In my work I’ve been blessed to meet more than a handful of famous people. Some are names that everyone knows like Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and NFL legend John Elway. Some of my most favorite star encounters are with the less well known like Ambassador Husain Haqqani or CEO Keryn James.
On the first week of my internship I was thrown into a world of famous people. We were in Colorado at the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival. Speakers gather from around the world to discuss their ideas about current social and economic issues and debate the merits of solutions they conceive.
Before we got there my boss opened the conference schedule online started listing the names of who we wanted to interview. I grabbed a pen and started putting notes by each name he mentioned.
“Okay,” he said, “start making some phone calls now.”
What? I must have missed something. He didn’t give me any of their phone numbers. Who has the CEO of Starbucks or the President of Pakistan’s phone number anyways?
What I’ve learned is that not only can these untouchable people be found and contacted, but most of them will say ‘hi’ to you if you pass them on the sidewalk.
My boss’s gregarious demeanor, his vast knowledge and his resume of former show guests encourage people to listen and respond when we invite them to be on the show. He taught me what number to call first and what to say to the gatekeepers to quickly show your competence and get their interest. Mostly what I’ve learned from Aaron is the importance of being nice to everyone. Whether he is greeting a member of the President’s cabinet on the sidewalk or thanking the girl filling the fruit tray at the buffet table, he treats everyone with respect.
At first I was so afraid and intimidated by the people we were interviewing. I think it took me a few trips of being ‘star struck’ before I became more comfortable.
When you walk into a situation feeling less than someone else, it doesn’t matter if that’s true or not. Your impression is what you will act upon.
There were a few factors that helped me to be more comfortable. My knowledge of my work and the show helped a lot. Also, the more I was in intimidating situations the more confident I became. But as usual, Aaron made the biggest impression on me.
We walked down the path in Aspen one day and spotted a couple people chatting in the shade. I didn’t know either of them but assumed that Aaron did, he knew everyone there. We shook hands, exchanged business cards and Aaron talked with them about some humanitarian project. As we walked away, Aaron said, “Do you know who that was?”
No, I replied.
“It was actor Stanley Tucci and his fiancée Felicity Blunt.“
They didn’t know either Aaron or I at all. By being friendly we were able to have a nice conversation with them. I learned later that not only did Aaron not know them, but he didn’t know half of the people he had been talking to the entire trip.
Famous people stand around in regular pants and shoes and talk to people about the news while drinking their coffee. If you’re well informed, confident and friendly you can have intelligent conversations with anyone.