Once upon a time on one fortuitous conference, I stumbled upon one of the most outstanding and revered academician in my field. I had a nice question nicely formulated in my head, but when I finally met this towering intellectual figure I was struck with nigh-religious trepidation and lost my marbles for a brief moment. So my question is: When meeting the Einsteins/mega-stars of your subject how do you secure your composure?

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  • 2
    Why would you fear them in the first place? They're just people. – Potato May 24 '15 at 2:24
  • @potato Well, yes and no. As an undergrad, I've sometimes met with professors who act like the students should bow down at their feet just to get time to talk to them. Ironically, these tend not to be people at the top of their fields (or even departments). But as you go through such a system, PIs seem less and less like... people. – Cornyvita May 25 '15 at 0:42
  • @Potato I've waited for one prof for nearly an hour before for a pre-set appointment. Got no apologies at the end, and was told that they had another meeting to go to so could I wait a little longer. I did not, and never went back. But I certainly don't view some faculty as "just people" that I can talk to normally. – Cornyvita May 25 '15 at 0:45
  • @vidory They may not be your close friends, but they are your colleagues. "Reverential fear" seems unreasonable. – Potato May 25 '15 at 2:50
  • Focus on having an authentic, human interaction. I see this as similar I don't care how many people give their congratulations -- if one more person comes up and says how much they enjoyed it, it feels good. Especially if the congratulator says something about his favorite part or aspect. - - - You can start with a specific thank-you and go from there. (I wouldn't necessarily start the conversation with a question.) – aparente001 May 26 '15 at 1:47