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)

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.
posted by GeniPalm to Human Relations (29 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I've also seen lots of famous people. I leave them alone and try hard to not even have them notice that I've noticed who they are. I can't imagine how awful it must be to be famous and try to have a quiet moment somewhere and have all sorts of people all over me looking for attention. I wouldn't consider talking to famous people, "networking". Networking is usually making useful connections to non-famous people in your specific business or interest area. It's not pestering celebs.

I'm also not clear on what you expect might happen with any "connections" you may make. Famous people get mobbed by loads of well-meaning admirers. I doubt that any significant number of those interactions turn into anything meaningful other than some big fish story to tell friends. Keep in mind that most famous people know to be gracious, friendly, and kind to admiring strangers. That doesn't mean that they aren't being bothered or wouldn't have preferred to be left alone.
posted by quince at 6:22 PM on July 16, 2014 [18 favorites]

If you are introduced to a "notable person" at a party, just treat them as a "successful person" rather than some sort of freak. Say you like their work if that's true, otherwise talk about whatever you want to talk about.

If you see someone "notable" in public, leave them alone. They don't belong to you.
posted by neroli at 6:29 PM on July 16, 2014 [9 favorites]

If you see a famous or notable person in public, doing their own thing, just leave them alone. They get bugged all the time and they have the right to peacefully go about their day just like the rest of us. If you're actually at a social event with them, that's a different story.

It's especially tacky if the only reason you want to meet these people is for dubious bragging rights or if you think they can do you a favor.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:30 PM on July 16, 2014 [9 favorites]

Leave them alone, or at least treat them like a normal person. If it's a situation where it would be normal to strike up a conversation with someone, then you can strike up a conversation. (So, for instance, if you're sitting next to a famous person on a plane, I think it's ok to chat. I wouldn't do it, because I avoid chatting on planes, but it's ok.) But don't bother a famous person just because they're famous. Can you imagine what their lives would be like if everyone did that? Also, it's really tourist behavior in D.C. Locals leave them the fuck alone.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:32 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Echoing the above, you're putting a weird sort of pressure on yourself to go up to so-and-so famous person when they're in public. I don't understand why. They don't go home and cry themselves to sleep if no one's noticed them that day and they don't need attention in place of oxygen. Relax. If they can reasonably expect to meet a fan in a given situation, it might be fine to say hi, but otherwise leave them alone. They're people, with lives entirely separate from their jobs, like the rest of us.
posted by marsbar77 at 6:33 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I used to know someone who was good at doing this type thing, at least online. The individual seemed to be talented at chatting up important, successful people, worming their way into their lives, getting recommendations and what not.

Based on comments they made and my first-hand experience of how they operated, I think they were good at finding ways to engage the other person in meaningful conversation and they also were talented at making people feel "important." But their behavior was kind of con-artisty. They would drop everything to pay attention to person A and then when they got what they wanted and found someone new to glom onto, they would drop person A like a hot potato to give all their time and attention to person B.

This individual also had a great sob story. So I suspect a lot of people put up with them out of pity and they otherwise wouldn't have gotten away with half as much.

Like others are saying, I don't think you can meaningfully network by "cold calling" on people you randomly run into out in public. That "Hey, I recognize you thus I feel entitled" vibe tends to be pretty repellent.
posted by Michele in California at 6:35 PM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

The only exception to all of the above might be Bill Murray -- because Bill Murray encounter stories are a genre and he knows it too. (But leave him alone as well if he doesn't want to play.)
posted by neroli at 6:37 PM on July 16, 2014

Talk about sports.
posted by michaelh at 6:38 PM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have had conversations with notables including HRC, WJC, Micheal Jordan, and Chris Christie. I have also sat next to a notable on a plane and was ignored for 3 hours. Looking back, the key to all my conversations was not to act as a fan, but to be sympathetic to their plight. Also, don't talk to them with an agenda, just chat them up. You have a higher priority of making a connection that way than asking to make a connection.

For example, when I met President Clinton in his adopted hometown in Westchester County, he was walking his dog. I was walking past him when Buddy (R.I.P.) was finishing his business. I simply said, "Hi. Wow, even a former leader of the world has to clean up shit." He laughed and said something about the secret service offering but he couldn't let them do it. That was an opening to me to ask him what he missed most about being President. He said besides the obvious parts of the job, he missed the wonderful staff at the White House all of whom treated him like family.

When I sat next to Michael Jordan on a plane, I said something to the effect of "Didn't you used to be Davis Love's roommate? Do you have any golf tips you can pass along?" He laughed and asked a few questions about me and then after about 4 or 5 minutes we both went back to our own space.

