Office hours revisited

 
About six months ago I started holding office hours instead of meeting for coffee. Since then Ohours says I've hosted 59 sessions, and I've met a lot people I wouldn't have met via coffee or otherwise.

I am going to keep doing them, but have evolved my original approach slightly. For those that are interested in doing something similar, here's what I learned.
  • 15 min is a good amount of time. I started with 20, thinking it may be too short since coffee often drags longer. But 20 min did something interesting that I wanted--it forced the conversation to get to the point pretty quickly. So quickly in fact that most of the time after just 10-15min the conversation starts to linger.

    As a result, I'm moving to 15min time slots. This enables me of course to also talk to more people. If it ever makes sense to talk longer we can arrange another time, either at another office hours session or independently.

  • No pitches. I started out getting pitched over half the time, either for angel investment or business development for DuckDuckGo. Neither topic is what I want to discuss at office hours, which I'm hoping to be pretty much solely for giving startup advice of some kind.

    To counteract this tendency, I've changed my profile information to reflect such. I've made it clear how to reach me on AngelList and how to start DDG partnership talks. Now when someone writes in asking about such, I just route them to those links.

    Some % of the time service providers of one sort or another try to schedule time, and I just politely say no.

  • Cancellations happen often. The worst part about holding office hours so far are the rampant last-minute cancellations and no-shows. These really bother me since they both waste my time and also take up this allotted time that others could have used.

    I've noticed that people are more inclined to cancel/no-show over video chat than in-person, probably because they are psychologically less invested. I've changed my setup to say in-person only, though I will still take Skype meetings if the person seems serious.

    Taking this investment idea further, what I'd love to do is charge $5 and give it away to charity. I'm hoping Ohours will let me alpha that feature, though I realize it isn't an easy one to build.

  • Out-of-towners aren't that awkward. At first I thought it would be really awkward if someone came a long way (say 2hr) for a 20min meeting. And it is a bit awkward, but not that much. Things still linger after 15min in the same way.

    Now that I do these at our office, I can offer guests to stick around and work for as long as they want, which several people have taken me up on.

  • I like the 1.5hr window. I've been doing a weekly 1.5hr office hours window. Previously it was 4 slots, and now I'm moving to 6. But the amount of aggregate time feels good, so I'm keeping it.

  • I don't run over. The great thing about having meetings back to back is you have a large incentive not to run over, and I stick to it.

While imperfect, I'm really liking the office hours concept. I think it is an easy but effective way to engage with the startup community, and I highly recommend it. I'm thinking of also doing some paired sessions where I bring in someone else with specific expertise (startup lawyer, designer, etc.) to do a weekly session with me.
If you have comments, hit me up on Twitter:
I'm the CEO & Founder of DuckDuckGo, the search engine that doesn't track you. I'm also the co-author of Traction Book, the book that helps you get traction. More about me.

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