What Is a 1-2-1 And Why Are They Important?


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When I started networking, outside my corporate career, and as a representative of a small business, I kept hearing people say, book in your 1-2-1s before next week. And to be honest, I had no clue what this was, how I went about organising it, how to do it, what to expect, how to follow up…I really was at a loss.

So I thought I’d dedicate a blog to this topic: what is a 1-2-1 and why they are so important for your business?

What is a 1-2-1?

1-2-1s fall under many guises and names, but ultimately they are simply a meeting between two people in business who are getting to know one another.

A one to one, 1-2-1, 1:1 – just some of the ways people right them down, is a meeting of two people to get to know one another and find out more about their respective businesses. They are also known as meeting for coffee, coffee dates and a general meetup.

Doesn’t sound too scary right?! Well that’s because it’s not!

How Often Should I Do 1-2-1s?

This is such a personal choice and it has many variables, including how many networks you are involved in, where you are at in the business cycle, e.g. are you a start up with time on your hands or a more evolved business and time is limited, but you want to make maximum impact?

It also depends on how wide your current network is and what your networking goals are.

In the networks that I’m involved in, I always espouse the ‘Power of One’, i.e. do one 1-2-1 meeting per week.


Well this keeps you learning and keeps your business top of mind. If you achieve that goal, then ostensibly, you can do 48 1-2-1s or so in a year (time taken aside for vacation and other festivities).

Obviously, if you get more 1-2-1s done in a week, then you are multiplying out this figure. Don’t forget the all important follow up.  Tips and guidance in my blog how to follow up after a networking event.

Where Can I Do 1-2-1s?

Before #Covid19, I always did my 1-2-1s in person. I’d meet in a hotel or coffee shop or sometimes at a person’s place of work. A lot depends on the type of job a person does. For example, if a printer has a full set up, it might be interesting to see their set up and meet the team, as part of your ‘discovery’. If the person works in the knowledge arena, e.g. pensions, insurance – you may also like to see their offices, but it mightn’t be as critical.

As we went online with #Covid19, all 1-2-1s went online, as did all the networking meetings.

I think that post Covid, there is going to be a hybrid solution for the future. People are, generally speaking, really looking forwared to meeting others in person and to re-connecting. However, people have realised that a lot of time, energy, money and early morning risings can be avoided and saved if doing the 1-2-1s online, e.g. on Zoom or other platforms.

How Long Should a 1-2-1 Last

For me, I would recommend an hour.  It varys on how this can be divided up.  You could choose to do 30 minutes on each business or spend an hour on one business and then schedule another meeting to find out about the second business.

In essence, I would advise you to ensure it’s equitable and a good investment of both people’s time.

If you choose the 30 min per business option, just make sure you are timing it and have an agenda set in advance to get the maximum value out of the time.  You also need to ensure that both businesses get their 30 minutes each.

I’ve been in the situation where an hour went exploring one business and no time spent on the other.

Do They Always Have to Be Online

Absolutely not.

In Person or Online

I would certainly recommend doing your first 1-2-1s in person, if possible, or at least on an online platform.

It’s important to see the person you are connecting with to get a ‘read’ on them. I often say, listen with your eyes. Your eyes pick up a lot of what people say, intentionally and unintentionally, and this will absolutely sway your comfort in referring this person on.

Walk and Talk

Walk and Talks are a current favourite for me. I get to do some exercise (aka damage limitation) when in good company. I have the opportunity to learn about a new business and build a new relationship, or catch up with an acquaintance or business bestie.

Pick Up The Phone

With the onset of #Covid19 and all networking meetings moving to online platforms, people seemed to feel compelled to do all 1-2-1s online.  As I say, if it’s the start of a new relationship, then yes, I recommend this.

But if you know the person, why not simply pick up your phone and make a call?  You can do this when on your walk or driving to a meeting, as examples.  The great thing is that if you have your buds charged, you can put the phone away and have a nice relaxed conversation and catch up.