Most people just want to be treated normally and with dignity and respect. Or, they want to be left alone.
posted by 724A at 6:40 PM on July 16, 2014 [9 favorites]

I'm an Austrlalian. Truly world famous (usually American) people continually say in interviews that they like to come to Australia because they get left alone by the general public when they're going about their business. Paparazzi bother everyone everywhere...but Australia tends to attract megastars because they don't want the exact kind of interaction you're wanting.

To be honest though, Australians aren't doing it because they're gracious, sensitive and caring....they just couldn't give a shit and think most famous people are probably "up themselves".
posted by taff at 6:50 PM on July 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Leave these people alone; they're just trying to live their lives. Unless they're someone who means a HUGE amount to you, or unless you would benefit professionally from a conversation with them, just let them be - and really, even with those two reasons, remember that other people aren't on earth for your personal benefit. As I read your examples, I thought "...and so?" for each one. They were going to work, or taking a flight, or just, you know, being. Let them just be.
posted by punchtothehead at 6:59 PM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I used to live in DC and have a bunch of those kinds of sightings as well; seeing someone on the escalator at a Metro stop is not an opportunity for networking or doing anything other than a very quick "Love the show/book/band/analysis" comment, if that. I used to see Caspar Weinberger and...yeah. There's Caspar Weinberger. I was not a fan, so what was I going to say? (I saw Bob Dornan on the terminal shuttle thing at Dulles one time and glared at him, because my other choice was to tell him what a jerk I thought he was.)

If you see Notable Person regularly (e.g. at church) then it's fine to make with the small talk - nice sermon today, don't you think? - but otherwise, just leave them be.
posted by rtha at 7:46 PM on July 16, 2014

I guess you gotta ask yourself: what do I hope to achieve by introducing myself to this person? On top of that, what really makes this person any more remarkable than any other person apart from the fact that they have, in one way or another, entered the public consciousness to some extent?

Back in good old Melbourne town, at various times I bumped into/was in the same vicinity as:

-Russell Crowe (wandering around South Yarra)
-Geoffrey Rush (at a cafe in Malvern)
-ex-PM Paul Keating (at the Hotel Windsor)
-Peter Russell Clarke (TV chef personality, walking down, no kidding, Russell Street, in an amazing scarf)
-Derryn Hinch (TV shithead, who pushed in front of me to get a newspaper at the news stand on the corner of Collins & Elizabeth)
-Nicole Kidman (movie premiere at the Jam Factory, and we were dining at the TGI Friday's overlooking the red carpet, so that's not really a random encounter so much as it is an event that we all happened to be near)
-Ben Mendolsohn (cafe in Fitzroy/Collingwood)
-Noah Taylor (different cafe in Fitzroy/Collingwood, different day, BUT LOOKS EXACTLY THE SAME AS BEN MENDOLSOHN I SHIT YOU NOT)
-Arranged for my girlfriend and her best friend to interview Sleater-Kinney for a local magazine (which is basically as good as meeting Sleater-Kinney, right?)
-Harry Connick Jr. and Glenn Close (on a trip to Port Douglas)
-Tim Rogers (lead singer of You Am I) riding on his pushbike, in fabulous cowboy boots, to a custom cowboy bootmaker in Malvern that I would walk past every day on my way to the train station, and which was never open, and which wasn't open when Mr. Rogers was there either and to which he audibly muttered "fucksake" and cycled away
-Dylan Moran (an Irishman, at a pub in the city)
-Andrew McGahan, author, at some kind of street festival in St Kilda.

Pretty good bona fides, right? By anyone's reckoning, this isn't a bad collection of encounters/viewings and in the eyes of the universe makes me a pretty excellent person who is basically a celebrity and could easily be friends with other celebrities. Except not, because the only one of those characters I interacted with was Andrew McGahan, and I was drunk and said something really cringeworthy about how much I liked his first two books, because they were the only ones I'd read, and said "Total respect!" and also "I'm from Queensland too!" and all of it was terrible and I have literally hated myself ever since that day.

I knew who all of them were, but apart from Dylan Moran I wasn't a massive fan of them or anything. But even Dylan Moran, who was sitting alone in an otherwise quiet pub, smoking and drinking and reading something intimidating-looking, and who I was going to see a stand-up performance by the very next night, and whose show Black Books was pretty much my very best special favourite thing, I still left alone, because even if he gave a shit about me (he wouldn't) and I didn't say something dumbfuck (I would have) and we drank and smoked and caroused and sang together all night, and drunkenly declared "I love you mate, you and I, we, we two are like brothers forever", what would happen? I'm going to move to Dublin? He's going to crash on my couch until he gets situated in Melbourne and moves his family over to live here forever, based solely on the strength of my incredible personality? We'll write The Elephant And The Balloon?

