Answer by Robert Scoble:
I hang around high-profile people often. Here's some things that can help you connect:
- Listen. If they say your idea sucks, listen to the feedback, take notes, and ask for contact info. Then go fix the problems, or come up with another idea and demonstrate you listened.
- Get to the point. People like Ron Conway are busy. They are wildly rich, so the only thing that is limited in their life is time. You are taking away some of their most precious resource, so get to the freaking point. Don't try to chit chat or ask about their kids or make small talk. Go right for the big ask. They are used to it.
- Ask a friend of theirs first. They are more likely to listen to a friend they trust more than if you just walk up and pitch them. Instead, find a more accessible friend of theirs (most of these people are on Facebook and you can figure out who else is in their social circles) and ask them for their advice. If they think your idea is the world's best they will take it to them for you, believe me.
- Don't be afraid. Last night I went up to, co-founder and CEO of Instagram, and congratulated him and asked him how the deal was going. Others WANTED to go say hi to him, but didn't.
- Don't wait until they are famous. I was the 79th user of Instagram. Why? Because when Kevin asked for me to help him by testing his app, I listened and handed him my iPhone. That makes trying to go up to Kevin after he's famous a lot easier.
- On the other hand, don't be annoying. Look for signals that they aren't interested in talking, or are open for discussing. I once met Bill Gates on the show floor. I could tell he was animated when talking with others, so I tagged along and waited for my chance to speak to him.
- Always be networking. The reason I met Kevin last night is because I bothered to talk to the guy sitting next to me on the plane. He wasn't Kevin, but was a VC (I didn't know him, I do now) and he said "did you see Kevin get on the plane?
- Flattery is nice, but. These people are used to being flattered, and it's always nice. But don't lay it on too hard and don't forget to get to the point of why you're saying hi. You're not there just for the story, right? You want something, so ask for it. They are used to it. I once asked Bill Gates for $300 million in front of Mike Arrington. I was turned down, but that was more fun than just telling Bill how awesome he is. I once told Bill to buy Skype for less than $2 billion, too. Not listening to me cost him, what, $6 billion, so I figure he might listen to me someday when I ask for $300 million to go do some fun things. 🙂
- When someone says they aren't interested, listen. I had some guys at LeWeb who I told I wasn't really interested in their idea, but they kept pitching, even pitched me the next day. I signal strongly what I want to see just to keep that awkward time from happening. So does Ron, etc. If you have the next big tech company Ron wants to see you for at least two minutes. But you better deliver the goods in that two minutes, otherwise he'll tell you why he's not interested.
- Always try to see life from their side. If I wanted to pitch Ron on something I'd read everything about him, everything he's written, and I'd ask people who know him how he views the world and what he's passionate about. That will give you something to talk about and potentially offer him first, before asking for your needs. Certainly look for their Twitter streams, Facebook pages, blog posts, etc before calling or jumping on them at a conference, etc.
- Be flexible. Often they are on their way somewhere else, or have someone else to meet with. Don't force them to listen to you when their mind is already somewhere else (it won't work anyway). Ask for a new meeting time that's more convenient for them. It's amazing how many people don't respect other people's time and believe me, if they have to run to the bathroom they will only remember how big a jerk you were for not listening to the signals they were sending.
- Put yourself in play. You won't meet interesting people by sitting at home. Get to where they are. Hang out in lobbies of tech conferences, or hang out in cool coffee houses where they hang out and do deals. I do this often and it's amazing how many interesting people you can meet this way. Tonight I'll be at the Ritz in Half Moon Bay doing just this.
Write a post like this and ask for help! For instance, I'd love to get an interview with Apple's Tim Cook. Can anyone help with that?