My Time is Limited – How Do I Prioritise?

When you start networking in referral and chamber networking groups, it is common practice to have a 1-2-1 system in place.

Some networks do some match making and get two businesses to connect in a preordained fashion. But mostly it’s left at people’s discretion who they want to meet.

Here’s what I recommend:

If you’re following my guidance, as laid out in my blog Four People You Need to Have In Your Network, then step 1 might be to connect with these people.  Who are you looking for to help you grow and succeed in business?  Is it a coach, a connector a referral partner?

Identify who it is you need for your business and prioritise these 1-2-1s first.   It’s likely that these people will stay in your immediate networking circle and be the people you’ll need to nurture and keep in closer contact with as time goes by.

After that, I would take one new business per week and make sure to connect in and get to know them.

Tip: Never assume.  Never assume that a person’s business, their business title, the name of their company defines who they are.  When I worked in my partner’s business, Highline Office Technology, I was a specialist in managed print services and worked in the sales and leasing of office equipment (printers, scanners, shredders).  When I said this to people at networking events, I would literally hear back: I don’t need a printer.  The inference was that they didn’t ‘need’ to speak to me. I also heard ‘I don’t know anyone who needs a printer’, again the inference being, I have no reason to get to know you.

But talking about managed print services did and doesn’t define me.  I have a whole history, path, career (completely different background) that could have been explored.

My point is that 1-2-1s are about getting to know the person behind the business. It’s about understanding whether you can help the person or referring them in to another business or connecting them in with someone who could help them.

What Can I Talk About?

One complaint I hear of a lot is that people meet others and ultimately spend a lot of time drinking coffee, chatting generally and ultimately feeling that they are not getting a lot of out of the meeting. Personally I wouldn’t underestimate what is being achieved in this scenario. I’ll tell you why in a moment.

But ultimately, if you aren’t get a lot out of the 1-2-1, it’s because you haven’t planned it or got a strategic objective set out about what success is going to look like after you invest that hour of time.

Do Not Assume

You know what they say with assumptions. To assume is to make an ‘ass out u and me’. Do not assume that the person’s role, name, job, company defines everything about them. It absolutely doesn’t think. Think of your 1-2-1 as the opportunity to play detective. Not in a stalkerish way, but in a curious way. Be interested. Have a pen and paper to hand. Make notes. Ask questions. Ask how you can help.

Ways To Help

There are lots of different ways that you might be able to help someone you are meeting. Although it’s lovely to give and pass business, it might be a connection to help solve a problem. It might be a potential strategic partner that you consider useful.

  • An introduction
  • A beneficial connection
  • Follows on social media

Reputation Matters

Always, always, always do 1-2-1s before making a recommendation or referring someone in to a business. Remember, it’s your reputation that goes before the introduction and I’m guessing that your reputation matters. So don’t jeapordise it. Early on in my networking ‘career’

The first thing to note is that 1-2-1s do not apply to all networks, even though I’d always recommend doing them. This became apparent to me when I when to lots of different networks and I asked people to do 1-2-1s with me. They didn’t know what I was talking about.

Nurturing Your Network

Do not think that doing a single 1-2-1 that you know the person or the business. You are only at the start of an exploratory journey of getting to know the other person and their business. I always recommend scheduling a follow up 1-2-1 about three months afterwards, particularly where you feel that the relationship could be valuable over time and yield mutual benefits. In the interim, there are ways to nurture your network in the online world, which also add to the supportive.

Follow Up

I dedicated a whole post to follow up strategies and processes, so you can read all about them here.

Connecting With NetworkingJeanie

You can reach out to me at hello@networkingjean.ie.

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Let’s keep the #networking conversation going!

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Jean Evans
Jean Evans
Jean Evans is an expert on all things networking. It is her passion, and one that is borne out of experience and plenty of trial and error, mistakes and mishaps. Through her blogs and social media channels, Jean shares tips, tricks, hacks and ideas on how to become an effective networker in business.

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