I don't know what to say when meeting "notables." Help!
July 16, 2014 6:08 PM Subscribe
How do you network with a "bigwig?" This is what has crossed my mind quite a bit recently. I hear all the time stories of people who've sat next to so-and-so on an airplane and apparently chatted it up and had a great time. What did they say to them? How did the conversation begin? Does it always begin with "I'm a fan" even if you aren't? (Kinda long, sorry)
posted by GeniPalm to Human Relations (29 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
In the past year and a half, since I moved to a larger city, I have randomly come across quite a few "notable" people ie people I know from television like the news or whatnot. Recently it seems I've come across more than usual and someone informed me that I should maximize those opportunities, not just see a "notable" and call someone and say "guess who I see sitting right across from me?" I recognize networking in general is a difficult task, but doubly so when dealing with someone who is likely approached often by strangers. I am not a celebrity-enthralled person. I don't really see the point of asking for autographs and I don't know how to tell someone who I'm not a fan of, "I really admire you" or whatever. So how do I politely meet them, make an impression, and not seem phony? It seems some people are masters at this. What is the secret? Data points:
--A couple weeks ago, I arrive at my gate in the airport a couple hours early and see Roland Martin (former CNN commentator) sitting by his lonesome at a restaurant next to my gate. No one seemed to even notice him. The airport was not crowded at all. It would have been a PRIME opportunity for me to go up and introduce myself and just make small talk. But of course I didn't. "What do I say? I like some things about him, but I'm not a "fan" per se, so what do I say???" I had no idea what to say, so I just sat there and minded my own business.
--The other day I saw Kathleen Sebilius (former HHS secretary) walking through the Metro station. I was shocked no one seemed to even notice (or care) who she was. I wasn't a fan of her work, but how often does a former HHS secretary walk right by you alone with no entourage? WHY did I not say SOMEHTING, ANYTHING? I don't know. I didn't know what to say. How do I say "I admired your work" to someone who was essentially fired for doing a poor job? Yet, it would have been a prime opportunity to at least meet someone with influence. Who knows what could come from that?
--I pretty regularly attend a church with quite a few famous singers (within a particular music genre) and regularly has notable visitors from various backgrounds. I saw one of these guys--whose music I hear on the radio regularly--sitting in a restaurant. He said hello to my friend (who knows him) and me, I spoke back and that was it. It would have been so easy to prolong that conversation but I didn't. Another missed opportunity.
--I visited a church recently and sat next to Gwen Ifill. The person I visited the church with didn't even recognize her; the rest of the church I imagine didn't care since she was apparently a regular. I wanted to congratulate her on being promoted to the first ever female anchor of NewsHour, but I didn't. I just sat there like a dope. lol I didn't want to seem like a sycophant I guess.
--I saw Allen West (former Tea Party Republican) walking by himself one morning on the escalator in a Metro station. No fanfare, nothing. It would have been really easy to reach out and meet him (even if I'm not a fan), but I didn't.
--I attended a book signing in which quite a few tv personalities attended. I briefly spoke to one and she was nice, but I didn't parlay the convo into exchanging business cards or anything--even though that's EXACTLY what the author had been talking about in her talk, lol, "you all know me, meet others here, this is how you network." I didn't take her advice unfortunately.
--A while back, I was at an event in which I was standing right next to Tavis Smiley (who I generally like) and Cornel West and I didn't say anything at all. Just stood there. Another missed opportunity.
There have been a few times in the past that I did at least make small conversation: I got Michael Eric Dyson's card and we talked for a while, I briefly chatted with John Lewis and he gave me his card, I met Big Boi [of Outkast] and he told me to "smile" and thanked me for my support, I had a nice convo with Michael Baisden (radio personality) who was so nice and complimentary and thanked me for my support. Through a friend, I met a former rapper and hung out a couple times with his entourage, as in a 10-hour trip to Miami once. The rapper was really nice and seemed to try to make me come out of my shell, but I stayed reserved. His entourage was also nice, but I didn't really make any lasting connections.
Over the years, now that I think about it, I've had encounters with quite a few "notables" peppered here and there, from radio personalities to musicians like Cee-lo (who was nice) to just random familiar-looking people and yet nothing concrete came out of those interactions. Is this normal? Do most people just keep it moving or do they speak? I am generally reluctant to consider myself a "fan" of anyone, not really thrilled about our celebrity-obsessed culture, so maybe I overreact the opposite way. Does anyone have any advice at all in case I have another opportunity how best to maximize the interaction? What have you done in the past when meeting "notables?" Thanks in advance for any perspective on this.