For some people, being memorable is effortless, an unconscious act of nature. They may have a certain hitch in their walk or lilt in their accent that distinguishes them. Or they may just say the darnedest things that somehow work their way into your memory. These folks are the lucky ones; they have the ability to network as if it were a class they mastered in the first grade.
Although I’m not one of them, I’ve met enough of these people in the meet-and-greet jungle to know that they don’t have to tap dance in stilettos to be remembered. They have other ways of being unforgettable that we can all learn from.
One of my friends is effortlessly quotable. At least every tenth sentence of hers includes a short stream of thoughtful and engaging words that I file away in my journal. The quotes can be devastatingly true, entertaining, or outrageous and they always resonate, making not only the quote memorable, but my friend as well. Her latest quote, which she stated in a wry tone after scanning a room of men at a trendy Los Angeles bar, “I don’t like men who decorate themselves,” still has me smiling.
Quotes work in part because they evoke an emotion, like joy, which is perhaps one of the most powerful elements necessary for creating a long-term memory. According to researchers, we are most likely to remember things that are unusual and emotional as well as things that involve all of our senses. So taking time to sit down and craft a couple of personal quotes is a good idea, but if you come up blank, borrow from the pros. Here are a few quotes from notables that are sure to spark a memorable conversation:
• Marriage is too interesting an experiment to be tried only once.—Eva Gabor
• For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.—Virginia Woolf
• I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.—Maya Angelou
Be Odd, Be Proud
Boring people are rarely remembered and when they are, it’s usually due to the extremity of their dullness. On the other hand, people have an easy time remembering those who are quirky or unconventional. For example, look at the following list:
2. Screw driver
3. Albino peacock
Now close your eyes for twenty seconds, then open them and recite the list. Chances are, you remembered the albino peacock.
Because we remember things that are unique, it will help if you reveal a personal experience, trait, or unique observation that you would not readily share with people for fear of being considered odd. (Odd can be good as long as it doesn’t swing toward creepy.) Keep in mind that what you do for a living, where you’re from, and where you earned your degree are pertinent pieces of information, but sharing with someone that you apprenticed with a cobbler for a summer in the Ukraine will ensure that you’re remembered.
Rethink Your Name
At a recent networking event, a woman handed me her business card and the first line read “Dr. Catherine Cat Woman, PhD.” Her actual name was listed below along with her contact information, but it was this nickname that grabbed my attention. Two months later, I still haven’t forgotten Dr. Cat Woman. Without knowing it, the diligent doctor created a name that was more difficult to forget than it was to remember and it reflected her unique spirit and sense of humor. She took a risk, and the name actually worked for her instead of against her.
When augmenting your name, consider using alliteration or rhyme. A study conducted by a team of researchers from American Universities revealed that people are more likely to remember concepts and themes from poems and prose writing when alliteration is used. This holds true for names as well. As for rhyme, The Cat in the Hat seems to have worked. Another way to make your name memorable is to associate it with something popular. If your name is similar to that of a celebrity, famous city, or a revered author, make the connection by relaying a personal story or interesting fact; i.e., although I can’t sing like Ella Fitzgerald, at least I got the songstress’ name.
Become an Infotainer
At a networking event, a man informed me that cashews are a part of an apple-looking fruit that grows on a tree. He said that the cashew looks like it’s the fruit’s “stem” and is encased in a hard cashew-shaped shell. He also said that each fruit bore only one cashew, which explained why cashews are so expensive. I thought, “No way!” and went home to research cashews on the Web. (If you haven’t seen one, you should.) I’ll never forget the cashew fruit and I don’t think I’ll forget the man who introduced it to me.
People are obsessed with knowledge. We not only want to know about what’s going on in our backyard, we want to know who started it, when, and if it will continue in the future. Think of information as food for the mind, heart, and soul. With a single fact, you can nourish a person indefinitely. When preparing for a networking event, keep this in mind and take time to watch or read a documentary, independent film, newspaper, or offbeat publication, any of which could contain a fascinating story about an exotic culture, inconceivable technology, god-like visionary, or the origin of a cashew. If the information you share is unforgettable, you will be, too.
Make People Feel Good
First off, if you’ve had a bad day, are feeling under the weather, or are having a wallflower moment, stay home or make a decision to shed all of that at the door. Positivity, not humdrum behavior, promotes relaxation and people are more apt to remember experiences when stress is not a participant. Of course you need to discuss your work and networking needs, but ultimately, a person’s impression of you as a human being is what will stick with them in the long term.
With this in mind here are a few common sense tips on how to make those around you feel good:
1. Compliment people on something, such as a clothing item or physical feature (without making it sound like a come-on).
2. Ask people sincere questions about themselves.
3. Listen, listen, and listen some more.
4. Smile and laugh more often than not.
5. Maintain eye contact.
Because people remember experiences far more clearly than they remember details, it’s the combination of your appearance, your words, your actions, and your spirit that will make you memorable. If you’ve left someone thinking, “Wow, I like being around that person,” then your job is done.
By Maxine Hunt, Divine Caroline