Landing a meeting with a VIP in your field is always a win to celebrate.
When a person managing a multimillion dollar company, a government leader, a celebrity, or any other person you admire agrees to spend 30 minutes of their precious time with you, it presents an opportunity to accelerate your business growth or alter your career trajectory in major ways.
It goes without saying that meeting a busy, important person requires careful planning and strategic thinking.
You want to make sure that person feels like you can contribute to their own interests, whether it be their desire to publicize a certain initiative they are working on, mentor someone, learn something new, or even just to get an ego boost from a fan.
At the same time, you need to show them that you are valuable, and work to get the most out of their time to affect your bottom line. You should have clear goals in mind, and come up with a few intended meeting outcomes to measure your success.
Here are some do’s and don’ts to maximize the opportunity handed to you — and ensure that VIP remains open to continuing to collaborate.
1. Do: Ask smart questions and actively listen
While you probably want to show how amazing you are and what talents you have to offer this person, you must first find out more about who they are, what they need, and how they view business.
Jot down notes and react to their answers with insightful follow up questions to ensure you understand those needs.
Don’t: Ask dumb questions.
I usually say no question is dumb, but you should never ask a question that Google/social media can answer for you.
But also, you do not want to come off as too eager a stalker, so avoid questions that can be too personal, like their 2010 Facebook photo album of their family vacation.
2. Do: Prepare a list of speaking points
and three main messages you want to convey in your meeting. You should go into the meeting with well-researched, fleshed out ideas that will help you achieve your goals.
Prepare for different scenarios that may arise based on the questions you will ask.
Don’t: Be too rigid and don’t prepare a full speech.
You want the conversation to feel natural and you don’t want to appear completely rehearsed.
3. Do: Decide action points to follow up on and future communication norms.
Based on the interaction, you should push for some concrete actions you can take to further the relationship. Maybe it is to send or receive an interesting article or to share a relevant opportunity.
Maybe it is to follow up with a fleshed out business proposal. Either way, make sure you have action points that you can personally take the lead on, and establish how that person prefers you follow up.
In my experience, some people prefer WhatsApp/text to email, while others may always want you to correspond through an assistant.
Don’t: Immediately ask the VIP for a time-consuming or high-level service.
Just because you spent 30 minutes speaking to a former president doesn’t mean you deserve her recommendation for an ambassador position, nor should you ask a busy professor to review your 50-page honors thesis.
Make it easy and low-risk for them to help you.
4. Do: Follow up and highlight how you will complete your action points
After a day or so, follow up with an email thanking them for their time, summarizing the conversation, and stating clearly how you will act upon the agreed next steps.
Don’t: Immediately ask for something out of the scope of the conversation
or become a nuisance to them. Do not immediately reach out via text to tell them to check their email, or ask them to buy a product you are selling which you did not discuss.
5. Do: Stay in touch and remain relevant
Occasionally share interesting news or opportunities with the person that are of mutual interests. Share ideas that you have that may support their work, and show your value to them.
Don’t: Bombard them with nonsense
Don’t send them Buzzfeed quizzes about which cheese they are, or animated GIFs of puppies (unless somehow that came up as a mutual interest in the conversation).
You don’t want to end up on their blocked list.
Building relationships take time, so use the opportunity of your meeting to place foundational blocks which will set you up to take the relationship to the next level.
Set your intentions, and have an eye on the short term — and another on the long-term path you are taking.
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