All you need to know about networking with important people

When networking with someone important, make sure you have a pre-planned idea of what you want (

Remember the following four tips before approaching the next top executive in your industry.

Talking to someone important is intimidating for most people. Whether it’s your boss, a celebrity or legend in your industry, we tend to feel self-conscious and act strangely. You’re bound to encounter someone noteworthy at a networking event.

Having a conversation with a VIP could be a defining moment in your career – and life. That’s why we've compiled these 4 tips will help you get through (and excel) at what could be one of the most memorable moments of your life.

1. Think about what you want to convey.

Don’t rush into a conversation with an important person. You’ll realise too late that you have nothing to say. Make sure you don’t sound ditzy, dumb, and uninformed by doing the proper pre-planning. You need to know what you want to get out of the conversation: Are you looking for an investor, a job or just a wider network?

Having direction and a destination means it’ll be easier for you to reach your goal. In the event that the conversation derails, you’ll find your memorised key points immediately.

2. Talk to yourself first.

It sounds silly but practising your approach will mean you’re better prepared. It’s important to hear what you sound and see what you look like. Become comfortable with your words, body language and gestures. The more you physically re-enact the conversation beforehand, the easier you’ll remember your key points and their details. Also, don’t forget to smile.

A great practice tip is to bring up topics of conversation that may interest your VIP, with your friends beforehand. The various opinions and back and forth conversation will help organise your thoughts and responses. You’ll then feel more comfortable and confident in your presentation on the day of the networking event.

3. Treat them like they’re human.

Because they are.

No matter how established, intelligent, or distinguished, all people are still only people. They have feelings and get self-conscious sometimes too. Gushing and gawking over them will leave you with less time to impress them with your conversation. If you want to be remembered and successfully achieve your objectives, keep it professional.

Even though you think so, they don’t see themselves as exceptional or any more special than their peers.

4. Thank them sincerely.

There’s usually a moment between the answer of your last question and the moment when you’re ready to leave; that moment when neither person knows what to say anymore.  A great way to avoid the ‘awkward silent moment’ is by showing gratitude. Thank them for their time and their advice. End with an anecdote such as, ‘Great, that’s just what I needed.’

Follow this by asking for a business card. Before you leave, also tell them you’ll follow them on social media so that when you actually do, it’s not too weird. In fact, many of us think that it’d be weird (and annoying) if we contact the important person afterwards - but don’t let that stop you! Most important South Africans will feel flattered because they really do think they’re normal unexceptional people.

For an extra confidence boost, we have every introvert’s guide to successful networking. For more of the best advice, bookmark Careers24 Advice and get ahead.