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How do you take advantage of a chance meeting with a VIP — the company’s CEO, the partner with the “fun” work, the client you’re dying to work with? What should you say? Today’s guest poster, Belle from Capitol Hill Style, to weigh in — working in the Capitol she’s met her fair share of VIPs. She has some fabulous tips below, so enjoy! – Kat.
Walking through the marble halls of the United States Capitol, you are surrounded by VIPs. Every elevator, every corridor, every conference room is populated by Members of Congress, high-level Administration officials, television pundits, and occasionally, Hollywood celebrities. You can’t swing a Longchamp bag in this place without hitting someone noteworthy.
But how can you make a good impression on these VIPs and maximize the situation for your benefit?
Don’t Fade Away. More often than not, a person’s first instinct is to agree with everything a VIP says. To listen intently and nod when he is speaking, to laugh at his jokes, and generally give him the floor. After all, he is important and you are not.
But the truth is, you are better off fawning over the VIP like a Twihard with a passion for public policy than you are pleasantly fading into the background.
Seize the Moment. Don’t be afraid to talk to a VIP, even if you have to break the ice with something
I once brokered an important relationship with a Congresswoman from the South because I complimented her handbag in an elevator. We then spent a few minutes talking about how much we love Gilt Groupe and how great Rebecca Minkoff is. When we had exhausted that topic, she asked me what I was working on for my Boss.
Ten minutes later, I was adding her as a co-sponsor to my Boss’s bill and talking to her legislative aide about the possibility of holding hearings.
Unless the person looks busy or seems completely uninterested in talking to you, identify a piece of common ground and jump into the fray. As long as you’re polite and behave appropriately, the worst thing that can happen is that the VIP talks to you out of pity.
Be prepared. If you know that you’re going to be meeting with a VIP, take the time to brush up on their background, what they want to discuss in the meeting and write up a few preliminary questions. Someone who came to play is always appreciated.
Also, don’t limit yourself just to the reason for your meeting. A friend once bonded with a Cabinet Secretary because he knew that the Secretary had season tickets to the Orioles. During a lull in a meeting, he casually mentioned that he was going to a game. Six weeks later, he left his mid-level Hill job to work as the Secretary’s personal assistant.
Any information that you can gather that will show that you’re a knowledgeable and competent employee is helpful. But sometimes, it’s thinking outside the box that will yield the best results.
Don’t Kiss the Ring. My co-worker, a dedicated social butterfly with an enviable Rolodex full of VIPs, says that the trick is to talk to a VIP like a friend of a friend who you’re meeting for the first time. Make a genuine effort to get to know him, but never treat a VIP like he is above you.
VIPs are coddled and pampered by nearly everyone around them. Often, their looking for authentic, confident people who can set aside their status and like them for who they are. So don’t be afraid to make a few jokes, give the VIP a little bit of a hard time and talk to him like he’s an old friend from college.
Working in a building filled with VIPs, you develop a sense of how to interact with them. Professionalism is important, but you can’t be so afraid of making a mistake that you miss the opportunity to make an important connection.
Readers, how have you taken advantage of chance meetings with important people in your company or professional lives? Do you have any additional advice?
2020 updated images via Stencil. Originally pictured: Velvet ropes, originally uploaded to Flickr by Peter576.)