“Can I Buy You a Coffee?” Here’s What to Say (and not Say) to Earn 30 Minutes with an In-Demand Person

When you go to events or attend conferences, you’re likely eager to get in front of the right people: influencers, industry leaders, and the big shots. You want to steal some of their time for business advice, guidance and feedback.

You reach out on Twitter, LinkedIn, or over email ahead of time and ask, “Can I buy you a coffee?” Later, however, you’re probably looking at an empty inbox.

These people are busy. They have other commitments outside of the event. They are also being hit with dozens of requests to connect, grab a coffee or go for drinks.

Yup. You’re not the only one.

So how can you make them make time for you?

Why “Can I Buy You a Coffee?” Doesn’t Cut it

It’s a nice gesture. But the person’s inbox will be flooded with 20 requests just like yours. As much as he or she would love to sit down and connect with you, there’s not enough time.

How do you break through the noise and build a connection?

The Number One Tactic that’ll Get the Attention of an In-Demand Person

Tell the person how you can be a resource to them. This changes everything.

It’s no longer about taking up someone's time. It’s about providing them with value and then getting something in return.


Let me share a recent example with you.

Last year, I was doing a speaking tour in Europe and arrived in Austria to speak at a conference. A few weeks prior to this conference, I started receiving emails and messages on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

They all said the same thing, “Hey, Steli, I heard you’re going to be in Austria. Can I buy you coffee? I’d love to steal half an hour of your time to pick your brain about [insert need].”

I love to connect with people and I love it when people reach out. I love that they think I have something of value to offer and I want to meet and help as many people as I can.

I want to say yes to all of these people. But there’s only so much time in a day. And when I go to these conferences, my schedule gets pretty packed. There are dinners, breakfasts, and networking events. There’s a lot of stuff going on.

If I get 50 requests to meet for a coffee, I won’t be able to say yes to all of them. Here’s how I replied to these people:

“Hey, I really appreciate you reaching out, but my schedule is super busy; it’s going to be hard for me to tell how much free time I’m going to have. But when you’re at that conference, if you see me, just come grab me and say hi, and we’ll figure it out on the go.”

Most people responded by saying, “Cool! I’ll do that.” But I ended up not connecting with most of these people.

How to Stand out

But here’s what one smart guy did. He used a tactic you can steal (and you really should) if you want to meet with someone at a conference or any other type of event.

It’s just a mindset of how to reach out to people who are in high demand and effectively get their attention and some of their time.

His message read: “Hey Steli, I’m excited you’re speaking at this conference. I’m a big fan.”

Up to this point, he had said the same thing many other people had said, but what he said next set him apart and got him 30 minutes of one-on-one time with me.

“Steli, I know this city like the back of my hand. I know all the places, I know all the restaurants, all the bars, and I know everything about this city. Let me be your assistant. Let me be at your service. Do you need a drive from the airport to the hotel? Anything that you can think of, I will make it happen for you. Just use me as your resource. Let’s start with me picking you up from the airport.”

That pitch was both smart and compelling.

It’s no longer about him using up my time for his gains. He didn’t ask for my time; he offered himself as a resource to create value for me.

He continued, “You must get from the airport to the hotel anyway. If you take a cab or if you drive with me, what’s the difference? Isn’t it more fun driving with someone who’s a fan, an entrepreneur who will ask you smart questions and be able to have a smart conversation?”

And that’s exactly what we did. He picked me up at the airport and gave me a ride to the hotel.

During those 30 minutes, he questioned me about business, entrepreneurship, and his ideas.

The result? A powerful and productive conversation.

When he dropped me off at the hotel, he said, “Tomorrow, I’m going to be at the front row of your talk, and I’m going to be your biggest fan.”

Do you know what I did? I put him in my presentation. My presentation was all about Hustle Nation. People that put in the work and make shit happen. I thought he was a great example of that.


I highlighted him as a local hero because he is a true Hustle Nation citizen.

Create Value, Start Building Relationships

The next time you want to connect with an in-demand person, don’t offer to buy them a coffee or ask for their time.

Instead, think about what you can do for them. Figure out how to create value for them to start building a relationship.

That’s how you stand out.

Table of Contents
Share this article