Have you heard of TED? It stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. It’s a conference, a community and a platform for sharing ideas that matter. As an attendee, there are many things I love about the event. One of them is the fascinating people you can meet.

Photo Courtesy of Graham Jepson

One of the habits I’ve tried to cultivate over the years is spending time with thought-leaders from various disciplines. In the field of chicken, it’s easy – I know a lot of those people. However, once you go beyond that, I’ve had to work diligently to meet the type of men and women I’m talking about. At TED, the conference is teaming with people who lead their industry and our world.

One of my shameless tactics is to ask people if I can buy them a meal. A few years ago, I was delighted when one of my heroes was speaking. Dr. Edward DeBono, the renowned expert on creative thinking, was scheduled to make a presentation. At the time, Dr. DeBono had just released his 76th book!

After he spoke, I approached him and said, “Can I buy your breakfast, lunch or dinner while you’re at this year’s event?” He said yes – how about now? It was just 10:30 in the morning, but I said sure! This began a delightful 2-hour conversation and meal. He told me the last time they auctioned off a dinner with him, someone paid $25,000 for the opportunity. All it cost me was a sandwich – what a deal!

Inviting people to a meal is something I do often. Here are a few tips to help you if you decide to give it a try.

Plan ahead. When attending conferences and events, look at the program in advance. See who’s speaking. If you see someone you’d like to have a meal with, send them an email if you can get their address. If you can’t contact them prior to the event, you can approach them after you arrive.

Read something. If you can, read something he/she has written before you meet. It may help start the conversation or keep it going. Even an article or blog post can be useful. If he or she has written a book, buy a copy before you meet – maybe they’ll sign it for you.

Have questions ready. Think about how many questions you could ask in 30 – 45 minutes – double that number. You don’t want to run out. And, I recommend having your questions listed in priority order. If you run out of time, you want to have asked your most important questions first.

Honor their time. Be sure you know how much time they have. Don’t try to keep them beyond what you’ve agreed to.

Let me encourage you to keep growing. Spending time with notable individuals is just one approach. Once you commit to life-long learning, I have no doubt you’ll think of countless tactics to open your world!

TED 2013 is in a few weeks. Stay tuned for a full report!

 

Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.