Client Meeting: Coffee Shop or Conference Room?

6 min read

The client meeting is not only a cornerstone of an ad agency—but also a fringe benefit. If you deal with clients in your line of work, we imagine you’re probably shaking your head at this statement, but as creative types, we’re in our own heads (or each other’s heads) a lot.

So it’s honestly a treat to speak face-to-face with the actual people who use what we make—and to work together, in real time, on what needs to happen next.

Where those meetings should best happen is another question. We have a nice set of conference rooms here at our office—as well as plenty of cozy couches and nooks more appropriate for an informal chat. But we meet plenty of clients out for coffee as well.

For our president and creative director Ken Honeywell, the go-to coffee spot for client meetings is Milktooth. He credits the great coffee but adds that if you go between 7:00 and 9:00 in the morning, you can be among the first to order breakfast when they start serving the full menu. “And who doesn’t want to order breakfast at Milktooth?” Who, indeed? (If Ken invites you, don’t even ask what it’s about. Just say yes.)

The inevitable packed house at Milktooth, along with the bright, bustling ambiance, is actually a plus for work meetings. “They play the music just loud enough,” Ken adds, “so that even though there are always a lot of people there, you can almost always have what feels like a quiet, intimate conversation.”

Partly because of this personable, public/private vibe, coffee shops have become essential meeting places in American society—what sociologist Ray Oldenburg has called “third places.”

“Third places,” according to Oldenburg, are “informal public gathering places. The phrase ‘third places’ derives from considering our homes to be the ‘first’ places in our lives, and our workplaces the ‘second.’” Bars, public libraries, parks, and community centers also fill this need for public places between the spheres of work and home.

coffee shop conversation

It’s no wonder that, when we hold a client meeting at a coffee shop, everyone feels a little more relaxed.

So when it’s time to convene around a dose of caffeine, where do the rest of Well Done’s movers and shakers meet their clients and prospects? We asked around.

  • “I’m a bit partial, but I’d have to go with Indie Coffee Roasters,” says Jenny Tod, senior art director. (She and her husband are part owners of the shop in Carmel’s Arts District.) “It’s a nice place for a Northside meeting, it’s spacious with tons of natural light, it has a few larger tables when the group gets a little bigger, and it’s got great coffee. The roaster on site is a pretty cool talking point as well.”  
  • Account executive Kristin Baxter likes Provider, the new shop run by the team at Coat Check Coffee and located at Tinker House near 16th Street and the Monon Trail. “The spot is just beautiful, especially on a nice morning. The patio is lovely and the inside is comfy. And they have plenty of outlets which is always a bonus. In the winter, Calvin Fletcher’s is where it’s at. It’s so cozy in there, and it’s close to the office. Provider is on my way into the office, which is also nice. ”
  • Speaking of Calvin Fletcher’s and Coat Check, those two shops are tops for account supervisor Melissa Sunsdahl: “They’re convenient, which is a plus, but they also aren’t cookie cutter, which I appreciate. I like how well-spaced everything is at Coat Check. You aren’t bumping into everyone.”
  • Casey Cawthon, our public relations manager, is more of a tea drinker (and that’s perfectly okay). “One of my favorites in Fishers is Della Leva, which has a beautiful mural and large bay windows that fill the store with natural light. They also have diverse workspaces, small and large, so it’s suited well for groups and meetings. Downtown, I’m a huge fan of Tea’s Me Cafe. It’s filled with bright colors and smiling faces. I love that it’s near Downtown, on 22nd and Penn, in an area that’s recently been renovated. I also love tea and haven’t ordered a flavor I didn’t like. They have both indoor and outdoor seating and offer food. If you’re into tea, the champagne raspberry is my favorite.”
  • Our VP Lisa Vielee says she chooses a coffee shop first based on client convenience. “But if I get to choose, I pick Calvin Fletcher’s, or The Well if I’m in Fishers. Both are locally owned and popular enough that there isn’t that awkward, too-silent-to-speak vibe. The Well also donates a portion of its profits to build wells in countries that struggle for water, primarily in Africa. That makes me feel good, and hopefully, the client does as well.”
  • Joe Judd, our director of account service, says he also chooses first based on the client. “I’ll usually go wherever is most convenient for them.” Coffee shops, he adds, suit those meetings that require neutral territory, where people can feel more comfortable and be themselves.

Still, we can’t spend all of our time in coffee shops. (Those of us who’ve spent time as freelancers would be the first to agree that a coffee shop is neither the ideal workplace, nor an ideal home.)

What kinds of meetings shouldn’t you arrange in a coffee shop?

  • Any meeting that includes more than three or four people (this can get awkward, especially at tables that might be more ideally suited for two)
  • Any meeting requiring a whiteboard or video presentation
  • Any meeting that may run longer than an hour or so

conference room conversationYou might wonder whether conference rooms inspire the same level of enthusiasm and loyalty as our local coffee spots. It’s true that a conference room will probably never smell as wonderful. But there are a few standout spots, including one that’s very close to our hearts.

  • “I truly like our conference room,” says senior account executive Lucy Smith. “It’s not huge or formal, so it doesn’t feel all that intimidating. But I will say the size of the meeting room is important, depending on the number of people I am meeting with.”
  • Emmis Communications has a beautiful second-floor conference room that overlooks Monument Circle,” says Casey Cawthon. “That might be my favorite. I tend to like natural light and large bay windows—noticing a theme here?”
  • “I’m partial to Katz Sapper & Miller’s conference rooms,” Lisa Vielee says. “They are high-tech, and always stocked with Diet Coke and comfy chairs.”

Not to open yet another tab (so to speak), but we haven’t yet mentioned the post-work cocktail meeting. On that note, senior art director Brittany Mason likes Mashcraft: “It just immediately feels friendly. It’s usually full, but not packed, so it’s lively with people moving around and doing work and chatting, but I can always find a table. And it’s in a convenient spot, whether I’m meeting with someone who works or lives Downtown, in Midtown, in Broad Ripple, etcetera.”

Good call, Brittany. We may need to plan another blog, and maybe a little more…uh…research.

A final note: Whether you’re going for coffee, tea, or something a little more hoppy, we hope you enjoy plenty of food and drink, completely crush your meeting, and generously tip your server or barista. And if you want to talk to us—anywhere, anytime—don’t be shy.