How to Talk to Anyone by Leil LowndesEver wondered how to approach a celebrity if you see one out? In her book, ‘How to Talk to Anyone,’ communication consultant Leil Lowndes says:

“Suppose you’ve just settled in for dinner at a nice restaurant. You look over at the next table, and who do you see? Is it really he? Could it possibly be? It’s gotta be a look-alike. No, it isn’t!

It really is… Woody Allen. (Substitute any celebrity here: your favorite movie star, politician, broadcaster, boss who owns the company that owns the company you work for.) And there the celestial body is in the flesh, sitting not ten feet from you. What should you do?

Nothing! Big shots don’t slobber over stars. Let the luminary enjoy a brief moment of anonymity. If he or she should cast a glance in your direction, give a smile and nod. Then waft your gaze back to your dining companion. You will be a lot cooler in the eyes of your dinner partner if you take it all in stride.

Now, if you just can’t resist this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to press the flesh of a megastar and tell him or her your admiration, here’s how to do it with grace. Wait until you or the luminary are leaving the restaurant. After the check has been paid and you will obviously not be taking much of his or her time, you may make your approach.

Say something like, ‘Mr. Allen, I just want to tell you how much pleasure your wonderful films have given me over the years. Thank you so much.’

Did you pick up the subtlety here? You are not complimenting his work. ‘After all,’ he might well ask himself, ‘who are you to judge whether I am a great filmmaker or not?’ You can only speak from your own perspective. You do this by telling him how much pleasure his work has given you.

If it’s your boss’s boss’s boss whom the fates have sent to bask in your adulation, do the same. Do not say ‘Bill‘ or ‘Mr. Gates, you really run a great company.’

‘Lowly geek,’ he thinks, ‘who are you to judge?’ Instead, tell him what an honor it is to work for him. Obviously this is not the moment to detail the intricacies of your improvements on image editing software for digitizing photographs.

Then let your body language express that if Woody or Bill or the other megastar wants to leave it at that, you are happy with the exchange. If, however, the megastar is captivated by you (or has had so much liquid merriment that he or she has decided to mingle with the masses tonight), then all bets are off. You’re own your own. Enjoy! Until you pick up the first body-language sign that they would like to end it. Think of yourself as a ballroom dance student waltzing with your teacher. He leads, you follow. And he tells you when the waltz is over.

Incidentally, if the megastar is with a companion and your conversation goes on for more than a few moments, direct some comments at the companion. If the satellite is in such stellar company, he or she is probably also an accomplished person.

Felicia, a friend of mine, is a talented trial lawyer who is married to a local TV-show host. Because tom is on television, people recognize him wherever they go, and Felicia gets ignored. Felicia tells me how frustrating it is, even for Tom.

Whenever they go to a party, people gush all over Tom, and Felicia’s fascinating work hardly ever gets mentioned. She and Tom used to love going out to dinner, but now they hide out at home in the evenings. Why? Because they can’t stand the interruptions of overly effervescent fans.

Another sensitivity: the film star is probably obsessed wit his last film, the politician with her last election, a corporate mogul with his last takeover, an author with her last novel – and so forth. So when discussing the star’s, the politician’s, the mogul’s, the author’s, or any VIP’s work, try to keep your comments to current or recent work.

Telling Woody Allen how much you loved his 1980 film ‘Stardust Memories’ would not endear you to him. ‘What about all my wonderful films since?’ thinks he. Stick tot he present or very recent pasts if possible.

A final codicil: Suppose you art fortunate enough to have one at your party. To shine some star light on your party, don’t ask the TV host to ‘say a few words.’ Don’t ask the singer to sing a song. What looks effortless to the rest of us because they seem so comfortable performing is work for them.

You wouldn’t ask an accountant guest to look over your books. Or a dentist to check out your third left molar. Let the dignity drink. Let the luminary laugh. Celebrities are people, too, and they like their time off.

Technique #36 – Big Shots Don’t Slobber

People who are VIPs in their own right don’t slobber over celebrities. When you are chatting with one, don’t compliment her work, simply say how much pleasure or insight it’s given you. If you do single out any one of the star’s accomplishments, make sure it’s a recent one, not a memory that’s getting yellow in her scrapbook.

If the queen bee has a drone sitting with her, find a way to involve him in the conversation.”

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