7 Ways To Be Memorable When Networking

Photographed by Nicolas Bloise.
The best awkward scenario in networking situations is when two people who have already met mutually forget having met each other in the past. No harm, no foul — reintroductions all around.
The worst awkward scenario, though, is when only one person remembers the initial interaction, leaving the other person feeling embarrassed, slighted, and a little bit invisible.
Making an interaction "memorable" isn't one person's responsibility. Sometimes, frequent-forgetters need to be a little more thoughtful when meeting others. (Not zoning out, for example, or putting away their phones.) Other times, meetings can take place in hectic environments in which everyone is scurrying around in the hopes of making a connection. Hectic networking situations can make it harder to leave a lasting impression.
But, there is a middle-ground to being more memorable that doesn't involve a song-and-dance routine. Want to know how to put it all together, step by step? Use the following tips, which include advice from lecturer, corporate advisor, and TED Talks mentor Soulaima Gourani, to stand out the next time you meet someone.
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State Your Full Name

Attending networking events can make it really easy to learn the most popular baby names from the last 15 to 30 years. So, although you might think you're being considerate of other people's time by introducing yourself with your first name only, you could be accelerating your descent into the barrel of Sarahs, Jessicas, and Michelles that almost inevitably populate any scene.

Even if you have a more unique name that stands out on its own, give other people an extra shot at remembering it by stating both your first and last names when you meet them. Doing so can also come off as incredibly self-assured — "Bond, James Bond"-esque — without being pretentious, of course.
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Explain What You Do

Titles are like opinions — everyone has one, and they can convey different things to different people.

Instead of introducing yourself with "I'm an ____ at ____" and expecting that to be self-explanatory, come prepared with a brief explanation of what you do.

"People remember you better if you replace 'My title is ____ ' with something like 'I help people with ____ ," Gourani says. "It makes it easier for people to understand what you actually do, and in the end, help you." (If your relationship continues that far.)
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Be Interested — Not Only Interesting

A lot of advice about talking to people is geared at introverts, who might be a bit less forthcoming in socio-professional situations. But plenty of extroverts could benefit from solid advice about interacting with others — namely, how to not commandeer a conversation, or always look for the next thrill.

"Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, always be present," Gourani says. "Keep eye contact. Focus on the conversation you are having at that moment, and don't think about what you will be doing next, whether you have a new text message, or if someone has just [messaged you] on Facebook. People can feel it if you are not present, and it will leave a bad impression, so avoid distractions and give the person you are speaking to your undivided attention."
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Tailor Your Questions

You can prepare for meeting people without memorizing a bunch of questions and answers that make you seem robotic. Gourani suggests asking better-quality questions along three tiers to learn more about others, and also help others learn about (and remember) you:

1. The Professional Level

Ask questions regarding the other person's organization and/or industry. For example:

a. "What are your industry's biggest challenges right now?"

b. "How is your organization doing right now?"

c. "Which initiatives do you see as the most appropriate in ____ situation?"

d. "What changes do you foresee happening within the next one to two years?"

Some people get embarrassed about admitting that they don't know much about a certain topic. But being honest about a lack of familiarity with a particular industry or field can also generate a great conversation. And if you know more about a topic, it's great to ask insightful questions.

2. The Technical Level

"Ask questions that touch on the other person's professional skills so you know what they can do, what they want, and what they dream about achieving during their professional career," Gourani says. For example:

a. "How did you get into ____?"

b. "What do you like most about your job?"

The first question can be a really eye-opening one. Someone might have made an interesting career transition into their current field, or have had a more direct path using resources you didn't know about. It can't hurt to ask.

3. The Personal Level

Ask questions that touch on the other person's personal life — "without getting into their private matters," Gourani says.

a. In some cases, you might compliment someone's clothes, hair, shoes, or accessories, she adds. This approach is definitely a more casual one that can occasionally be fraught — but that all depends on the industry. If you work in fashion or a creative field, someone might have taken great pains to look a certain way that are more relevant to the setting.

If you'd rather steer clear of appearance, inquire about the other person's background:

b. Ask where they are from and, if they are from out of town, how do they like x location so far, Gourani suggests. If they aren't from out of town, ask what they like to do for fun in the area, or what they might recommend in the time you have.
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Remember Your Body Language

Everyone gets a little bored in conversations sometimes. Everyone also gets distracted.

Do your absolute best, however, not to convey a complete lack of interest in another person while you're talking to them. It's rude, reflects poorly on you and whomever you might be representing, and also defeats the purpose of you being there in the first place.

"Body language is critical," Gourani says. "If you hide your face, look down, and mumble, then your introduction will be a waste of time."

She advises people to think about what it means to have a "live" sense of energy. Someone with infectious energy tends to make you feel seen, heard, and actively engaged with. They aren't necessarily performing for you — and you shouldn't feel like you need to jump through rings of fire to keep another person's attention — but "if you show excitement and joy, that energy can transfer onto the receiver," Gourani explains.
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Spin Your Newness

Having less professional experience shouldn't shut you out of meaningful moments with others. In this case, you might need to showcase your work outside of your job itself.

"Everybody has a special competence from which other people can benefit. You just need to identify it and communicate it so that people can remember you," Gourani says. "If you are young without much experience, then make an effort to find out what it is that makes you unique. Mention your qualities easily and simply so that the individual you are talking to can quickly get an idea of who you are, what you can do, and your professional goals."
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Alternate Between Personal And Professional

To make sure that your conversation topics are well-rounded, Gourani advises putting the 70/30 rule to good use.

"The rule simply means that 70% of the time you are with another person, you should talk about professional matters such as a project, a problem, or a sale. The remaining 30% of the time, you should talk about something that is personal, but not too private," she explains. "Ask the person questions about these topics and pay attention to the short personal stories that people share with you."

In other words, Gourani says, ask the kind of questions that you would like to be asked — and don't ask ones you wouldn't want to answer. (Or, at least, have a feeling someone else might balk at.) You don't want to come off seeming nosy, but going a little deeper than a buttoned-up professional interaction can make it easier for someone to remember your interaction, and the chances that they might want to continue that conversation later on.

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