Making a Memorable First Impression when Networking

So a story got relayed to me by my friend Sam Baugh from the Provo LDS Employment Resource Center about a piece of advice I gave about networking. I talk a lot about networking with people at Employment Centers around Utah so to hear that someone used what I had to say and had a “good experience” is always nice to hear. And when people use what you have to say and get positive results … well … that’s always great.

Frequently people want to know about how to make a “lasting” impression to people you meet. This is odd to me because I know that every impression you make is “lasting.” The real question I feel is more about creating a powerful enough moment for recall to work. And, even more importantly, creating a positive moment for recall to work in our benefit.

Lasting can work in both positive and negative effects. When a person doesn’t remember you that isn’t an indication that you weren’t memorable. It is an indication that the memory you left wasn’t powerful enough to be recalled quickly. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. What we hope we do is leave powerful memories that can be quickly recalled that make us look good.

But how do you do that? Is there a trick? Is it even possible to be remembered in an environment where people are meeting 10-20 to even 100 people?

The answer is, yes, but I don’t know if I have the time to completely explain all of the facets of how this works. It is a matrix of personality types, meaningful phrases and shared interests. And to be honest, when you break down the information into these components it becomes so much more analytical than practical. Which ultimately means you’ll stay in your head when talking with people instead of actually connecting with them. So it’s best if I don’t go into all the of components.

What I will do is give you a simple phrase that you can use in any networking environment or tough question situation. It is easy to remember and quite simple to fill out:

Hi, my name is [Say your name]! I enjoy [say something you enjoy doing] and I also enjoy [say something else you enjoy doing].

Voila! There you go. The simplest phrase possible that can actually start conversations where you get remembered. And that’s it, ok see you next blog post!

Ok, I Lied … That’s not All there Is

So I should probably explain how to use this instead of just providing you the phrase. Before you implement this in your networking tool belt let’s start by filling it out properly. Here we should do a couple of things:

  1. Write a list of things we “Enjoy” doing – This list doesn’t have to be work related. In fact it makes a more powerful connection when it’s not job related. People want to know the real you. If you say something you are passionate about that energy is showcased in your presentation. That energy get’s remembered and the uniqueness stands out. So when a person sees you again their recall of the energy and excitement pulls faster. 
  2. Have confidence so you say your name with power – Confidence is an interesting thing. Knowing you are good at something, that you have strong skills, or understanding your current situation is nothing to be feared are all ways you display confidence. However, when you showcase these ideas to the detriment of someone else is when confidence turns into arrogance, which is something no one wants to be around. It’s memorable positively when you are confident; It is memorable negatively when you are arrogant. And to live somewhere in between … well … that puts the impressions we make in the “Land of Forget” which is where we don’t want to be.
  3. Practice your phrase with different things you enjoy –  This way you can pull out different aspects about you when you have the right audience. Saying you enjoy singing and reciting Shakespeare Sonnets may not be the most powerful thing to say when speaking to a room of mimes. Understanding your audience and what they might like is important, but being able to be yourself while saying meaningful things to your audience is even more memorable.

So back to the story … What did Sam tell me about?

So during the summer of 2014 I was working with a wonderful, young woman who had lost her professional identity; her internal confidence compass was spinning. I mentioned this idea of “What do you like? What do you think is unique about you?” and then told her to “say that to people and see what happens.” I would text her and ask “what is special about you?” each day to get her to think about herself differently. One day she said the simplest thing, but I thought it was so wonderful. She said, “I really like an exceptionally clean kitchen!” The minute I heard that I said to her, “That’s great! I can see so much potential to use that in so many different places.” She probably thought I was quite mad, but listened to my logic and reasons and at the end bought into my madness … slightly.

But the thing is … she used it. I don’t know the circumstances or all the details of what happened, but the story relayed to me was she used her phrase in a networking environment. A couple of weeks later she encountered a person who was at the event and that person recalled her as the girl who “Really enjoys a clean kitchen.” She was remembered because she shared something that was authentic and personable.

On to you and your phrase ….

While you may not have the same experience as this young woman I will say that you will get remembered.

Recall is an interesting thing. We all see/hear/smell/taste/touch things which get stored into our memories. These things get recalled based upon the importance and value we place on the memory. For instance, the soda you drank today probably isn’t going to be as memorable as the champagne you drank at your wedding. Today isn’t as high on the value list as your wedding day; the memories won’t hold the same power of recall.

When you give of yourself, especially in an environment which tends not to be focused on authenticity, something special occurs. Networking events usually emphasize the “impressiveness” of the individual instead of the the “personable” side of the individual. We want to sell our wares/services; We want to pitch our products for investments; We want to be seen as a meaningful candidate. When you are being bombarded with these moments something as pure and authentic as “I love having a clean kitchen” stands out. It holds power because it is such a refreshing change from everything else around you. And … from that one sentence you have the ability to derive meaning.

One last example ….

I presented this idea at the Department of Workforce Services in Spanish Fork, UT. While there I had everyone get up and say this statement to people around them. One of the women who works there (Noelle) came running over to me and was so excited. She said, “You need to hear this man’s statement!” So I asked the question so many of us get asked during the course of our lives, “What do you do?” He replied, “My name is ____, and I really enjoy sewing.” So I replied, “Really? That’s unique, how did you get into that?” Which then he continued to tell a story of how he got introduced to it by volunteering at a place where they make clothes for abandoned infants. He wanted to contribute so he took up sewing so he could make hats. The previous year he made over 150+ hats for infants.

The only thing I could think of was, That’s amazing. Not just because of the story of sewing, which is cool, but I thought, “couldn’t we all use someone like this working for us who is passionate about doing something?; So passionate in fact that they learn new skill sets to be more productive?”

Noelle then said this to me, “I’ve known this man for a number of weeks now and this is the first time I’ve ever heard this. I have so many more possibilities to place him because of what I know he can do. All because he used your little phrase.”

Authenticity, the true you, is so powerful. It speaks volumes about who we are and what we can provide that our skills, accolades and accomplishments sometimes over look. If you’re looking for an easy way to be memorable in a situation where you don’t think you can be, try using this little phrase.

I think you’ll be surprised at the outcome.

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