When I first crossed paths with Kristin Meekhof on social media, we clicked right away. I thought it was because we had so much in common. We are both social workers turned authors, and we'd both been widowed at a young age.

Over the past year and a half or so since we first exchanged emails, I've had the opportunity to meet her in person. And I've learned that Kristin has an incredible ability to connect with everyone.

She's fearless about reaching out and introducing herself to some of the most influential people in the world. And although she isn't a 'name dropper' by any means, over the past year I've stumbled across evidence that she's met Oprah and had lunch with Elizabeth Gilbert.

She's visited Deepak Chopra at his home and she's been interviewed by Katie Couric! She's never hired a PR firm or engaged in any expensive media campaigns. Instead, she's reached out and formed genuine connections with people on her own accord.

In addition to connecting with top influencers, Kristin, a self-help expert, also manages to score incredible opportunities for herself. Whether she's attending an engagement for the United Nations, or she's conducting a library program that helps widows, Kristin is always engaged in something extraordinary.

But, I know that these opportunities and connections don't happen by chance. Kristin, a master's level social worker who works a full-time day job, works hard to make those things happen.

I asked Kristin to share some of her top tips for connecting with influential people and creating new opportunities. Here are her secrets for making powerful connections:

1. Do your homework.

Understand what the person supports and is passionate about. Do an internet search and go to their website to see where their focus lies. Your work may not align well with their platform.

2. Remain open.

I remember reaching out to Deborah Heisz the Editor-in- Chief of Live Happy magazine. Graciously she took my call, but didn't think my pitch for her magazine was the best fit. Instead, she offered to have me write a personal essay.

I had no idea who else she had approached to contribute as well. And long story short--my piece, "The Healing Power of Gratitude" is now published in her book.

Other contributors include: Arianna Huffington, Hoda Kotb, Alanis Morissette, Gretchen Rubin, Jason Mraz, Nikki Taylor. And in March of this year Deborah introduced me at the United Nations bookstore as a contributor to her book because the Live Happy book is a part of the UN bookstore.

3. Reach out to people you don't know.

Initially, I reached out to Deepak Chopra, MD, FACP via Twitter. At the time we had no friends in common. But not only did he end up writing a blurb for my book, but he also became my friend and mentor.

4. Be succinct.

When you write or speak about your work make sure that you have it down to three or four sentences maximum. If they want additional information they will ask for it. Often people will judge an email by length alone and you want to make sure your note is read.

5. Give a compliment.

For example, make sure that you've read what they wrote and tell them why the piece resonated with you. Then, you are able to establish a personal connection.

6. Align yourself with someone who has a similar background.

I directly reached out to Katie Couric via Twitter because unfortunately, we both lost our husbands to advanced cancer. And to my surprise--and delight--she replied and conducted an in- depth Yahoo Interview with me as well.

When I noticed American Greetings was doing a gratitude campaign, I reached out to them. Personally, I've been keeping a gratitude journal since 2002--long before it was popular. They responded to my tweet and invited me to create a Thanklist on their page.

7. Go ahead and attend events where you don't know anyone else.

You will be in a in a room with like-minded people, so don't be afraid to enter into a conversation and exchange contact information.

8. Don't judge a name by recognition alone.

Some of the most influential people I've met are names you wouldn't recognize. These include executive producers for national networks, board members for major foundations, and leaders directly involved with the United Nations.

9. Leave space for follow through.

While you might not get an initial 'yes' you don't want to slam the door either. So remain polite and tell them you're open to future discussions. Perhaps, you'll be able to collaborate in a different way.

10. Be authentic.

There are a lot of takers out there who are self- absorbed. Being genuine gets noticed. You can't fake passion and sincerity. And if you don't believe in yourself, don't count on someone else buying into you either.

Published on: Oct 27, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.