Last night Ivan and I were at a black-tie event together. We were milling around in the ballroom lobby with about 600 other guests, waiting for the grand doors to open, when I noticed a diminutive lady looking around as if she were lost.

“I think she needs some assistance,” I quietly said to Ivan. When she got closer to us, we caught her eyes and smiled reassuringly.

“Excuse me,” she said breathlessly.

“How can I help you?” I asked her.

“Can you tell me, please, who is in charge of the event?”

Instead of simply pointing to the ballroom and telling her that the event organizer was inside preparing the room for the attendees, I shot a quick glance over my shoulder as if to say, “Just go with it,” to Ivan, and gestured to her to follow us. The three of us started to move toward the closed doors.

It was then that I noticed she was wearing a press pass. Trailing along behind her was a cameraman with a video camera and gear bag slung over his shoulder.

What was this?

We entered the ballroom and gave the large hall a quick look-over. No organizer. Understanding that it would not do to just leave her and her cameraman in the room, We invited her to come up to the very front so we could show her the table where the organizer could be found later on in the evening.

“I’m from NTDTV, a Chinese news affiliate out of New York,” she told us as we walked together to the front of the room. Now, it just so happened that Ivan’s third book to be translated into Chinese, Masters of Sales, had been released the past week in the Chinese market. I simply could not resist the temptation to share that with her, as well as a friendly “nie-hou-ma,” to which she responded with great delight.

     She then asked if it would be okay for her to interview Ivan at the front of the room while we waited for the event organizer and the CEO of the event we were there to attend.

Hmmm, let’s see.

I paused for exactly a nanosecond before responding that it would be more than okay: “shiea-shiea,” I said, bowing slightly.

She spent the next 15 to 20 minutes interviewing him about business networking tips, his new book, differences between Americans and Asians and how they do business, and a little bit about BNI – just enough!

It goes to show you that you just never know where that simple phrase: “How can I help you?” is going to lead. How have you used this phrase, and found that something fortuitous has happened?