No, we're off to live our own separate lives, and he forgets me within a couple of days if he even remembers me the next morning, and for the rest of my life I achieve nothing except going around at parties and finding people to accost with my "Did I ever tell you my amazing Dylan Moran story?"

No. No. It's just too sad. Just see the famous people, maybe tell a couple of other people you saw the famous people, as a fun little amuse bouche, because yeah I guess it is kind of interesting, but just leave it alone. Leave those people alone and reflect on the fact that, hey, isn't the world a funny place?
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:54 PM on July 16, 2014 [9 favorites]

Perhaps because I've met a few "real" celebrities, usually as a local musician hired to perform as a (minor) part of their show, or occasionally as the representative of a sponsor, and perhaps because I've performed a lot in local shows like band or orchestra concerts and have gotten a very minor taste of that thing that happens where everyone wants to walk up and talk to you afterwards, and perhaps because I'm actually kinda/sorta friends with a singer/guitarist who's cut some albums and had a couple of minor hits, here's my advice:

If you've ever wound up in a cast or with some other, temporary, oddity that everyone, friend or stranger, feels free to walk up and ask about, how tired did you get of that? If you got married and had a traditional reception where you get fawned over for a few hours, how tiring was that toward the end? How would you like to be in that position all your life? Yeah, it's a first world problem, and yeah, in some cases the celebrity in question really seems to get off on it, but most of them seem to really, really crave NORMAL human interaction, and they don't get a lot of it. They seem to get the same trite comments, fawning, cringe-worthy comments over and over.

If you encounter said celebrity in "normal life," and you wouldn't talk to them if they were a "civilian," (example: they're 3 places behind you in line at a coffee shop) why would you hit them up at all? Nod and smile.

If you meet one in a context where you get an introduction, why not say the same things you'd say if being introduced to anyone else? Like, how was your trip? How's your family? Or just say "I really enjoy your work," without going Chris Farley on them. I guarantee you'll make a better impression on them than 99% of the public does.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:01 PM on July 16, 2014

There's a lot of different levels of famous there. If you went out on the street and asked a dozen random people who Tavis Smiley is, I think you'd have a low hit rate. I think my likely level of engagement is inversely proportional to how actually famous the person is, as measured by the general public.

If I sat next to John Roderick or Jesse Thorn on a plane, I would definitely try to chat them up a bit. They are notable, but not so famous that they are hounded by paparazzi. I also genuinely like their work, and (maybe falsely) believe we would have some common interests about which to chat.

I would leave more universally recognizable people alone unless they engaged me.

Politicians are kind of different. Sitting politicians I think are more fair game for engagement, but I still think they deserve respect in the public sphere. Retired/out of office politicians should be left alone, unless they are now media personalities, in which case you should punch them in the 'nads and walk away.
posted by jeoc at 8:04 PM on July 16, 2014

Re-reading your question, seems like you've mostly done what I would have done, had I been similarly situated. If the question is "how do you make more of it," you don't. You haven't missed some kind of opportunity. Another insight I've gleaned from my brushes with "real" celebrities, and with some closer long- term ties with "minor" or "local" celebrities - there is no quality about them that automatically makes them more fun to be around than the people you're already friends with. In fact, most of them seemed to me to be emotionally kind of complicated. And if you go have dinner with them in a public place you can't even talk in long sentences because every 30 seconds here comes some fan...
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:11 PM on July 16, 2014

At the extreme end of the scale, celebrities have to put up with shit like this, and I refuse to have any part of it. I agree with everyone above... famous people are people like you and me. Leave them alone if they appear to want to be left alone. If you get into a conversation with them, treat them as you would like to be treated by a complete stranger. (i.e. Don't treat them like a mark or a target.)

Except for Rob Ford. You may taunt Rob Ford all you want.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:37 PM on July 16, 2014

I'd like to chime in with a slightly dissenting opinion. If you have something legitimate to say, and it's an appropriate situation, social, standing in a line, at a reception. Go ahead and speak to them. Do you know more than one of their films? Say you like their work. Actually read something they wrote, complement. Like and are actually familiar with their reporting, mention a recent issue and what you learned from it.

I still kick myself for being too shy to say a word riding an elevator with a famous composer, one I'd listened to and liked.

But the essential point is being polite, liking them for being them, being a generally pleasant person around civil people, NOT NOT NOT to get something out of it for yourself.
posted by sammyo at 9:54 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

If they're "off duty" -- and by that, think about a situation where you would sooner not be interrupted with a "don't I know you?" -- then you leave them be.

