Imagine you're at a conference and you see one of the keynote speakers you admire in the hallway. You want to go up to him, but you don't know what to say or how to approach him. You also don't want to look silly. What do you do?
When you cross paths with a VIP, you may get nervous, be tempted to gush over him and then avoid him altogether. This is natural, especially if this person has made a big impact on you or others in some way.
Everyone, even important people, loves to feel appreciated. Don't let fear or anxiety take over. Instead, reach out, make small talk and get to know him or her in a more personal way. Remember that VIPs are people just like you. Here are some ways to make a more comfortable approach with those you most admire.
1. Be a fan without being a pest.
It’s bound to happen. One day you’re going to be in the same room with someone you look up to. This person may even be your idol. Butterflies will flutter in your stomach and your mouth will be dry. As exhilarated as you might be about this amazing opportunity, maintain your composure.
Take a moment and tell the important person how they’ve influenced you and perhaps changed the course of your life or your business. People like to be acknowledged for making a positive impact in someone else’s life. Don’t overdo it though; over-complimenting someone can make a person feel uneasy.
2. Relax and respect the VIP's time.
Self-doubt can be your biggest obstacle when approaching a powerful individual. Get rid of the idea that they’re better than you or you’re “out of their league.” Simply enjoy the time you share with the VIP. If you have a confident and kind attitude, you’ll be more enjoyable to be around and you’ll have more fun with the encounter. Don’t overdo it. Keep your interaction short and sweet.
Always ask permission before taking a photo with someone. Be mindful of their time. Don't monopolize the conversation, especially if others are waiting to talk to this person too. To leave a lasting impression, send an email or handwritten note thanking the person for their time and for their contribution.
3. Find out as much as you can about the VIP.
Knowledge is your best friend, especially if you’re typically shy or feel anxious about making small talk with strangers. The more you know, the more you have to contribute to any conversation. Before the event, look up the VIP on the Internet and brainstorm a few ideas to talk about. You might find something you have in common. Come up with a few ice breakers. The information you glean ahead of time will give you the opportunity to talk about topics on which you share common ground.
Think about what you want to learn from this person. Are they successful in your industry? Ask them for one or two success tips. Most people love to share their wisdom, as long as you respect their time.
4. Take the pressure off yourself.
Important people are used to being in the spotlight and have most likely encountered every situation with their fans and admirers. If you’re still overwhelmed by the thought of being in someone’s presence, let them take the lead. They’ll probably ask you a question or two, and then all you have to do is answer. Try to look confident and be as gracious as possible.
Mostly, enjoy every opportunity to learn from someone you trust and admire. Just think of them as human beings who do extraordinary things. We all, at some point or another, feel awkward in a room full of strangers. But when you have a plan, you’ll be more relaxed and ready to connect with the best of the best.