The past three days has been a whirlwind of events. Surreal is the best way I can describe it.
On Tuesday, I arrived in Los Angeles for several meetings with highly important and influential people. I have my cousin, Eric Stonestreet, to thank for the meetings. He sent one email that led to three meetings with two TV execs and the head of Yahoo! News and Finance. He’s a great cousin! The fourth meeting I had was a result of my radio interview on Business Rockstars.
In this post, I’m going to share how I prepared for those meetings, how the preparation paid off, and how you should prepare in the same way for the important meetings you have.
My extensive preparation is largely thanks to my new business coach, Sandy Hargrave…kudos to her for giving such great advice.
Let’s get to it…
Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey, Executive Producer of EXTRA
A quick Google search of Lisa’s name yielded tons of information…most importantly, her biography on the EXTRATV.com website. If you can find a bio for the person you’re meeting, you’ve just hit pay dirt. That won’t happen with everyone.
Several things stood out in her bio. First, she used to produce a news program in Denver. That’s my town! We have something in common already! I put that feather in my cap right away; prepared to bring that up in our meeting.
Second, EXTRA is celebrating its 20’th anniversary this year. That’s a huge milestone in the entertainment business. Note to self: congratulate her on the success of her show.
Third, she’s in charge of a test lab for trying out new media and content at EXTRA. That’s right up my alley and something I may be able to help with.
In addition to our mutual contact (my cousin) that’s four things we can talk about. But having something to talk about is only one obstacle to overcome; I also needed a reason for being there.
The most important thing I can do for myself right now is to increase my exposure. In order to affect the kind of change I want in people’s lives, I need more people to know about me. EXTRA has an audience of millions of people. What do you think I asked for? More exposure, of course!
Here’s how that meeting went…
Before I was completely inside her office, she stood up and said, “What do you want? What can I do for you?” Thanks to my cousin, I was prepared for her. He had a meeting with her once and told me she would ask me that as soon as I stepped through her door. He was right.
Hint: Asking our mutual contact what to expect was part of my preparation.
My response to her question was, “You know, Eric said you would ask me that before I stepped through your door.” We all laughed and the meeting started.
She asked where I was from and when I said Denver, her eyes lit up. She proceeded to tell the fascinating story of how she met her husband in Denver. We talked about a few other things for ten minutes or so and then she reiterated her initial question, “What do you want? How can I help you?”
I told her the answer I had prepared and rehearsed. “My goal is to get more exposure. I’m promoting my book, of course, but I have much loftier goals than that. I want to help people become entrepreneurs, and in order to do that, more people need to know about me. Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur…it takes a certain type of personality to own a business and not everyone can do it. But a lot of people do have what it takes. They’re just not sure how to get started or they’re afraid to start. I want to show them how.”
To that, she said, “You need to meet Bob Mohler. He’s the head of digital programming for Telepictures. When does your flight leave?”
“Tomorrow,” I said.
“Change it. He’s coming here tomorrow and you need to meet him.”
“Ok.” I said.
You don’t say no to an opportunity like that.
Then she told Jeremy, one of her producers, to get a film crew and record an interview of me talking about my book. While he was doing that, she called Bob and said she had somebody he should meet.
The meeting was set for 1pm the next day; the exact time my flight was due to leave. “Just change your stupid flight,” she reiterated. I changed my flight.
Kit Bowen, a senior writer for the show, walked through the door of Lisa’s office signaling the end of the meeting. Kit was told to entertain me until the film crew was ready. She was a very gracious host! She gave me a tour of the building, took me to get a bagel and some water, and then we set off for the “Ethan-Allen” room to record the interview.
After the interview, we went to the main area to record the “B-Roll” of me walking away from the EXTRA sign. What a fantastic experience! Kit was awesome!
After that, I left Glendale and drove to Santa Monica for my meeting at Yahoo! News and Finance.
Searching Rob’s name on Google returned several articles about him taking over Yahoo! News and Finance. They talked about him being instrumental in bringing Katie Couric and Megan Liberman over to Yahoo! in its quest to strengthen the brand.
A presentation he gave at Reynolds Journalism Institute allowed me to see and hear how he speaks and thinks. Invaluable! When I brought up watching the video, he was surprised that it was posted online for all to see.
I was also curious about how he knew Eric, so that’s how I opened the conversation after we said our greetings. He told me that he met Eric with the entire cast of Modern Family at the White House Correspondents Dinner a couple years ago.