If they're in a situation where they're expecting to have people introduce themselves or make smalltalk, be polite, succinct and... y'know, just nice.

how often does a former HHS secretary walk right by you alone with no entourage?

In the place you're living now? More often than you still expect. It's more like a village where a lot of the inhabitants happen to be well known: not quite Stella Street, but not far off. Take a tip from New Yorkers, who consider themselves experts at ignoring the famous in their off-duty moments.
posted by holgate at 9:59 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Alone in an elevator with a famous person is one thing, but charging across a crowded train station to let Sebelius know you recognized her seems very different. If you're in a social situation ( reception, book signing, party, film festival), I thinking treating people as fellow participants seems pleasant. But intruding on their quiet reflection in a cafe or airport seems, well, intrusive. You're not missing any opportunity because there isn't one.
I work in show biz, and see, talk to, email famous/household names everyday, and I think they all get very tired of being on display, no matter how grateful they are to their fans. It's wearing.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:24 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm also in the leave-them-alone group, unless (a) they approach you, (b) someone introduces you to the famous person, (c) it's a meet and greet, book signing, or other event for the purpose of meeting them, or (d) it's a situation where I'd normally interact with someone (at the same party, sitting next to them on a plane, etc.) Granted, I am fairly shy about approaching people, but still. You probably wouldn't enjoy people constantly interrupting you while you're trying to go about your normal business, and neither would they.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:19 PM on July 16, 2014

This isn't networking, unless your job is really, really diverse and includes everything from politics to music to television. Networking, and "bigwigs" is something I associate with a career and approaching successful, known people in said career. Not randomly chatting up everyone who had their face on a newspaper for one reason or another. What do you hope to gain? A business contact? Or a story to tell your friends how you saw X and chatted with them while waiting at an airport?
I've worked with famous people (international sports, certainly a different fanbase than news anchors, but still). With very few exceptions, they were happy to just have a few minutes to themselves, grab a drink or breakfast without people lining up to "just shake their hand" and whatnot. For me, it was part of the job to talk to them - networking - so we would talk about exactly that. If, for some reason, there were other celebs present on an event (i.e. a band), I didn't talk to them wether I was a fan or not. Not my job, and I never understood what I'd get out of it.

If you happen to be on an event, party, meeting or something, where smalltalking and chatting up new people is normal, sure, chat with "bigwigs". Like you would with any "smallwig" on the same event. If the bigwig is in your field, it might qualify as networking.

Harrassing people who just sit in a restaurant and try to eat, use the subway or such isn't networking, if they are in your field or not. Leave them alone. And if you have a habit to chat up non-celebs who do these things, maybe stop. No-one, famous or not, likes to be interrupted while eating.
posted by MinusCelsius at 5:14 AM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

What do you mean by "maximize"? Be their friend? Get a job connection? Not act like a fan girl / fan boy?

To make a relationship with someone like that, you need to be on their level and have something of value to trade with them, such as your own knowledge and connections. Otherwise if there's nothing you can do or give that will add to their lives, then it will stay limited to just a pleasant one-time encounter. So you can maximize those opportunities by building yourself up in status or ability. Start a business, a blog, develop a skill or passion, something of your own that plays the social status game.

If you just want to not act like a gushing fan, then be your confident self and remember that these people sit down to take a shit like everyone else. They are higher status, sure. But everyone is equal under the social rules of dignity & respect. Feel good about yourself and stick to those rules.

If you can be confident in who you are and (ironically) NOT look for anything from them, then you stand the greatest chance of impressing them i.e. carrying yourself as if you're at their level of social status even though you are not. After that it's up to luck as to whether they take to you.

Even though they're a celebrity the same relationship rules apply - it takes time to build a connection and you can't force anyone to be your friend.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:32 AM on July 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

There's a big difference between making small talk with your seatmate on a plane and accosting someone in a public place.

For example, say you wanted to meet someone who was sitting alone at an airport bar. You go to the bar, order a beverage, and turn to your fellow imbiber and say, "I get so thirsty on flights." See where it goes from there.

I once met the President of a GM plant on a ride on MARTA from the Airport. We were alone in the car and I said, "My flight was delayed 3 hours in Pittsburgh, I HATE being on the train this late." He said, "Yeah, me too." And we got to talking. He asked what took me to Pittsburgh, I told him, I asked him what took him to Toronto, he told me, and yada, yada, yada."

