Let me share with you what I am learning:
A wise woman once told me – People don’t remember what you say as much as they remember how you made them feel. The first step in making people feel good about their interaction with you takes place in the first part of every interaction they have with you. While first impressions are “forever” you have opportunities to hit the reset button every time you interact with them.
Identify yourself on the phone. I HATE it when I have to guess who is phoning me. Don’t rely on call display or auditory memory to announce who you are when I answer the phone. Give me your last name, if we don’t speak often, and you may even have to add your company name if we haven’t done business for a while. Don’t make me guess, or fumble my way through the first few seconds and feel like a fool. (and when you leave a phone message – say your name and number at least twice – once at the beginning and again at the end, so I have time to write it down – don’t make me hate you for wasting my time by replaying your message and trying to figure out what the string of numbers you rush through translates to as a phone number with area code!).
Identify yourself in person. If we don’t know each other well, don’t count on me or anyone else remembering you AND your full name AND the company you work for AND your position. I’d love to introduce you to the other people I’m talking to when you join our little conversational circle at a networking event – but not if I have to riffle through the mental rolodex while holding up my end of the conversation. Help me help you connect to more people. It doesn’t have to be an elevator pitch. Maybe it is because of my perapatetic childhood, but I never assume people remember me. ”Hi – Susan from Modern Earth” give you the opportunity to be GRACIOUS and say “Of course I remember you” and then I feel special. Some people remember faces, not names. Help them out. That in turn helps you.
Do Your Homework Part One. Before you go to a netoworking event, check the website to become familiar with the names, and maybe even the faces of some of the principal people involved in the event, or the people you want to connect to. You may want to check the Twitter stream or LinkedIn profile of people that you would like to connect to – to give you some conversation fodder for the “what do I say after I introduce myself” problem.
Do Your Homework Part Two. A couple quick stories to make a point on the impact of greeting in two extreme situations.
At one point in my life, I was heavily involved in both activism and fundraising for a major health issue/charity. A leading composer was also active in this area of philanthropy. He visited my city to conduct our local symphony orchestra in the performance of his signature piece of music, and I was privileged to be invited to the reception, and to have the opportunity to meet him. I’d been in the industry long enough to know that these “meet & greets” are most often perfunctory handshakes that can mean a great deal to the fan, and almost nothing to the Artist/Musician. I had no expectations of anything beyond that kind of moment.
When it was my turn to meet him, he held out his hand, and he said, “Susan, it is a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for all the work you have done for <insert shared philanthropic endeavor>. Without people like you doing <insert very specific details of my involvement>, we wouldn’t have made the difference we have so far.” and then we had a brief but intense conversation about what needed to happen next, he thanked me again, hugged me, signed my cd, and moved on to the next person. He obviously has a great staff, who prepared him well to know who was in the room, why they were in the room, and how he could inspire people to stay passionate about the cause we were collectively working for.
Similarly, I have had the opportunity to work at several events where President Bill Clinton was the keynote speaker. At the first event, as I approached the front door of the venue several hours in advance of the doors opening, so I could help with set up, I noticed a man in a black suit standing in the vestibule on the other side of the glass doors. As I approached, he opened the door for me, greeted me by name, told me what room I was to report to, and then spoke to his wristwatch as I passed him to let the other Secret Service people know I was in the building. I felt secure, and very intimidated at the same time.
Knowing who people are in the room helps you make better, more effective greetings. Making sure you make people comfortable and extending your personal information so they don’t have to wonder who you are, or why you are talking to them. Respond graciously when someone you know slightly / peripherally introduces themselves to let them know you remember them.
Work on direct but not overbearing eye contact, attentive listening and a good firm handshake plus questions that are open ended and get people talking about themselves (it isn’t all about you). Make people feel good about your interaction, and they will remember you for creating a positive bubble of experience. People like to work with people who make them feel good. Make people want to work with you by greeting them with sincerity – congeniality – and professionalism. Every. Single. Time. (and always say hello, and especially goodbye/thank you to the receptionist. always.)
Next up in the series – Sit On Your Stoop
Enjoy the day,