Business Magazine

How New Up-And-Comers Meet Famous Big Shots

By Stacylrust

Have you ever had a business fantasy?suit

Example: you meet Donald Trump in an elevator, he asks you what you do for a living, and when you tell him he decides to invest $1 billion in your company and you become an overnight phenomenon?

Helloooo Forbes Magazine, what should I wear for my cover photo?

(I’ve had dreams like this… only in mine I run into Beyonce and we decide to start a clothing line together…)

Most entrepreneurs have a dream of being “discovered”. And, you see this happen all the time, you hear people talk about how meeting one person catapulted them into fame and fortune. It’s all about who you know, right?!

So, how do you meet the right people?

And if you were in a room with a bunch of big shots, would you know what to say?

If you had a silver platter of influential people served up to you right this very second, would you know how to behave? Would you be able to negotiate those ground-breaking deals? Would you wow the pants off them and walk away with full pockets and a book deal?

For most people starting out, the answer is no.

We fantasize about the perfect conversation that leads us to overnight stardom, but if that conversation ever actually materialized, would we be as successful as we imagine? Or would we get nervous and stumble through it (or panic and leave out the back door).

Learning how to speak to those established (read: famous) people in your industry can mean the difference between fast success and long-term business struggle.

Here are 3 tips to meeting (and impressing) big shots:

1. Go to events and conferences and introduce yourself.

Sounds obvious, right!? But, when was the last time you went to an event and introduced yourself to the keynote speaker? Did you force yourself into that uncomfortable situation, or did you find an excuse to jet back to your hotel room during your break and hide out.

Meeting new people (especially big shots) can be SO intimidating. We convince ourselves that when we’re more “confident, successful, and ready”, then we will go meet those people. But, the truth is… you’ll never feel ready. You’ll never feel as though you belong with the big shots until you go and talk to them.

We mistakenly believe that when we’re more “powerful” we will just naturally hang out with other successful, powerful people. But, it’s just not the case.  You achieve success in business by approaching new people (particularly big shots) and telling them about what you do.

It’s like saying, “Once I get really fit and healthy, I’ll hire a personal trainer.”

People say this all the time, because they want to avoid looking foolish. Nobody wants to hire a personal trainer when they feel overweight and out of shape. But, if you don’t hire that personal trainer, will you ever see results? Maybe. Maybe not.

The same is true for networking with influential people. We all want to wait until we’ve “got it all figured out” before we introduce ourselves to important people. Do it now. That’s how you’ll get to where you want to be.

In this study Smith et al., (2013; in press), it was found that by approaching other, people felt both implicitly and explicitly more powerful. “If I am approaching things, I must be powerful”.

I find this study so interesting because it shows that the act of approaching someone new actually brings you more confidence.

Other studies in recent years (and Amy Cuddy’s awesome Ted talk) have confirmed this finding. It turns out that behaving in a confident, powerful way actually makes you feel more confident and powerful.

Instead of waiting until you feel “ready” to talk that keynote speaker, approach them and the “readiness” feeling will follow.

2. Practice a compelling and concise response to the question “what do you do?”

So, now that you’ve introduced yourself to that big shot, their first question will be “what do you do?”

Do you have a good answer? Is it cohesive and easy to understand? Or (be honest, now), do you ramble on and stumble through it a bit.

I’ve been on both sides of this situation. I’ve been the rambler and the confused listener. Make sure you’ve got a quick 15-second description of what you do. Make sure it’s interesting and non-annoying. Think of all the different ways to describe your work. If Oprah were to ask you what you did for a living, what would you want to say to her? If your sweet grandma were to ask, how do you explain it to her?

And, remember, this isn’t a 15-second pitch. It’s just a conversation. Imagine you’re talking to a friend (because really, that’s all networking is, meeting new friends). Show interest in the other person. If you’re approaching a speaker at an event, talk about their content. Ask good questions. Be interested in what they do.

Approach them as an equal, treat them as you would a friend and cherished colleague. Don’t beg for their attention, and don’t hog their time. Stand up tall, introduce yourself, and start a conversation.

3. If you get into a good conversation and you want to stay connected, follow up.

Ok, here’s where the rubber meets the road.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been to an event and had someone tell me, “I’ll shoot you an email with the details of xyz”. And, then I never hear from them again.

Don’t forget to follow up.

If you get into that big conversation, and things are clicking and wheels are turning, make sure and follow up. Don’t chicken out. And, don’t procrastinate. Make a note in your calendar as a reminder to reach out in a couple of days with further details.

Or, if you meet someone you truly admire, just reach out and send a kind email saying, “I really enjoyed meeting you”.

If given the opportunity to network with the world’s most powerful people, so many of us would freeze up. Our palms would sweat, our heads would get cloudy, and we’d shy away.

We’d immediately count ourselves out and decide to “wait until we’re ready”. 

I don’t want this to be you.

So, go to events and jump in with both feet. Practice introducing yourself and getting to know new people. Don’t wait until you feel ready, do it now. After all, what if Oprah decides to switch coffee shops and ends up in line in front of you next week?

Do you have any good networking stories? Have you ever introduced yourself to a big shot? Tell me your story in the comments below!

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