To many, founder and CEO of Mashable Pete Cashmore is, as Contributing Editor Chris Raymond calls him, a “rare bird.” To me, “rare bird” doesn’t even begin to describe someone of his stature who started out as a 19-year-old blogger living in rural Scotland. Rare bird? More like pterodactyl. As someone who has been blogging since high school (sadly, my xanga never took off quite like Mashable), I cite Cashmore as one of my heroes. Any blogger or new-media journalist can agree that his story gives hope to us Internet writers—a breed often taken less seriously than our colleagues in print, usually by other Internet writers.
So when I spotted him at the Mashable house pop-up at SXSW, I debated whether or not to approach him. What do they usually say about meeting your heroes? That it always ends in disappointment? Well, Pete Cashmore, in the flesh, is every bit as good-looking as he appears in pictures. So no disappointment there. Emboldened by this, and the fact that—at the time—Chris Raymond had just finished interviewing him for SUCCESS, I introduced myself. We shook hands, exchanged pleasantries and everything was going well until this happened:
Me: “Do you mind if I take a picture with you?”
Pete: “Yeah, let’s do it!”
Me: (gushing) “Wow. You’re tall.”
Pete: “Well, I’m not as tall as this one guy in the Mashable office, who’s almost seven feet tall… heh.”
Me: “I… uh… yeah… well, I’m just really… excited!… To be here… right now… meeting… (unintentionally breathy voice) you. Well, goodbye!”
I scurried away. End of conversation. Cue the brilliant scene in Amelie when the title character melts into water out of humiliation. Somewhere between taking the picture and suddenly having the ability to only say two syllables at a time, I had an out-of-body experience where I could see my own train wreck of a conversation.
Meeting my hero didn’t go exactly how I pictured it, but it did teach me a thing or two on what to do the next time I meet an important person. Here are my Do’s and Don’ts to meeting someone you greatly admire.
– “Be yourself.” The only piece of advice I consistently hear regarding meeting important people is to “be yourself.” No! You want to be yourself when you’re with your spouse or best friends. You do not want to be “yourself” when meeting someone important for the first time. If you’re even slightly interesting, chances are, you have quirks and oddities that will slip out when you’re nervous, some of which cannot be easily explained in one interaction.
– Act naturally. Don’t just be “yourself.” Act naturally, instead. Allow the polished, best version of “yourself” to shine through.
– Think of what to discuss. Although you might think words will “come to you,” the ones that come to you might not be the words you would’ve ideally picked. I had a chance to meet my blogger hero, but we mostly just talked about his height.
– Prepare brief talking points. This doesn’t mean you should write a wooden script, but instead, think of making a memorable first impression similar to creating a great PowerPoint presentation; outlines and bullet points are key. As the Social Media Editor of SUCCESS, I would’ve loved to discuss something—anything—more meaningful regarding social trends and new media with the pre-eminent “Social Media Sage” of our time.
All things considered, I’m happy at least to have had the opportunity to meet one of my heroes, who, despite the awkward end of our conversation, really was a warm and lovely person. No regrets there. Now, if I ever meet and make the same first impression on my comic writer heroine Tina Fey, that would certainly be regrettable. “Blerg!”