Have you ever had the chance to meet an idol? Or have that moment when someone influential in your field walks through the door, heading your way?
No longer does one have to have been in the movies or walked the red carpet to be a celebrity. Someone can be famous to a niche audience due to YouTube or podcast guest spots and is just another Joe to the rest of the world.
Because of this, now, more than ever, you could very well be sitting down to a meal next to someone you’ve long-admired from afar and have the opportunity to meet them.
Maybe you simply have admired them over a length of time or maybe you feel they hold the key to taking your career to the next level.
Often we can get blinded by fame or the excitement of finally having an opportunity we’ve dreamed about for so long and instead of thinking and communicating clearly we come off aggressive, awkward, or even desperate for connection.
In order to ensure you make the most of a highly anticipated or unexpected meeting with an influencer in your space, keep the following three things in mind when networking behind the velvet rope:
1. They are just people. When we put people on such a high pedestal, or only see the greatness they post on social media, we forget they go home at the end of the day, just like us, and have a life outside of their success.
I was a college-rep for WEA (Warner/Elektra/Atlantic) and often had to host the artists that came to Philadelphia to perform. I would show them around the area, make sure they had time to eat and rehearse, set up interviews with local press, etc.
It often involved spending the whole day with them and having to make small talk. Being able to ask them about their family and swap stories about growing up with siblings lead one of them to give me their cell phone number to keep in touch while they were on the road.
The fact of the matter is all people want connection of some kind. They want to feel they can relate to others and find common ground. Just like you, they are not defined by their successes or their work in general. It can be refreshing when someone can approach them and already realize this.
2. Think GIVING not getting. When people are of a certain status of popularity, you can be certain 99% of the people they come into contact with want something from them – free tips, exposure, a selfie, a hug.
I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty put off if random people on the street just wanted to hug me and snap a pic and be on their way. Focus more on treating them like a person and asking them how they are, rather than what they can do for you.
When reaching out to Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby, I was genuinely in awe of how he ran (and sold) his business. I wrote to him out of sincere gratitude, and what came out of it was an ongoing, authentic email exchange.
Coming out of the gate asking for something puts you right in that 99% bucket and even if they agree to grant your request it’s less likely you’ll make an authentic connection and build a real relationship from that encounter.
3. It’s OK not to have a pitch. We focus so much on that 30 sec “elevator pitch” to have ready if/when we cross paths with that key contact in the elevator and want to grab their attention.
Sometimes, however, it’s best to just be yourself and have an honest-to-goodness conversation. I recently was put in touch with the head of licensing for a top network. I began to trip over my words and he kindly reminded me, “just tell me a little bit about yourself,” and we went from there.
If you are hoping to build a connection with someone who has a certain amount of influence, or anyone for that matter, it should be assumed that if a connection is made it won’t be the last time you ever speak to them.
Not to say there won’t be situations where you may never see them again and you’ve gotta take your shot, there are more opportunities these days to network with people in your industry who could highly influence the future growth of your career.
The world of social media has brought us all closer together and as long as you keep in mind that relationships built over social media still involve a human-to-human connection and treat people with relatability and respect you’ll open yourself to many more opportunities.
Remember that today’s velvet rope can move at any time – someone who’s an influencer today can be tuned out tomorrow and vise versa. You also never know how your career can be affected by connecting with someone else, no matter the size of their following.
Following the above guidelines when dealing with everyone you come into contact with can serve you well when creating authentic valuable connections.