered lists.  Sticking multiple action items into a paragraph guarantees that something will get missed.

2. Explicitly Indicate when something is actionable or just for people's information.  E.g. instead of "we need to finish the quarterly figures this week"  use  "Everyone:  Please make sure you send me your quarterly number by Friday 5pm";  For informational type emails I prefer to say something like:  "FYI on the email below, the accountants are currently wrapping up the quarterly numbers"

3. If you ask a question in an email, make sure to call out who you want to answer it. E.g. Instead of "where is the ABC project estimate" use "Brett:  where is the ABC project estimate"

4. Use priority flags correctly in your emails.  22 of the 37 emails I received from someone in a month were marked "High Importance",  only about three were actually high Importance;  I asked him to stop sending me emails and just come talk to me when he felt something was important. 

5. If you send an email to multiple people asking for action, don't follow-up to all of them with one email,  touch base with them them individually (starting with the highest priority owner)

6. Correctly use the TO: and CC:  lines.    Use "TO" for when the person you are emailing needs to review or take action on something.  If it is just informational to the recipient, they should be on the "CC:" line.

7. Do not email everyone and their dad… feel free to limit your responses to specific people who care about and can do something about your questions/issues.  The more people you add to the "TO:" line, the less likely it is that anyone will take action.

8. Use BCC sparingly;  If you BCC someone it needs to be because they asked you to (e.g. an executive assistant to someone on the TO: line asked to be copied on )

9. Avoid using background images…. This looks very unprofessional and makes text hard to read.

10. Avoid Flame wars,  if you have a problem with what someone says, talk with them over the phone or face to face.  Using email to get in a pissing match is a sign of immaturity… be an adult and talk to the person if you disagree with them.

11. Use simple words,  showing off your vocabulary is not cool.  It is especially counterproductive when you are working with people from different countries (e.g. some language nuances don't translate well)

12. Avoid Read receipts.... seriously…. Who uses read receipts?  Most people turn off read receipt responses, and they make it feel like you don't trust the person you are sending an email to.   If you want someone busy to read something, call them and leave a voicemail asking if they can review your email and get back to you. 

13. Include your contact information footer only when necessary (signature),  you only need to include this in origin emails. 

14. Don't write a 5 page novel,  if it takes you 2 hours to write it and it takes people an hour to read it, you may be better picking up the phone to call people. Also be considerate that  people will be reading/responding from their iPhone/Android/Blackberry… none of which are very good for long form reading.

15. If it is a long email chain, cut a paste the parts that are important to the person you are sending it to.  Do not force people to scroll down to see your edits.

16. Always use spell checker if you are on your computer.  If you have a grammar checker, turn that on as well. 

17. Cut Cut Cut - Ask yourself what can be removed from your email when you review it. If it is not important, get rid of it.

18. Don't over use abbreviations,  asap, imho, wrt.... if you type 40-70 words per minute you don’t need to pretend you are text messaging or paying per character.

19. Think about the tone of the email your are sending; will everyone read it the same way in which you wrote it?

20. Review your email before you send it out,  if you vocalize your email you will likely pick up a lot of problems.


If you try to use just 2-3 of the above rules for every email, you will find yourself writing better business emails in a few days.






AuthorBrett Cooper