Virtual coffee: Here's what the buzz is all about

Cassy Aite
July 15, 2021
Virtual coffee: Here's what the buzz is all about

Our corporate ancestors may have had water coolers to gather 'round, but in the age of ecommerce companies and tech startups, we had staff baristas and nitro cold brew on tap — that is until the pandemic shut it all down. Don't get us wrong, working from home has its perks (lookin' at you, afternoon nap), but the coffee breaks have been subpar. It's time to take them back with virtual coffee breaks.

Our office coffee rituals do more than keep us caffeinated. They're a way to build relationships with colleagues, make meetings feel more casual, soften sales pitches, and recruit new talent. Basically, every business scenario is more palatable with a cup of extra smooth arabica in your hands.

To keep coffee culture alive for your remote team, use this guide to plan your next virtual coffee break. These tips will make your virtual coffee chat feel as authentic as meeting face-to-face in your favorite coffee shop.  

What is virtual coffee?

Maybe the phrase "virtual coffee" is a little misleading — it makes us picture bad 90s clipart of a coffee cup. That is not what virtual coffee should be. (For starters, clipart contains exactly 0% caffeine.)

Virtual coffee is a virtual meeting where attendees drink real coffee. We can't stress this enough: The coffee itself should NOT be virtual.

Attendees can drink coffee from their own kitchen, or they can escape the confines of their home office and join you from their favorite coffee shop. And although coffee is in the event's name, we wouldn't kick someone out if they wanted to drink tea, hot chocolate, or a turmeric latte. As long as everyone has a comforting beverage in hand, the meeting can get underway.  

When to choose virtual coffee over a virtual meeting

A woman holds a muffin and a cup of coffee for her virtual coffee meeting

Adding coffee can improve almost any virtual meeting. But, virtual coffee breaks work best for casual conversations between a small number of people. They're ideal for one-on-one chats or groups of up to five. Invite more people than that, and you're now in a full-blown meeting that requires some extra planning and an agenda.  

Here are our favorite reasons to keep things casual with a virtual coffee meeting instead of a standard virtual meeting.

One-on-ones

No matter how strong of a relationship managers have with their direct reports, one-on-ones can be intimidating. A virtual coffee meeting sets a casual tone and shows these check-ins for what they are: A chance for your virtual team members to chat openly about their ideas, concerns, achievements, and obstacles.

Providing the coffee is also a good way to show some employee appreciation.  

Recruitment meetings

There are so many ways to use virtual coffee sessions in your recruitment process. If you're talking to a candidate for the first time, coffee can take the edge off those first-round interview jitters and put your laid-back company culture on display.

You can also use virtual coffee to persuade a potential hire to come onboard. Set up an online coffee meeting between a promising candidate and a satisfied team member who can give them insight into the team they'd be joining. Or, use your coffee culture to impress a highly coveted candidate — try sending them a coffee-themed gift — like an espresso maker, coffee grinder, and gourmet beans — ahead of their virtual coffee chat with the team.  

Networking opportunities

If there's someone in your field you follow on social media, send them a LinkedIn message and invite them to virtual coffee. Worst case scenario: They say no. Best case scenario: You convert a business role model into a business connection.

Just remember that if you do the inviting, you should also do the buying. Send your guest a gift card or virtual credit card so they can pick up a cup of coffee before your meeting.

Brainstorming sessions

Caffeine is a nootropic substance, meaning it wakes up the brain. A bit of caffeine increases alertness and improves attention spans, so adding coffee to everyone's cup can make your brainstorming sessions more productive.

Virtual coffee brainstorms are best with small teams of two to five people so everyone gets a chance to add their ideas without talking over the top of each other. The casual nature of a coffee chat also pairs well with the anything-goes rules of a good brainstorming sesh. So, for your next creative meeting, ask everyone to bring along their coffee cup.

Team building activities

In a remote work environment, it can be difficult to establish a strong company culture and create genuine human connections with your coworkers. Regular virtual coffee sessions can promote team bonding.

