Who’s Your Marlon Brando?

Recently on Turner Classic Movies, I watched a documentary simply titled “Brando.”

There was a moment in it that sliced through my heart.

It didn’t come from the legendary movie actor himself, though.

It came from Brando’s Apocalypse Now co-star, Frederic Forrest. He said this about Brando:

“I never had any scenes with him. He killed me twice — in Missouri Breaks he shot me out of the outhouse, and in Apocalypse Now he cut my head off. But I never got to have a scene with him. I regret that. But God Almighty, I wish I had had enough nerve to meet him… to know him. But I was too in awe.”

What struck me was the true sense of regret Forrest put behind these words. You could tell it pains him to this day.

Have you ever been in a similar situation… where you wanted to take action, but didn’t?

Perhaps, like Forrest, you wanted to introduce yourself to someone, but let the moment slip by.

Your story might not be as dramatic as missing the chance to hang out with Marlon Brando, but it’s no less important.

Perhaps you were at a social event and spotted a local business hero. But when you started to walk over to introduce yourself, your feet acted like they were nailed to the floor. You remained frozen in place and silent — leaving you to always wonder what might have been…

In the marketing world, it would be like having an opportunity to have a conversation with an industry icon — the likes of Michael Masterson, Bob Bly, Bill Bonner, or Herschell Gordon Lewis (to mention only a few) — and not taking advantage of it.

In a minute, I’ll give you some tips on how to make a good impression on someone you admire and respect. Doing a few relatively simple things can have a big impact on your life. Because on top of the thrill of meeting that person, you may end up with some “glicken.” (If you’re not familiar with the word “glicken,” it’s an unexpected bonus.)

Meeting the Man Who Wrote the Book

That’s what happened to Pam Foster.

Pam, a member of American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI), is a copywriter. But before she even thought of becoming a copywriter, she worked for L.L. Bean. And they just happened to have a copy of Bob Bly’s The Copywriter’s Handbook.

Reading it is what got her interested in copywriting. That’s when she signed up with AWAI. And once she did, she found the name “Bob Bly” popping up quite often.

You see, Bob is the author of more than 70 books on copywriting and marketing. He’s been paid millions of dollars in fees, royalties, and advances from more than 100 publishers, editors, and corporate clients. With more than 25 years of experience, he’s received numerous awards and has been recognized as one of the top people in the industry.

So when Pam spotted Bob at AWAI’s 2005 Copywriting Bootcamp, she knew it was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. She walked over and introduced herself.

The result?

“We’ve since become friends and colleagues,” Pam says. “He refers work to me and has been an affiliate for my Internet book. He’s a great person to know, and I never would have met him had I not gotten up the nerve to introduce myself to him.”

The Power of One Little Conversation

This past May at AWAI’s Writer’s Retreat, Toni Rockis started up a conversation with AWAI Co-Founder Paul Hollingshead.

Toni, a grant writer, told Paul that there was a need for a program to educate people on the ins and outs of submitting grants. And she suggested that offering a grant-writing program would be a great opportunity for AWAI.

Paul talked to Katie Yeakle, AWAI’s Executive Director, about it. And the very next day, they asked Toni to write up a program outline. (They’re moving forward with the project as I type this.)

What made Toni’s meeting with Paul so successful was that she planned it in advance. She knew he would be at the Writer’s Retreat. And she thought out what she would say to him and how she would introduce her idea.

Like Toni, you can “prepare” to meet the person you want to introduce yourself to. Doing this accomplishes two things:

1. It calms your nerves. You’ll be rehearsed and confident — with no fear of sounding silly or saying the wrong thing.

2. It exponentially increases your chances of getting “glicken.” You’ll know the best way to introduce your ideas, since you’ll have thought about it long and hard.

What Pam and Toni have in common is that they had the courage to take action.

And they got to meet their “Marlon Brando.”

If there’s a “Marlon Brando” in your life, I encourage you to take action.

Here’s how to make that all-important first impression…

  • Walk up to your “Marlon Brando” confidently. Smile! No one wants to meet a grump.
  • Introduce yourself and tell him what you do. Make eye contact.
  • Compliment him on his work or tell him how much something he’s written or said has helped you. Don’t make it overly flattering or you could come off as insincere.

Let the conversation evolve from there.

  • Use his name during the conversation. A person’s name is music to his ears.
  • Be a good listener. Give him your full attention. Focus on and react to what he says.
  • Have some questions in your back pocket. This will help move the conversation along (and avoid those awful silent gaps). If, for example, he’s an author, ask if you can expect to see another book from him soon. If you’re a newbie in his area of expertise, ask what advice he would give to someone just starting out.
  • Be mindful of his time, and don’t over-stay your visit. When it feels right, say something like “I know you must be busy, so I’ll let you go. It was great meeting you.”

Right about now, you’re probably thinking, “Easier said than done.” Most things are. But you might just be surprised by how easy this will be. Most successful people are very friendly and will be happy to talk to you. (Provided you aren’t overbearing or bumptious.)

Remember, you don’t have to be witty or come off as intellectually brilliant. You just have to be genuine and honest.

Take the initiative and, like Pam and Toni, you’ll never have to think “What if…?”

[Ed. Note: If you’re interested in pursuing a copywriting career, you might want to check out AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. It contains hundreds of copywriting techniques, as well as a step-by-step “how-to” guide. Learn how to make $100,000 a year (or more!) right here.]