Here are 10 random tips I’ve culled over the years on how to be a better assistant. This is part 4, focusing on working with celebrities,VIP, and iconic folks.
I’ve worked red carpets, have been back stage, escorted the entourages, wrangled A-list talent, met civic luminaries who have been in history books, and have been around the infamous. One time, I was even offered a job after only working with an A-lister’s manager for a couple of hours. Here are my tips for you.
1. Don't gush.
You are there to represent your boss, dept, and company. The worst thing to do is to act like their #1 fan and be a total groupie. You want to make them feel comfortable and if they think are you totally in love with them or are too interested in them and their career, it will cross too many lines. The most you are allowed to say (and I even hesitate to even encourage this) is: I really admire your work with _______________.
The most appropriate thing to say is: Congratulations on ________________________.
If you must comment on their celebrity or fame, it really should be RIGHT after a big award night, business coup, or whatever that made national news within a month. It must be timely so it is considered relevant and rude if you DON’T say something. Otherwise, in all other non-timely instances, if you are going to acknowledge their work and give them kudos, keep it to one or two sentences and keep it business professional.
Why? They came to work, not to socialize or make friends. Chances are, their meeting, event, or business matter isn’t your project or domain. They don’t really care if you liked their work or not. They are there to meet with your boss and hash out business deals or say hello to their fans and the public.
And don’t ask for gossip or stories. If they want to talk about their project or career, they will bring it up or start chatting you up to be friendly. Otherwise, let them wait in silence or focus on whatever they came to do - do PR, pitch a story idea, sign autographs, etc. Dealing with fans or anyone who loves them makes them feel they have to be “on” and it takes them out of their “business mode.”
2. No photos allowed.
It’s usually a no-no to ask for a photo, autograph or swag. Again, this makes them feel as though you are a fan. And you are now a distraction because it becomes about you, wanting something from them, and for them to be chummy with you. The only times photos are allowed are if they or your boss suggests a photo or it’s a big group photo at the end of the project, etc. Photos in these case are to celebrate the wrapping of a project or marking a ceremonious occasion - again a very good business reason.
3. Find yourself online.
If you really need a photo of proof of your wonderful day with a famous person, you might get lucky and find yourself in the background of photos that were taken on the red carpet and by paparrazi. You can find the images online at Getty Images, Wire Image, IMDB, and any Hollywood site that covers events and gossip such as Perez Hilton. Look for it the next day.
4. There are many gatekeepers.
Anyone successful or famous usually has a lot of gatekeepers - assistants, publicists, agents, managers, family, or their sidekick/entourage. It’s your job to work well with these folks too. Very rarely will you get to have direct contact with the VIP. Treat all the above folks just as nicely and importantly as you would the VIP. You’ve heard me say this before, but it’s only good manners to be nice to everyone, even at your own company regardless of their role or rank. They know stuff you don’t know. Everyone is important.
5. Wear proper attire.
Whatever outfit you choose, you should fit in. Since you are working, you are either in your business casual attire, suit, or whatever appropriate. Wear comfortable shoes whether at the office or an event. Have a small purse you can carry with you everywhere and paper or a clipboard if needed. Most often there is nowhere to leave your stuff to grab it later. Keep in mind it gets hot so don’t bring a jacket or think about how much you sweat. Don’t wear anything with logos.
6. Red carpet journalists badger you.
There are a couple of difficult things when working the red carpet. It’s hot. It’s crowded. Sometimes people are rude or your toes get stepped on. TV crews and journalists will pester you and try to make you promise an interview. You can’t promise anything though because it’s not always up to you. If a VIP doesn’t like a certain media outlet, journalist, or host, they will skip to another section of the line. Your job is to physically lead the way for the VIP, ask them who they do or don’t want to talk to, tell them when it’s time to move to the next one, or it’s their time to sing or present an award. You are there to assist them in all matters - where the bathroom is, the fast route out the of the bldg, secret doorways, fetch them water or a snack, find their limo driver, or shield them from the public. It’s exciting but it can be hard work because you are on your feet, running every which way, or bored out of your mind waiting around.
7. Don’t gossip.
Believe it or not, the chance of you running into a celebrity again at work or around town is pretty high. With social media all the rage right now, it’s fun to say where and when you spotted a celebrity or to tell all your friends insider stuff you heard. However, keep in mind that celebrities are on Facebook and Twitter too. They will know who wrote about them. Living in Los Angeles, I have already seen three celebrities, twice each, at random parties or around town. This included A-listers, character actors, and comedians. One I saw twice within two weeks. This is why if you act like a total fan at work and creep them out, they will probably remember you whenever you see them by accident or at another work function.
Once your role or job is done, leave. Don’t hang around eavesdropping or hope to be included in the social hour of the night. If they want you to stay, they will invite you. If you’re not sure if you should stay or go, start slowly inching your way to the door or back to your desk. Wave good bye slowly and politely and usually someone will thank you or say it was nice to meet you. That’s your cue to leave.
9. Don’t get nervous.
While it can be intimidating to work with famous or brilliant people, getting nervous and worked up is not helpful. I’ve heard of people being so on edge and stuttering that they were asked to leave their position because they couldn’t work or function normally. The pressure just became too much. Try to keep in mind they are people too. They are not perfect, they use the bathroom, pay taxes, are insecure, and they also die. Sure, they are well-known, but that also means any fear or nervousness you might be feeling, they may feel it 10x more. Afterall, any interaction you have with them you’ll remember for the rest of your life, right?
10. Don’t give out your contact info.
If they want to keep in touch with you whether professionally or personally they will let you know. They will either ask you for your information directly if they don’t already have it or they will get in touch with you via their agent or assistant. That job I was offered? We exchanged business cards and he asked me to give him a call first thing Monday morning, which I did. When someone cares, they will find a way to keep in touch with you, on their own accord without any reminding needed.
***New “rule” - when you ask me a question and I answer it, could you write an anonymous comment so I know you read the post? You can just write “Thx!” or something! :)
As always, I usually tweet any new posts I have. And anyone can email me questions and I respond only via this blog, not to your personal address. It usually takes me 3-4 days to answer.
I also write over at Jobstr.com under Hollywood Executive Assistant.