The single worst thing you can do when you meet a powerful and influential person for the first time is ASK for something. Yet I see people do it all the time. It absolutely drives me crazy. It’s one of the reasons I wrote this article. There is a protocol that you should follow when you network with society’s elite. Here I’m going to share some of those unwritten rules with you. Follow them and you won’t make a complete fool of yourself the next time you wine and dine with the rich and famous.
1. Don’t Use Your ‘Networking Organization’ Elevator Speech.
You know the type of networking organizations I’m talking about right? The ones that meet weekly and have a fixed elevator speech: this is who I am, this is what I do and this is my ideal client. Those don’t work with powerful leaders. You need to be more flexible, authentic and organic in how you introduce yourself, not just press play on your internal tape recorder.
2. Dress to Impress.
Success and style go hand in hand. I put this point in because I’m still surprised how badly business people dress at the events I go to. If you look like a slob they won’t want to meet you, it’s that simple. You should look sophisticated and classy. A well place designer label doesn’t hurt either.
My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style. ~ Maya Angelou
3. Do Ask Them About Themselves.
Here are some good questions to ask:
- “How did you start XYZ company?”
- “What’s your latest project?”
- “What was XYZ company like in the beginning?”
- “What’s your vision for the future?”
All these are great questions they will probably be happy to answer. People LOVE talking about themselves and rarely get to do it! So if you ask and listen they are going to want to talk to you.
You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. ~ Dale Carnegie
4. Don’t Ask To Pick Their Brain Over a Coffee.
This is a BIG no-no, but people still do it all the time. A powerful or influential person puts a high value on their time and gets inundated with requests. If you want to pick their brain free, then read their blog or buy their book instead of asking to pick their brain over a cup of coffee.
Their time is worth more than a $5 cappuccino and it’s going to be insulting and reflect poorly on you.
5. Do Find REAL Common Ground.
While you’re talking to them try to find real common ground you both share. Perhaps you both like playing golf or support the same charity. Maybe you both love to travel or a good glass of wine. What ever it is make sure it’s something you can talk about with some depth.
6. Do Go Where They Hang Out.
You will never meet anyone powerful at a free or $5 meetup. People always seemed baffled when I tell them this point. If you want to meet powerful and influential people you need to figure out what they like to do and go there.
7. Don’t Gush Too Much.
Gush a little bit and you’re flattering, gush too much and you may become creepy. It’s a fine line. The goal is to make them feel important, but not overwhelm them with attention and requests for selfies.
8. Don’t Lie or ‘Fake It’.
Honesty and authenticity is ALWAYS the best policy. Once you start lying you have to remember what you said and the next time you meet them you’ll have to continue the lie. Not a good idea. However it’s always a good idea to keep learning and growing.
Become the best version of yourself. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not just to impress people. Know that YOU ARE ENOUGH. ~ Narges Nirumvala
9. Don’t Make your First Email or LinkedIn Message to Them An ASK.
So you’ve met them and now you’re following up with a request to connect on LinkedIn or via email. The single worst thing you can do is ask them for something in that communication.
Don’t ask for their advice or to help you with your problem and don’t try to sell them on your MLM scheme.
10. Do Become a More Interesting Person.
What other interests do you have other than work and your family? Anything? Do you love wine, good food or travel? Do you have season tickets to a particular sport? People with wealth and power have more time and income at their disposal, so they are interested in a variety of pastimes.
To expand your circle of influence, you need to become a more interesting person, improve your ability to inspire others and increase the scope of your impact. ~ Narges Nirumvala
These tips are meant to help you work the room more effectively the next time you’re at an event with some real power players. Remember they don’t need to understand you, you need to understand and flex to them. Learn to play the game by their rules and you’ll see some serious results.
Narges Nirumvala is the CEO of ExecutiveSpeak Coaching International and a world-renowned leadership communication expert. Dubbed ‘The Secret Weapon’ by one journalist, she is an international keynote speaker, award winning entrepreneur, executive speech coach and author of the public speaking and presentation skills book “Capture the Spotlight”. Her clients include executives and leadership teams from Fortune 500 and FT 500 companies. She was selected one of the Top 100 Leadership Experts to Follow on Twitter and is a featured writer on the LinkedIn ‘Leadership & Management’ Channel. Inquire about her services here.