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How to Get a Meeting with the CEO

By Guest Writer

Updated November 11, 2016 Updated November 11, 2016

Guest post: Bruce Walker

Getting a meeting with the CEO is perhaps a little bit easier than you think. I’m not just talking about the CEO of a small business; I’m talking about gaining access to heads of global organizations. I want to share with you in this article my experience of getting meetings with chief executives in some of the world’s biggest organizations and more importantly, how you can do it as well.

To give you a bit of clarity on who I am, my name is Bruce Walker, I’m 20 years old and the founder of WeAreTheFuture, a global youth entrepreneurship organization. I am also currently in my third year of university, studying international business management in Edinburgh, Scotland (although I’ve taken a year out of university to grow the business). My day-to-day mostly consists of organizing meetings with global brands and convincing them to back WeAreTheFuture, through partnerships or by supporting the entrepreneurs that we work with.

In the past year I have had meetings with Virgin, Apple, eBay, Google, AirBnB, RBS, Silicon Valley Bank, Deloitte, UBS, the UK government, BP, Unilever, MasterCard, BSkyB and Hewlett Packard.

Over the last few years, I’ve learned a lot of lessons and developed some good tactics on how to get the attention of the CEO. Here are my top five tips:

1.  Be bold; go straight to the top

Don’t waste time sending letters or emails to middle managers and hoping to get a strong response. The first key tip is to speak to the decision maker, and there isn’t anyone more senior than the CEO – if you get his or her attention, then you’re off to a big head start!

2.  Be clear; know what you’re asking for

You need to know what you’re asking for when you’re speaking to the CEO, as you only get one chance to impress. You don’t need to go straight for the top prize either, like a job or investment ECT; sometimes the best thing to ask for is just a little advice. Most people enjoy imparting their wisdom and this opens the door to getting a meeting and building a relationship.

3.  Be concise; don’t waffle

Like most people, CEOs are short on time and will be juggling several things at once, so when you’re reaching out to them, make sure you’re concise and to the point. Tell them who you are, what you do, what you’d like to do, compliment them and then ask for something. Don’t write an essay on your life history; if you get the chance to meet the CEO, you can elaborate further.

4.  Be complimentary; who doesn’t like a compliment?

Tell them why you’re writing to them. Is it because you admire their work? You find them inspirational? Be specific as well, if there is something they have done that stands out, then mention it in the email, as that will show you’ve done your research.

5.  Be determined; you might need to ask more than once

You need to be prepared to ask more than once. Emails come in so fast that everyone has to prioritize, which means your email might not get answered, the first time. As long as you aren’t spamming them, then it is ok to email a few times. Just make sure you change the wording slightly, so you’re not just sending the same content. Also, remember just because they might say “no thank you”, that doesn’t mean “never”; it might just mean “not right now”.

To give you an example, the first time I emailed the CEO of Virgin Atlantic, his response was that he liked what I was doing, but was too busy to meet. Three months later, I emailed him again and something had changed; he loved what I was doing and was so keen to meet that he was going to fly me down to London. Two months later, we signed a partnership deal with Virgin Atlantic.

The business world is competitive and as a student, you need to be thinking of ways to get ahead and stand out from the crowd. Getting in front of the CEO is the best way to expand your network, before you even graduate. If you go bold and email the chief executive, you might just find that they say yes – what have you got to lose? 

Bruce is the founder and CEO of WeAreTheFuture, a not-for-profit organization headquartered in Edinburgh, connecting and inspiring entrepreneurs across the world through global summits. WeAreTheFuture brings together internationally renowned entrepreneurial leaders and organizations, to inspire and connect future entrepreneurs as they start and grow their businesses.  

This article was originally published in January 2015 . It was last updated in November 2016

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