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50 Coffees - an old concept worth exploring today

Victoria MacLennan. 10 May 2023, 8:55 pm

Do you love coffee catchups? Or maybe you hate them and want to overcome that aversion? want to expand your network? find your perfect job? Well there is an old system called 50 coffees that might be right for you. 

It’s unclear who started the 50 coffees system / concept / challenge, the idea is to network yourself into meeting 50 new people to help you expand your network, broaden your horizons, connect with others or achieve a specific goal. I think I first did this around 2010/2011 when trying to decide where to next with my own career. It was a great tactic which is why I mentioned it in my recent succession planning blog.

With 3 years of Covid interruptions now seems like the perfect time to reintroduce 50 coffees to our lives. 

Why would you have 50 coffees?

There are loads of reasons you might want to meet 50 new people.

  • Expand your network.
  • Test an idea.
  • Go on a journey of discovery eg: understand different roles and career options
  • Overcome a reluctance to meet strangers.
  • Network your way to someone you have always wanted to meet - a great challenge in itself
  • Meet people within a specific cohort - ITP members for instance
  • Practice your active listening skills
  • Learn new things.

How does it work?

Be clear on what you want to achieve out of this process (see why above). 
The basic idea is to meet a new person for coffee and have them introduce you to someone else you don’t already know. Then meet the 2nd person, have them introduce you to a 3rd. Meet the 3rd have them introduce you to a 4th and so on until you have met 50 people. 

I recommend you take the meeting 50 people goal seriously and keep a journal or log of who introduced you to who along the way. One or many of those you meet will help you with what you are trying to achieve. Some of them will become friends or great contacts for life, others will provide you with great insight or advice. 

My other recommendation is you thank everyone along the chain, be grateful and remember you are essentially asking a favour of each person in terms of an introduction - they may ask you to reciprocate one day. When I last did this and met 50 amazing entrepreneurs I had this great idea to build myself a favour app to keep track of who I owe favours / who owes me - 13 years later and I still haven’t got round-to-it. 

Tips and Tricks

You might be reading this and thinking this is going to get expensive. People will be fine with paying for their own coffee - just make that clear when you extend the invitation. Other tips and tricks:

  • You don’t have to be a coffee drinker - I’m not, it still works with Teas.
  • You could do this virtually rather than in person.
  • It’s ok to reconnect with someone you haven’t seen in years - there are no hard and fast rules on only meeting new people.
  • Be really clear on your why and that you will be asking each person to introduce you to someone new.
  • As for an email introduction so you can then reply and arrange to meet.
  • Some people take their time to make the introductions but I found on e you’re 5 people into the chain then it snowballs from there.
  • Remember your why? If you are wanting to meet people from diverse roles you might need to provide direction on the kinds of job the next person you meet might have for instance.
  • If you do this so you can sell something then you will find people won’t make introductions
  • Not every meeting will go smoothly, sometimes you don’t click with the person you’ve met, so have some backup conversation starters and questions in mind beforehand

How go get started?

If you are really brave or brazen then feel free to cold call / email / LinedIN message someone you are keen to meet. My advice on how to get started is approach someone you already know, an old colleague you have lost touch with, a former manager, someone you studied with.
If even that seems too daunting ask one of your friends or current colleagues - to be honest it doesn’t matter how you start. All that matters is you focusing on your why and meeting the people you are keen to meet.  

Final thoughts

I had a quick search for articles on this, they are all over 10 years old demonstrating this isn’t a new concept and perhaps it’s now a lost art. 
Even if you don’t meet 50 people this is a fantastic mechanism for connecting and reconnecting with people. 
If it starts to feel like work and you’re not achieving your why, take a short break and start again in a couple of months. 

Kei ō ringaringa te ao - The world is yours, Vic


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