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Tips for an effective power breakfast

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

breakfast00407.jpgBacon, eggs and doing business

In a less enlightened time, doing business over breakfast warranted a serious title: the power breakfast. But these days, the socially savvy have pushed “power” aside for a softer, kinder and more intimate start-the-day meeting — sans buffets, spreadsheets or late arrivals at the office.

10 tips for a successful breakfast meeting

1. RESEARCH THE LOCATION in advance to avoid unexpected surprises. Compile a short list of great, reliable breakfast places, with at least one per neighborhood.

2. BE EARLY. This is not the time to bounce in a few minutes late. Being a few minutes early sets a more relaxed tone for the meeting.

3. KEEP IT SIMPLE. This is not the time to get a side of fruit and pancakes and yogurt and toast. This should not be a multi-course, complicated affair like dinner.

4. ORDER DISHES THAT AREN’T MESSY. Avoid drippy, mushy dishes that require too much attention and opt for something manageable, so you can easily eat and talk at the same time.

5. LEAVE THE PRINTED AGENDA AT THE OFFICE. Usually breakfast tables are filled with butter, syrup, coffees, juices, waters, etc., so there’s no real space for printed materials.

6. TAKE A QUICK LOOK at the newspaper before you head to breakfast. It’s nice to ease in to the meeting with a quick conversation about the day’s current events.

7. BEWARE OF THE ETERNAL FOUNTAIN OF COFFEE. To avoid jitters, allow one or maybe two cups to be poured while you’re dining, but stop the flow after that and switch to water.

8. FOCUS ON BRAINSTORMING OR JUMPSTARTING new projects. The beginning of the day is a great metaphor for beginning strategic partnerships or introducing people.

9. TRY NETWORKING. Because breakfast meetings can fall outside the daily routine, they’re a great time to keep building relationships that don’t fit into the work day.

10. LIMIT THE MEETING TO AN HOUR. People need to get their day started. Meeting for longer than an hour creates a hurdle for the rest of the morning.

“Breakfast meetings are a bit more casual than lunch meetings,” says Sheri Fitts, director of communication and large plan sales for the Standard Retirement Plan Group. “Everyone’s just kind of waking up.”

In the business world, waking up offers an excuse for informal networking, which Fitts finds inspirational. She often gets together with those outside her field over breakfast, not only because busy schedules can usually accommodate a meeting first thing, but because the time slot seems like psychological free space — a time for creative thinking without an agenda. Fitts recommends scheduling these breakfasts for just 45 minutes.

Lisa Donoughe, owner of LAD communications, relishes the breakfast meeting for what it can inspire. “I love the change of atmosphere,” she says. “There’s something fresh about being outside the conference room.”

But that clean slate hinges on choosing the right location. Donoughe prefers the Bijou Cafe in Portland, a who’s-who spot in the morning, both for the ambience and one of her favorite breakfast meeting dishes, a healthy quesadilla that’s easily shared. A few blocks away at the Heathman Restaurant, meetings start happening right at 7 a.m., when the doors open, says the general manager Garrett Peck, who touts the Heathman’s reliable comfort foods and free Wi-Fi.

In Eugene, lawyers and judges frequent the Zenon Café in the morning, thanks to its proximity to the courthouse, while in Salem, legislators and lobbyists can be found discussing the day’s most contentious legislation over coffee in the Café Today,  inside the Capitol.

But no matter where people choose to exchange ideas before the start of the workday, the most successful encounters recognize the uniqueness of a morning meeting. “When you ask people to start their day with you,” Fitts says, “they deserve more than the common courtesies.”

— Lucy Burningham

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