What To Do If You Meet Your Industry Leader?

If you are given the chance to meet the leader in your industry for coffee, what would you do? What do you talk about? It can be a star struck moment, and yet it can be a nerve wrecking experience. If handled well, this can be the start of a great professional (and personal) relationship. How do you do it right?

I’d suggest three things to do, and three things to avoid.


You should do ALL. A is for ASKING good questions, L is for being a good LISTENER, and the next L is for humbly LEARNING. 

Asking, listening and learning are genuine acts of service that anyone can render to another. As we ask, listen and learn, we don’t only take, we also give the other party time and space to articulate their thoughts.

Asking good questions takes planning. You might want to research a bit more about what he or she is up to lately. My personal recommendation is to ask reflective questions instead of informative questions. An example of reflective question is “What would be the biggest achievement in your career so far?”, while an example of informative question is “How many awards have you got in your career?”

Listen to understand, not to respond with your own witty comments. You can paraphrase to make sure you really get what he or she said. Ask more questions to probe further, if he or she is comfortable to share. Genuine interest to understand is usually appreciated.

After a meeting, most people will say, “thank you, I have learnt so much.” and stop at that. I’d suggest that you summarize what you have learnt from the meeting and send it as an email or a direct message to the other party. If you are into social media, you may want to ask for permission to share this on social media, tagging the industry leader.


You should avoid BIG. B is for BOASTING, I is for INTERRUPTING, G is for GOSSIPING.

You want to look sharp and smart in front of the industry leader. You want to establish rapport and become his or her next protégé. You want to impress him or her with your credentials so that they might consider becoming your partner in a new venture. But it is important not to boast, to interrupt or to gossip, as these seldom leave a good aftertaste.

What can you boast in front of the industry leader? Even if you have some impressive achievements, it is better to mention it briefly, unless you are asked to elaborate.

Sometimes we might be tempted to interrupt, or interject, with comments we think are witty, which show that we are “in the same league” as the industry leader. I once spoke to a person who namedropped throughout our conversation. In the end, I felt constantly interrupted and perceived the other party as a show-off. If an average person like me felt annoyed at being interrupted, I’m sure your industry leader will feel that too.

Gossiping or complaining hardly makes a stimulating conversation, unless you want to be remembered as a good buddy for gossiping and complaining. Avoid gossiping and complaining about people, about companies, about the government, or about any religion.

Do ALL and avoid BIG when you meet your industry leader, and I believe you will both enjoy the experience.


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