Rob is an impressive person to talk to. His team is working on a lot of very powerful ideas for the future of Yahoo! It’s refreshing to see a dotcom that’s been around since the 90’s committed to innovation and improvement.
Unlike Lisa, he waited to ask what I wanted until we’d talked about several other things first. When he finally did ask what I was doing there, that’s when I pulled out my “I need exposure to spread my message” speech. He suggested I send him a proposal for an entrepreneur’s column with some story ideas. He said, “I can’t promise anything. My editors have the final say, but I’ll be happy to forward your ideas on to them.”
I’ll take it! The chance to write for Yahoo! News and Finance is a real honor! The only thing better would actually be WRITING for Yahoo! News and Finance! Fingers are firmly crossed!
Michael Levine, Adviser to the Stars and Founder of LCO Public Relations
After leaving Yahoo! in Santa Monica, I drove to Beverly Hills to meet Michael Levine at the Montage Hotel. Since I had two hours to kill, I decided it would be fun to drive by the Beverly Hillbillies Mansion. I watched that show as a kid and always dreamed of seeing it.
A 10 minute drive to Bel Air and I was outside the front gate. You can’t imagine my disappointment when I couldn’t see a damn thing. The solid limestone fence is 10 feet high and the gate is solid wood. They replaced the wrought iron gate we see in the show, probably to keep people from standing out front jail birding through the bars all day. Deep sigh. I drove back to the hotel.
I first met Michael in the lobby after my interview on Business Rockstars with Ken Rutkowski back in December 2013. Michael was the next guest on the show and Amelia and I listened to his interview on the radio after we left the station.
His interview was both interesting and funny. I could tell he had done a lot of interviews and really knew how to educate and entertain.
My research of Michael before our meeting at the Montage revealed a very impressive list of clients, such as Michael Jackson, Barbara Streisand, Charlton Heston, Michael J. Fox, George Carlin, and many more.
He’s also written several books, one of which is “Guerilla PR,” which is the most widely used introduction to PR in the world. He has since updated the book to “Guerilla PR 2.0”.
Finally, I found an interview of him on CBS News talking about Gift Wrapping Your Business.
Michael’s PR firm specializes in publicity for celebrities and experts so I was very excited to find out why he wanted to talk to me. I had a long list of questions to ask, but he was the one who asked all the questions.
One of the things good PR folks do is gather intel on people and then follow up with notes or gifts related to the intel. For example, he suggested that I send Lisa a book on the history of police since her husband is a police officer (I actually have an even better idea based on some things she said in our meeting).
The only way to know how to connect with people is to ask them lots of questions, so I paid close attention to the questions he asked me for my own future reference.
After grilling me for a while, Michael switched gears and told me about his history and expertise. He gave me a lot of advice about how to follow up with the people I’d met before him so they’re sure to remember me. I’ll be writing more about that in the coming weeks.
When the meeting was over, I spent an hour and a half to drive 15 miles back to the hotel where I was staying with Amelia (she was in LA on her own business trip). The traffic in LA is absurd!
Instead of flying home to Denver, I stayed one more day to meet with Bob Mohler. He’s in charge of the digital side of TV shows such as Ellen and TMZ. That’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, even if it did cost me $600 in airfare and rental car change fees.
I didn’t have as much time to prepare for this meeting, but I did my best. A search of his name returned an audio recording of an hour-long presentation he gave at SXSW in 2013. That presentation combined with his bio on Wikipedia gave me everything I needed to know for the meeting.
After our introductions, I said, “I just listened to your presentation at SXSW last year. Sounds like you get a lot of pitches.”
He responded, “Wow. You’ve really done your research. I don’t get a lot of pitches…I get a ridiculous amount of pitches every day.”
That led to a long conversation about how people don’t understand the TV business, which leads them to pitch things that don’t appeal to Bob’s audience.
Bob’s a techie like me so we had a lot to talk about. My 15 minute meeting lasted 45 minutes before he was pulled into another meeting.
The Lesson to Be Learned
What’s the lesson to be learned from all this? Prepare for your damn meetings! That’s the lesson!
If I would have walked into any of those meetings without a clear agenda and without having things already in my mind to talk about, I very easily could have frozen like a deer in headlights.
That’s especially true of my meeting with Lisa. I bet Lisa intimidates a lot of people, but I was prepared so I didn’t come across as intimidated. I came across as confident and self-assured, which led to a recorded interview and the meeting with Bob Mohler.
Next time you have a big meeting, don’t underestimate the importance of making a good impression by thoroughly preparing for it. You never know what amazing things the meeting might lead to.