A testimonial from a high-profile person can help boost your career, especially if you speak at events or freelance for large companies.
Comedian Dan Nainan is often booked to perform at large corporate events, and one of the promotional tools he uses is celebrity testimonials. President Barack Obama says he is hilarious and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls him “hysterical.” In fact, you can watch them deliver their praise–along with Steve Wozniak, Hillary Clinton, and many other famous people–on a video he posted on his website.
“Anyone can get a photo with a celebrity,” says Nainan. “Instead, I ask for a video testimonial after they’ve seen me perform. They’re almost always happy to oblige; I think it’s because I’ve done a great show and they enjoyed it.”
Nainan has been able to get high-profile people to compliment his work by using one simple technique: He asks–but he says timing is everything. Request a testimonial when your work is fresh in the other person’s mind, says Nainan.
“If you give a great presentation, people are almost hypnotized,” he says. “Two days later, they might not be as open. And if you bomb, don’t ask. In general, people who are caught up in the moment will be happy to help quickly without thinking.”
Approaching them immediately is imperative, says Nainan, who uses the “three-second rule” he learned from the book Big Game Hunting: Networking with Billionaires, Executives and Celebrities by Christopher Kai. “Don’t stand there thinking, ‘How should I approach them?’” he says. “Don’t think about it; just ask. Nothing is worse than wishing you had asked and regretting it later.”
Nainan still regrets not asking tennis player Steffi Graf for a testimonial after he performed at an event she attended, and uses the experience as a lesson for not hesitating in the future.
Nainan says how you ask is also important: “I’m as low a celebrity as you can get, but sometimes people ask me for photos and autographs,” he says. “I always say, ‘Hey no problem.’ This has helped me understand the mindset of the other person when I ask.”
Nainan says it’s important to be polite and respectful. He also doesn’t frame the ask as a yes/no question, such as, “Would you mind giving me a testimonial?”
“I say, ‘Hey, if you enjoyed my show, would you say a few words?” he says. “I have the camera on and running, so the process is very quick and easy.”
It also helps to put yourself in the right place at the right time. When Nainan got President Obama’s testimonial, he was performing at a gala where the president was speaking.
“I sat at the closest table to the president’s podium,” he says. “It looked like open seating, and I didn’t have any hesitation claiming a spot. When [Obama] came out to meet people, he walked down a line, and I was there waiting.”
Instead of giving a camera to a friend, Nainan suggests you handle it yourself. “Don’t count on anybody else,” he says. “If you tell them, ‘Don’t touch the red button,’ they’ll almost always touch the red button.”
Nainan learned this lesson when he asked a friend to record him with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak; his friend stopped filming to fix Nainan’s tie. “I couldn’t believe I had to ask Steve Wozniak for a do-over,” he says. “When I met the president, I made sure my camera was running and I held it myself.”
Once you get the testimonials, use them. Nainan sends the feedback reel to potential clients. He puts the video on his website and puts a link to it at the bottom of his email signature. He’s also using the quotes on the back cover of his forthcoming book.
“When you’re sending someone references, you cannot get a better testimonial than the President of the United States,” he says. “In general, if you want something it sometimes takes moxie. The worst that can happen is they says ‘no.’”