Reading time: 7 minutes.
What good is meeting someone for the first time, creating a favorable impression and establishing rapport if two days later they’ve utterly forgotten you? Advertisers pay fortunes to keep their products “top of mind,” job seekers want to distinguish themselves from the competition, and aspiring romantics want their efforts to spark lasting fantasies. There’ll be times in your life when you’ll want to stand out in a positive way too.
So, how can you make yourself memorable – for all the right reasons?
Start by taking a look at the signals you send off unwittingly. Because if people feel uncomfortable with you and don’t feel they can trust you, you’re doomed. All relationships are built on trust.
First, adjust your attitude. More than anything else it’s your attitude that determines how people feel about you when you first meet. Choose what I call a “useful” attitude – upbeat, welcoming, enthusiastic, etc.
Second, be charming rather than alarming. That means making eye contact, if only for a couple of seconds – this unconsciously signals that trust is in the air.
Third, smile with genuine enjoyment. (Here’s a way to do that. Practice saying the word “great” over and over in a mirror using crazy voices until you feel like a giant idiot or you crack up – then say it under your breath to yourself as you approach people. I guarantee you’ll be smiling.) A smile sends a signal that you’re happy and confident.
Fourth, keep your body language open and relaxed. Rather than crossing your arms over your chest, go literally “heart to heart” with the other person – point your heart toward theirs, which signals that you’re not going to harm them.
(And of course it goes without saying you’ll be a total turn-off if you don’t act politely, don’t walk your talk and don’t follow up when you say you will. Above all, don’t try too hard – another big turn-off – and be true to yourself.)
But apart from attitude and body language, there’s another, more concrete, way to make yourself memorable, which involves “cues.” Just as in the theatre a word or gesture by one actor triggers another actor to say or do something, the “cues” I’m talking about will cue others to remember you. (But use only one main cue – too many will overwhelm.)
Visual cues (a visual detail appropriate for your personality):
If you wear great clothes, you make it easier for people to conjure up an image of you. Or use some little style touch to create a notable visual reminder for yourself. People tend to remember high-quality accessories. Pick one and make it your signature: original but tasteful frames for your eyeglasses, beautiful vests, impeccable shoes, an exquisite briefcase. (If you’re not sure what works best for you, ask for help. In quality shops it’s usually free.)
You can also use a “character” cue – a fresh flower in your lapel, hair that’s always immaculately styled (people notice people who are consistently well groomed), a bow tie, or Larry King’s suspenders. Remember, though, your appearance speaks volumes, so err on the side of discretion.
Sound cues (an interesting nickname, phrase, or verbal style):
Take a tip from unforgettable megastars like Sting, Madonna, Oprah, Bono, Tyra and Liberace and give yourself a single-word name or nickname. A friend of mine works on commission for a sportswear mega store. “I used to spend half an hour helping someone out,” she told me, ” then the customer would go away to think about it. She’d come back another day, go up to the first salesperson she saw and make the purchase. It didn’t matter that she had my business card or that I’d given so much time; the chances of her coming back to me personally were slim. Then I hit on a way to be memorable. Since I’m from Canada, I now tell customers to ask for the ‘Canuck’ when they come back or phone the store. It works!” The “Canuck’ gives her customer a sound cue, and so can you. Another friend makes very funny jokes, often self-deprecating; that’s the verbal cue that people remember him by.
Physical cues (a gesture or way of moving):
Physical cues are less subtle than visual or verbal ones, but often can be very effective. Think of Johnny Carson’s golf swing, Sir Winston Churchill’s V for victory gesture, or the centuries-old thumbs up/thumbs down gestures that became symbols for Siskel & Ebert’s movie reviews. Your cue could be as subtle as great posture; a woman I know, a former dancer, moves as though she’s balancing an invisible basket of fruit on her head. If you see her just once walk through a room, you’ll never forget her.
Finally, there’s one more very effective way to make yourself memorable faster, and that’s by peppering your conversation with vivid picture language. I call it Talking in Color. Here’s what I mean. When Warren Buffett, a genius at Talking in Color, was asked how he enjoys his job, he replied, “I tap dance to work.” When he was asked to describe the deficit, he said it was kind of like a farm with a big mortgage. That’s Talking in Color. He engaged the senses and the imaginations of his listeners. Abraham Lincoln talked about the “ship of state,” Martin Luther King “the mountaintop.” Songwriters do it all the time ( “Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water”); so do great writers – it makes them memorable.
Talking in Color is the language used by Steve Jobs of Apple, Winston Churchill, President Roosevelt (in his fireside chats) and Nelson Mandela. It was the language of the great prophets like Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed; they told stories and created images that stick in the imagination forever.
A simple way to learn how to Talk in Color is by using “i-kola.” That stands for “is kind of like a….” When you need to describe something, come up with a picture in your mind: “I’m kind of like an ocean – sometimes calm, sometimes stormy,” “my best friend is kind of like a cup of coffee – he’s warm and always gives me energy,” “our business is kind of like a train that’s been heading in the wrong direction.” When you talk in images, you immediately get other people’s emotions and senses involved.
A mental image is worth a thousand words. Facts and figures fade fast but images last forever. So put on your best smile, pick a cue and have fun, because now when you meet new people, you’ll make a memorable impression – fast.