Are you memorable?
The coming of spring and the longer days has brought me out of the hibernation I took on networking. Last week, I started reaching out to colleagues to reconnect and attended two lunch events; a record week. It was fun seeing friends face-to-face and talking shop and catching up on personal stories.
I ended the week with an after-work event which I attended with my husband. I saw a few friends and did some chit-chat, but the situation that stuck with me was the introduction to another business person.
The network dance began as it always does. "So what do you do?" My response, "I have a law practice". "Where is your office?" My response may as well have been "blah blah blah blah". I am not sure if people ask the location of your job to find a common ground, but it is one of the most uninteresting questions you could ask or answer.
I tried to keep my reply interesting and as short as possible, yet, his eyes were telling me that he was just making small talk and didn't really care. My husband knew him so I will probably be reintroduced to him again. There are a few professionals that I get reintroduced to by my husband and I don't make it a priority to commit their name or business to memory. I do if I'm in the mindset to remember, but I see it as more of a common courtesy.
If we treated every interaction like it is just courtesy without an intent for memory there could be missed opportunities. Not all situations lend to "making a good first impression", but it is important to know when it is and how to approach it.
Sometimes you have the luxury of time; the event you are attending is designed to encourage networking. In the situation I had tonight, it was a bit of a mixed bag. I could passively network and be polite or try to make a lasting impression on a few people.
As I said earlier, I think people ask questions to find a common ground or a way to relate. Sometimes that doesn't happen and sometimes, when it does, it just isn't interesting.
I remember a small group leader for a young couple's bible study encouraging us to get to know each other by asking "what are you passionate about?" instead of "what do you do for a living?". Take the idea of asking the right (and interesting) question and apply it to your answer.
How do you take an uninteresting question and give an interesting answer that commits who you are to that person's memory. Maybe it doesn't matter if they remember your name if they can remember where they met you and something that set you apart from the crowd (they can always get help from the host to track you down if you neglect to get your business card in their hand).
How would I take the uninteresting question about where I work and give an interesting response that made me stand out from the crowd? "Where do you work?" "I work wherever my client needs me; my office is virtual whenever the circumstances require".
Let me say that response had several revisions. I first included that I worked downtown plugged in the middle of the answer, but that gave too much of an invitation to go down the same old boring road. I originally said "I am virtual" but that suggested that I didn't have a physical office space, which I do. I also had to pare it down because it got a few words too long and sounded like a marketing pitch. Well it is, but it shouldn't sound like one.
The more networking you do the better your elevator pitch becomes. I don't know if that answer will sound cheesy until I give it a test drive. I have learned the following: chose words carefully, paint a visual picture, but be brief. That is a lot to ask, however, the payoff is huge if your impression is committed to their memory.
Now lets remember that this shouldn't be one-sided. You don't want to be the person sought after (because of your great impression) only to have no clue who the person is that does the follow-up. This is where you come up with unique and interesting questions and be ready to commit them to memory. "What type of people do you serve?" "Is this a busy time of year for you?" "What is the coolest benefit you get from your work?" That person may remember you because of what you asked and not how you answered.
Who knows, maybe you will be known as the professional who is really fun to be around at networking events.