Organize team coffee chats with a small group. If you have a larger department, try breaking it down into smaller meetings with only the people who work together the most. You can also use your coffee to play team building games like trivia or two truths and a lie.

Sales demos

Internal teams aren't the only ones who benefit from virtual coffee breaks. Add this event to your sales funnel by inviting your prospects to a casual coffee chat.

Providing coffee can give potential customers an extra incentive to listen to your pitch. Plus, it demonstrates your no-pressure sales tactics — with this meeting, the goal is spending time with the customer and getting to know their needs.

How to organize a virtual coffee meeting

A man holds a laptop and coffee cup for a virtual coffee meeting

Virtual coffee meetings are actually easier to organize than most other meetings. Because of their casual nature, you don't need to create an agenda, find a fancy event platform, or hire a speaker like you would if you were planning other corporate events. Just follow these steps — and whatever you do, don't forget the coffee.

Choose a platform

Any basic video chat platform will work for a virtual coffee break, so go with what you know. Skype and Google Meet are convenient free options. Zoom also allows free meetings of up to 40 minutes — you'll get kicked out when you hit the time limit, but 40 minutes is typically enough for a casual coffee chat.

Set a date and time

Because virtual coffee meetings typically have a small guest list, you can collaborate with your invitees to choose a date and time. Even though you'll decide on the meeting time together, you should still send out a formal calendar invite so everyone can block off the time, avoid double-booking themselves, and get an automated reminder.

Plan some conversation starters

A big reason to do virtual coffee is to get to know your coworkers or customers. If you don't want to get stuck in a pattern of stilted small talk, plan some ice breakers for your meeting.

These don't have to be complicated. You can ask about the other person's weekend or talk about how they take their coffee.

If your meeting is with someone you see regularly, make sure to ask follow up questions about personal topics you've discussed before. For example, if you previously talked about your weekends and this person mentioned watching their daughter's soccer tournament, you can ask if their daughter still plays soccer. Thoughtful details like this will help you make more genuine connections.

If you're not good at remembering these details, take notes. Keep them in a folder on your computer and review them before your next meeting. It will show that you're an active listener and make you the most popular person on your virtual team.

Send coffee

The most essential part of a virtual coffee meeting is coffee. You can ask your attendees to bring their own cup, but the experience will leave a more lasting impression (and spread happiness throughout your remote team) if you provide the coffee.  

Hoppier virtual credit cards make it easy to send coffee to your team members, job candidates, or sales prospects. All you have to do is set up a program in our easy-to-use interface.

Interface for setting up a virtual credit card program

You'll create your virtual card and set your budget. Typically, $5 is enough for a good cup of coffee, but if you want your guests to be able to order the fanciest latte on the menu and a snack to go with it, you can set your budget at $15 to $20. If you have a distributed team, keep team members' locations in mind as well. A cup of coffee in L.A. will cost more than a cup of coffee in St. Louis.

The spending limit on a virtual coffee program

Next, choose the vendors where guests can spend their allowance. You can limit vendors to just coffee shops or leave it open so guests can use the money how they want.

Coffee shops where guests can order drinks for a virtual coffee meeting

You can also set a time limit on the funds, which makes it so guests can only spend the money on the day of the coffee meeting. Any money that's still on the card after the time expires will be refunded to your account. (This is a big difference from a coffee shop gift card where you won't see that money again whether guests spend it or not.)

Start and end date for a virtual credit card program

Before you finish setting up your virtual coffee program, add your company logo to the card to create a branded experience.  

A virtual credit card to buy guests coffee at a virtual coffee meeting

Your virtual coffee break needs coffee

Whether you're having java with your Java developer or mocha with your marketing manager, coffee is an essential part of your virtual coffee break. So, make it a priority in your planning process. Use Hoppier virtual cards to send a coffee budget to your guests.

The coffee can serve as a small sign of appreciation for your team members, a perk for job candidates, or an incentive for sales prospects. Schedule a demo to set up your own coffee program and bring coffee culture to your virtual team.

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