Howto talk to celebrities (or your tech hero)

It can be hard to know what to say...
It can be hard to know what to say...

I recently started writing a blog post I’d entitled “my Tech hero”, extolling the induvidual’s virtue and then immediately realised could never complete that blog post.

Why? Well, let me try to explain.

The word celebrity is defined as

A person who has a high degree of recognition by the general population; a famous person.

Which is obviously dependent on the context. If the general population in question recognises them, they are a celebrity, if the population in question does not recognise them, they are not.

So at a niche technical conference or event, a prominent figure in that community may have celebrity status – perhaps the founder of a project or a key, high profile engineer. In other contexts, this may be someone who everyone knows who carries a good deal of influence because of things they’ve done.

The thing that all celebrities suffer from; actors, musicians, high profile engineers, footballers, famous Magic: The Gathering player is that there are lots of people who admire them essentially for being famous, rather than anything else.

The thing is, pretty frequently these people are very interesting and have lots of cool ideas, but because of the large number of people who want to talk to them, they don’t know who they want to talk to are actually feel quite lonely.

How do you objectively know if something was good if there are always fanboi’s are dying to shake your hand and tell you they thought you were amazing? Who can you trust? Are they just saying something because they like your stuff?

Getting to know a “celebrity” can be difficult, because you have to completely stand out, in a unique way, that instantly makes them feel at ease. It’s actually quite uncomfortable for most people to be constantly given compliments and told how amazing you are – try it with a friend – pretend to be their greatest fan – tell them you love their hair, whatever they eat or drink, have the same – start each new topic of conversation with a new thing you like that they’ve done. It’ll be funny, but it get’s quite uncomfortable really quickly, especially if you add tens or hundreds of people to the mix.

To stand a chance of getting to know most celebrities, you have to address them and talk to them as you would anyone else – essentially assume you’re on equal footing.

The first time you stand out or are noticable, you need to say something that makes an impact – perhaps suggest something in the form of a question, that will really make them think: “Tim, have you thought about writing a blog post about your dog?”

“Wise men speak because they have something to say. Fools speak because they have to say something.”


“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

-Abraham Lincoln

And so going back to “my tech hero” – if I ever get a chance to meet this person, I don’t want to be this blabbering fanboi who can only say “um, I like what you did there, it was really cool, I wish I was you”.

When I meet them, I want them to think “hum, this guy seems cool, perhaps I can help him with that thing he mentioned that actually sounded kind of cool”.

Of course, it may not have the desired effect straight away, or ever, but if you don’t try, then you know for certain that it never will happen.

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