I've recently become interested in working with government to have my message heard. I've found that there are lots of benefits to a partnership of this kind, such as connections to other people who can help you & journalists & PR to name a few. It's not just politicians you may want to meet though, conference presenters, celebrities, authors, royals anyone who is influential and in high demand can be amazing people to know. But it can be hard to make that first contact with them if you're not used to the protocol to follow. So I've put together a few tips for what has worked for us in getting to chat with VIP's at events:
Do your homework. Find out who's attending, what their role is & a bit of background about them, things like where they're from, their special interests, what they're passionate about can be invaluable in helping you to get a conversation going.
- Set up a Google alert
Want to know when your favourite politicians, celebrities or VIP’S will be at an event near you? Set up a Google alert. It's free and it guarantees you'll be first to know when an event or opportunity is coming up.
- Event organisers
The event organisers can often help to get you access to the VIP. If your VIP is someone you’re not likely to be able to speak to one on one (like one of the royals or maybe a movie star) an alternative may be to have someone else to present them with a gift from you and if you’re lucky they may share a photo of it on social media, or be filmed or photographed with it at the event.
Camilla Parker-Bowles with a custom-made Sunbella parasol gifted by the WA government. Photo by Krysta Guille
- Be memorable
There are lots of ways to be memorable. You can wear something amazing and unexpected. This can be your brand colours, something that represents your brand, or a special costume of some kind. Having an interesting statistic or piece of information that illustrates a point you’re wanting to make can also help you to be remembered.
Sally Hams of Balance Books making an impact at the annual Xero conference in her million dollar dress
- Bring a gift
Always bring a present. The people who bring a present are the ones they'll remember after the event. My favourite gift to give is a book, we've self published a few books over the years and these make excellent gifts as they have our name on the cover and information about us and our work. Bringing a gift also gives you an excuse for meeting them. If you don't get to meet them try to find an opportunity to give your gift to one of their assistants to pass on for you. Don't wrap the gift but do include a hand written card.
6. Be social
Social media is a fabulous way to ‘introduce’ yourself to someone in the lead up to the event. A short simple: ’I’m really looking forward to meeting _______ tomorrow at the business breakfast’ tweet might spark their interest enough to click through to your profile and read a little about what you do. This can be a nice ice breaker for when you meet and help them to get to know you.
Most VIP's have people who travel with them. Depending on who you are meeting they may have an agent, a manager, an advisor or an assistant travelling with them. These people are key in building a relationship and sometimes are the ones making decisions on who will be given permission to approach or speak to the VIP. Find out who they are in advance if you can.
8. Arrive early
Often VIP's leave early so the best chance to meet them will be just before the event begins. Being early also gives you the best opportunities for networking with the other event attendees and will calm your nerves and help you feel familiar with the space.
9. The f-Row
The front row is the only place to sit. If you're exceptionally lucky sitting front row might mean you'll get to sit beside your VIP for the whole event. (We’ve sat next to author Mem Fox and Lucy Turnbull, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s wife) Even if you don't sit next to them being in close proximity means you have a better chance of talking to them. If there are questions from the audience your odds are always better in the front too.
1o. Be confident
Sometimes you only get one chance to make your move so you need to be courageous. If you stand back & wait you're almost certain to miss out. The key is to be confident yet cool, you need to respect etiquette and allow others to have their time to talk, whilst making it clear that you're interested in talking next. It's ok to stand beside but it's not ok to interrupt someone else's conversation time.
11. Be succinct
When your chance arrives you’ll need to share your message quickly. Make sure you say your name & where you're from too. Often you'll have only a few minutes one on one so you need to clearly articulate your key points. This is NOT the time to ask for favours, advice or money. This is an introduction and your opportunity to make a good first impression. Be charming, polite and interested in listening as much as speaking. Sometimes getting a selfie together is appropriate but sometimes it isn’t so judge the atmosphere before asking.
12. Bring a friend
Bringing someone with you is not only great for your confidence but it can also be a great strategy if there is more than one person you want to meet.
13. Follow up
After the event it’s a great idea to follow up by sending a thank you card. If your goal is to set up a meeting an email message within a few days is the best way to do it.
Good luck! I’d love to hear about who you’ve met and how you did it in the comments