CASE STUDY: How Anna Connected with a VIP Using the Sincere Compliment Strategy

Business MeetingThis is a guest post by Anna Kochenkova, a reader of Smart Business Revolution who sent me an email sharing her experience outlined below. I asked if she would share her experience and takeaways with my readers, and she graciously agreed.

Anna shows how if you push yourself out of your comfort zone, keep discussions personal, wait for the right opportunity, and share sincere compliments, you can make connections with VIPs that will broaden your network and grow your income. Take it away, Anna:

In this post I want to share with you a breakthrough that has recently happened to me, and how this was all inspired by John’s work on connecting with VIPs.

A couple of days ago I was participating to a university-industry conference in Barcelona, and one of the keynote speakers was Carl Schramm, an American economist, entrepreneur, and former President of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Definitely a VIP.

That kind of person I had always looked at from a distance, fearing to come up and present myself. However, this time something pushed me to try and go out of my comfort zone.

I wanted so badly to put into practice all those tips that John has been so generously sharing in his e-book and newsletters on how to connect with VIPs. This time I felt really inspired.

So I just waited for the moment when Dr. Schramm was left alone (all the rest of the time he was constantly surrounded by loads of people talking to him, taking interviews, etc.).

So when he was left alone – to my great surprise! –  I just came up to him, presented myself, and thanked him for the speech he delivered earlier that day, quoting some of my most favorite thoughts expressed by him during his speech.

I didn’t actually expect the conversation to go any further. Or better, I left all my expectations – and fears – behind, and just wanted to acknowledge the man I admired for what he is. That’s it.

But, miraculously, the conversation started to flow! He seemed to be genuinely flattered by my compliment. We started to talk about the topic of his speech, and then – very naturally – moved to other topics, like Barcelona and its beauty, the north of Italy (I have been living in this country for the past 8 years and he happened to love the northern Italy so much!), etc. etc.

It was a great feeling: standing there, talking to one of the legends of entrepreneurship thought, as equals.

And this is not all. At a certain point he produced his business card and asked me whether I mind sending him some information on the project I’ve mentioned about earlier in the conversation! That was beyond my every expectation for the outcome of our conversation, and it felt fantastic!

So this very inspiring experience of mine made me want to share some insights that I got on how to approach a VIP and how to make a genuine connection.  Here they are:

1. First and foremost, make yourself feel comfortable.

If you, just like me, tend to feel out of place at such events, just remind yourself that you are there for a reason, you are actually part of that community, and if you got invited, you definitely belong there.

So start behaving accordingly. Be confident in yourself and in the value that you are bringing to this event: you are contributing just even by being present there as one of the participants!

This will help you get in a more relaxed state of mind and will infuse you with the composure needed to come up to your target VIP and start connecting.

Imagine him/her being just a simple event participant, like any other person in the room.

2. Wait for a moment when he/she is left alone.

You don’t want to “get lost” among all those floods of people VIPs are usually surrounded with.

It was not until late in the afternoon that I spotted Carl Schramm sitting on his own on the couch, lazily browsing through his mobile phone.

That was a perfect moment not to be wasted, I thought, and as I had an intention to overcome my fear and implement the strategies described by John, I just jumped at the opportunity without thinking twice!

In this manner, when I approached him at that particular moment, I had 100% of his attention to introduce myself and start to connect effectively.

3. Use Sincere Compliments

Compliment them – all people like compliments, or better, all people like to be appreciated and noticed for their skills, even VIPs! But make sure your compliment is very context-specific.

For instance, in my case, I complimented Dr. Schramm on the speech he delivered earlier that morning, and  I specifically referred to a key point he kept on making during his presentation, citing it almost word for word (I wrote that concept down while listeningJ).

Upon hearing that, he seemed genuinely flattered and pleased that someone paid that much attention, and exclaimed: “Exactly! You got it!”.

By letting another person know that you listened attentively to what they were saying can help you connect with that person on a much deeper level, as it makes them see that you really care for what they have to say.

