For years, meeting new people for networking has included an awkward ritual. You arrive and scan the tables, looking for singletons. If you see a likely candidate, you have to go and ask if they are the person you are supposed to meet. If you don’t see anyone, you get a table and watch the entrance for someone who arrives alone and seems to be looking for someone they don’t know. Then you jump up and ask “hi, are you so-and-so?” If they are, it’s fine and you have coffee or lunch or drinks or whatever. If not, it’s awkward. And sometimes you send an email from your phone asking if you got the day wrong only to find out so-and-so has been sitting on the patio for twenty minutes while you were waiting inside.
The Internet helps — sometimes. If you can find a good picture of the person on their website or on LinkedIn or Facebook, you might have a better idea of who you are looking for. Although many profile photos on websites and LinkedIn appear to have been taken in the 80s and scanned badly. And many profile photos on Facebook are babies or dogs. Or, like me, you may have shaved off all your hair since your last profile photo.
So make it easy. Send a selfie about an hour before the meeting that shows what you look like. Like this:
Subject: Lunch today
Here is what I look like today, so you don’t have to awkwardly ask people if they come from the Internet.
Looking forward to talking about the Lawyerist Podcast!
Make sure to get the top of your outfit in the frame, since that is probably easier to recognize at a distance than your face. Don’t obsess about the photo, either. The goal is just to help your networking contact locate you in a coffee shop, restaurant, or bar. You don’t need to make it a masterpiece. If it makes you feel better, you could ask them to keep the photo to themselves for that reason.
Sending a selfie in advance of your meeting also has the side benefit of serving as a reminder of your meeting without being patronizing. (Maybe it’s just me, but when someone sends a reminder it feels a bit patronizing, like they think I can’t be trusted to show up unless they remind me.)
The next time you are meeting someone in public for the first time, plan ahead — just a little bit — and send a quick selfie to make things go more smoothly.