There is no point going anywhere if people don’t remember you were there! Networking is an important part of building your business and developing good social contacts. However, if you go to business events and no one remembers you afterward, what was the point in attending? Such contacts only work if you make yourself memorable. Happily, this doesn’t mean you have to be bizarrely dressed or loud and boisterous.
My professional life is spent helping professionals speak more effectively to large and small groups. It never ceases to amaze me how many talented and well-educated people attend networking events, yet overlook their big chance to be memorable by developing a mini-presentation for audiences of one to five. All speaking is public speaking. Outside the privacy of your own home, you are speaking in public no matter the size of your audience.
Here are some strategies that let you walk into a room with quiet self-assurance, confident that people will enjoy meeting you and will recall you afterwards:
1. Arrive looking your best. If you have a hectic day before going to a business meeting, keep a change of clothes in your office or car so you can arrive unwrinkled.
2. Wear your name tag. We’re all more likely to retain information that we see and hear at the same time, so wear your name tag up on your right shoulder. That way, people can read it as they hear you say your name. Some women put their name tags down on their handbags or in the most inappropriate places. Put it where people are not afraid to look!
3. Develop a memorable signature. Men can wear ties that people will comment on. An investment banker I know wears a money tie. At certain meetings, industry events, and the National Speakers Association, I stand out because I wear distinctive hats. When people are asked, “Do you know Patricia Fripp?” the usual reply is, “Yes, she’s the one who always wears the amazing hats.”
4. Develop an unforgettable greeting. When you introduce yourself, don’t just say your name and job title. Instead, start by describing the benefits of what you do for clients. A financial planner says, “I help rich people sleep at night.” One of my responses is, “I make conventions and sales meetings more exciting.” Almost invariably, my new friend has to ask, “How do you do that?” Immediately, I get to market myself: “You know how companies have meetings that are supposed to be stimulating, but they’re often dull and boring? Well, I present practical ideas in an entertaining way so people stay awake, have a good time, and get the company’s message. My name is Patricia Fripp, and I’m a professional speaker.” People remember the vivid pictures you create in their minds more than the words you say.
5. Greet everyone. Don’t ignore people you recognize if you’ve forgotten their name. Smile and ask a provocative question like, “What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you since we last met?” or “What is your greatest recent success?” or “What are you most looking forward to?” And never be afraid to say, “The last time we met, we had such a great conversation. Will you remind me what your name is?” Best-selling author Susan RoAne tells people, “Forgive me for forgetting your name. Since I passed forty, it’s hard to remember my own.”
6. Overcome any shyness. Much of the value of networking events can be lost if you allow yourself to focus on being unassuming or fundamentally shy. For many people, mingling with a room full of strangers can be an unpleasant or even scary experience. Focus on the benefits of meeting exciting new contacts and learning new information instead of any butterflies in your stomach. Until you’ve gained confidence, a good way to do this is to offer to volunteer for a job that requires interacting with other attendees, such as volunteering to be a greeter. A greeter stands at the entrance, with a label on their name tag denoting them as “Greeter.” They have a specific job: “How do you do? I’m Chris Carter. Welcome to the Chamber mixer. Is this your first event? Please find your name tag; the food is in the next room, and our program will start in thirty minutes.” Soon you will start feeling like the host of the party. You’ve met many new people and will get cheery nods of recognition throughout the event, making it easy to stop and talk later. When you focus on helping others feel comfortable, you are not thinking about you being shy!
7. Travel with your own PR agent. This is a powerful technique that maximizes your networking. Form a duo with a professional friend. When you arrive, alternately separate and come together, talking-up each other’s strengths and expertise.
Suppose you and Fred are secret partners. As Fred walks up, you say to the person you’ve been talking to, “Jack, I’d like you to meet our sales manager Fred. Fred has taught me nearly everything I know about sales and our product line. In the sixteen years at our company, there has never been a sales contest he has not won.” Then, Fred can say, “Well, Jane is being very generous. It’s true; I’ve been with our company for sixteen years, and Jane has been here for only six months and has brought in more new business in six months than any other person in the fifty-three year history of our firm. Thank goodness I’m now the sales manager and can’t compete. She is going to overshadow the rest of us. Her ability to listen to clients’ needs gives her a competitive edge.”
When you do this, you’re saying about each other exactly what you would love your prospects to know, but modesty prevents you from telling them. Also, by saying something interesting, memorable, or funny, you become objects of interest to your listeners. Imagine the next day when they go to work and talk about the networking event they attended. They will repeat your funny lines, making themselves an object of interest. Any time you can make someone feel good about themselves, they are very likely to remember you!
8. Always send a note or brochure the next day to the people you have met. Keep business cards, and make notes of what you said for when you meet them at another event.
These are all positive, pleasant, easy ways to be memorable. Get the most out of your networking time and energy by making yourself worth remembering!
Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE, is a speaker and executive speech coach who helps organizations and individuals gain a competitive edge through powerful, persuasive, presentation skills. She can be reached at www.Fripp.com or (415) 753-6556.