Our thoughts are like our babies. You, as a parent, would be flattered and feel pride if someone noticed how smart/intelligent your kid is. The same applies to an idea a person expresses.

4. Remember that every VIP Has Good Days and Bad Days

4. Remember that every VIP is a normal person, with good days and bad days, great/small wins, and troubling issues to resolve.

Who knows, maybe talking to you will be one of the highlights of their whole stay at the event!

In fact, in his reply to my follow-up email, Carl Schramm wrote that meeting me in Barcelona was very enlightening.

As we were talking about his speech and his new book on innovation and entrepreneurship, I shared with him some information which happened to be valuable for him in terms of his research for the book.

5. Stay human

Keep your conversation simple and light, make it more personal. In other words, have a normal human conversation like you would have with anyone else in that circumstances.

For instance, in my case it was pretty easy to move from the “compliment” part to talking about Barcelona and its beautiful sights, the perfect Spanish weather and the Mediterranean style of living in general.

And then, quite naturally, I mentioned that I had been living in Italy for a long time, and Carl Schramm happened to travel quite frequently to northern Italy and to enjoy staying there.

What a great topic to talk about that presented itself just because I let the conversation flow naturally and without trying to impress – and bore – my conversation partner with some elaborate issues to talk about.

6. Involve Their Friends, Family and Colleagues In Your Conversation

There was actually a third person in our conversation. It was Carl Schramm’s best friend, who was accompanying him in that trip to Barcelona. We got introduced earlier that morning.

At that time I didn’t know he was who he was. As it was the first day of the conference, I was just actively introducing myself to everyone at the venue.

It was a very brief introduction, but it was enough to help me later on, when I approached Carl Schramm and started to talk to him. His best friend joined us in our conversation and called me by my name, which, I guess, added a significant amount of credibility to me in Carl Schramm’s eyes.

What I learned from this experience is that in order to connect with a VIP – as well as with any other person – you need to be genuinely interested in that person and in his/her story.

In this case all you need is just listen carefully and make them see that you truly care about and appreciate what they have to say.

Anna Kochenkova is the creator of Living the Italian Way, and a passionate evangelist of the Italian way of living (even though it took her several years to get used to drinking espresso in the mornings and after lunch, as true Italians do!). She came to Italy to earn her business degree 8 years ago, but stayed ever since.

When she is not eating gelato, cooking pasta, or having aperitivo with her Milanese colleagues and friends, she is doing academic research on the topics related to innovation, entrepreneurship, and gender equality in academia.

NOTE from John: Are YOU ready to start building relationships with people who matter to your career and/or business? Check out my Connect with Influencers course and find out how you can employ the strategies Anna used so effectively.  

Photo credit: Flickr.


  1. It really is practically not possible to see well-updated people on this matter, but you seem like you realize the things you’re preaching about! Appreciate It

  2. It’s perfect time to make some plans for the future and it’s time to be happy. I have read this post and if I could I want to suggest you few interesting things or suggestions. Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article. I want to read more things about it!|

  3. Clifford Todd says

    Anna, great post… And I would love to know more about your work. I’m involved with getting American doctors to innovate preventive practices within their disease management way of life. Do you have something in particular [preferrably by you] for me to read? Thanks, Clifford

  4. I had a similar exeprience at a conference not long ago when a man got a lifetime achievement award. I had no idea who he was, as I’d never been to this type of conference before (it was technology, and I’m a writer). Still, I learned he was from my hometown area. Interestingly, when I congratulated him, and said I was living in a different state, he turned the conversation around to me, saying his daughter had gone to school near my current home, and asked me a bunch a great questions. My compliment turned into a new connection with a leader in his industry, and the more I pay attention to leaders, the more I notice great leaders do make the rest of us more comfortable when these moments arise. Never fear the good. Let it happen.

  5. Moses karema says

    Yes… and a big yes.I have connected with many thought leaders,and influencers.I wish some of my friends and all people so to say did this.Surely!

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