Dear Ron, I recently attended an event after work and was surprised to find that several important people in my industry were there. I didn't really have anything to say to them so I didn't introduce myself , but I can't help but feel like I missed a great opportunity to have at least established contact. What do you think I should have done?
In my view, you never want to miss a chance to make a strong, face-to-face impression on someone when you have the opportunity. So even if you're caught off guard by someone's presence, you still should try to introduce yourself and make an impression on him or her. To that end, you should have a rehearsed line that you can deliver confidently, and that potentially leaves the door open to a follow up. The line could be something as simple as "Hi, I'm so and so, I'm so glad to meet you; I've admired your work for a long time," but it needs to be delivered in a comfortable and poised manner. You should develop and practice a number of different opening lines so that saying them eventually becomes almost like a reflex.
The better plan would have been to gone in to the event knowing who you would have been likely to meet, and having a well-researched angle with which to engage them in a more substantive conversation. So you could have consulted the guest list and/or asked the organizer about who else was going to be there, and once you identified the key people you wanted to meet, developed an appropriate opening line. Instead of a general statement about how you've admired their work, you would want to mention specific things they'd worked on or were involved with, and asked them for more detail on those areas and whether you might be able to follow up with them. Your goal is to make a positive impression on them, so you want to pick an appropriate topic and ask about it in a polished and smart way. You may not get many opportunities to meet the movers and shakers in your industry, so doing your research and practicing your approach are critical. Good luck.
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