I've seen famous people in the wild and I respect their privacy. Although I was out with a friend at Rexall, and we ran into Seth Green, and she had a bit of a Fan Girl moment with him on behalf of her daughter who stayed in the room. He could not have been nicer about it and drew a little cartoon and a LONG bit of text for Michi, who broke down in TEARS when she realized what she had missed. I hung back because, that's not my gig.

My point is, if you wouldn't run up to a stranger in a public place, don't do it to a famous person. If you're in a captive situation, where you'd normally speak to someone, go ahead and speak to a famous person.

Often our brushes with greatness are just that. Little moments with celebreties. It would not occur to me to pitch a movie executive with my script idea, or press the President of a GM plant for an appointment, or to do anything of the sort. That's an imposition, and frankly if the tables were reversed would YOU want people talking to you trying to take advantage of a thin connection?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:23 AM on July 17, 2014

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?

Yeah, this is totally normal.

I think most people, when they run into someone famous-ish out in the wild, view it as an opportunity to 1) be a fan, express appreciation for whatever the famous person has done; 2) have a fun story to tell about how they chit-chatted with Famous Person and Famous Person was super-nice (or maybe an asshole); or 3) view it as an opportunity to "network", but only if the non-famous person's career goals are pretty explicitly related to the Famous Person's career. IOW, if you don't actually have a career in politics, what do you really think the result of a five-minute conversation with Kathleen Sebelius would be? She's not going to offer you a job right then and there on the basis of that conversation.

Yet, it would have been a prime opportunity to at least meet someone with influence. Who knows what could come from that?

Well, yeah, but in the sense of "Who knows if I'll be hit by a meteorite when I walk out of my house this morning?" I'm sure it happens, but so rarely that it just doesn't factor into people's considerations about how they go about their lives. Honestly, it sounds like you've got a kind of unrealistic view of what other people get or expect to get out of their encounters with famous people.

While there are certainly stories out there about someone getting great benefits out of a random encounter with an influential person, I would be very very wary of the truthfulness of these stories. The media looooooves a Cinderella story, but often it doesn't take much digging to discover that the narrative in the media is greatly simplified, and that the person who gets the benefits has done a lot of hard work to get to the point where a random encounter with a famous person actually results in something good.

And again, it's important to consider the context and relevance of someone's encounter with a bigwig. A person who's been actively volunteering in their local Tea Party might get something out of running into Allen West, but if they encounter Cee-lo? Not so much.

"you all know me, meet others here, this is how you network."

It's that second phrase, "meet others here", that's important. Networking isn't about finding one influential person and convincing them to do something for you in 30 seconds flat. It's about connecting with a wide variety and number of people who may be able to give your career some help, possibly even indirectly. Like, let's assume you're an accountant - you were supposed to chit-chat with the other people at that book signing, and trade cards, and then when someone's cousin is looking for an accountant for their small business, one of the other audience members you met at that book signing remembers you and digs out your card and passes your number on. That's networking.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:15 AM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

The people I know who were most likely to get into good conversations with celebrities,
were also much more likely to chat to a stranger than average.

If you wouldn't ever strike up a conversation with your seatmate, don't feel a need to just because they're a celebrity. We're all human, so just... treat people with a bit of human empathy. If they don't look like they want to interact with anyone, then don't. A lot of celebrities are more extroverted than usual, so you've got better chances of them being welcoming of interaction.
posted by Elysum at 6:30 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Celebrities love *not* being bothered. They love when people respect their space when they're off duty.

Attempts to "network" will likely only result in annoying the celebrity, and not yield positive results for you.

They're people; don't treat them as "opportunities."
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:36 PM on July 17, 2014

Yet, it would have been a prime opportunity to at least meet someone with influence.

Running up to someone in public and bothering them is a good way to make a bad first impression. Hoping that the influence of a stranger you've never met before will lead to some mysterious opportunity isn't likely to make a good impression either.
posted by yohko at 7:23 PM on July 18, 2014

A few months ago, I met a famous singer of whom I am a fan, after a concert of his which I had seen. On this occasion, tickets to the afterparty were given out with the tickets. Me and my friends went along, and since the venue was quiet, afterwards plonked ourselves down next to the singer and a few of his bandmates. I tried to think of a way to express the "Wow x song on y album meaner SO MUCH TO ME MAN" sentiments I had thought before. But in an instant I realised how totally redundant all of these ideas of mine would be. He didn't write the songs for me after all. So I did not say those, and in the end I asked how the tour was going, to which he said something along the lines of "ok." Then there was awkward silence. For me it was a teachable (or 'taught'). moment about celebrity.
posted by mister_kaupungister at 7:12 PM on July 19, 2014

« Older No one will pay for wheelchair repair, even with...   |   Gift to Chinese employee in non-tipping culture:... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.