Trying to remember someone after you've met countless people is hard as hell. It's even harder when you're pressed for time or some other priorities are weighing on you. Networking events are designed to be intersections of personalities and stories. Here are some tips to help you retain more information, build your network, and boost your career growth after you attend a meetup:
Focus on this point if you don’t remember anything else you read here. Everything else becomes easier if you pay attention. Check out this TED Talk from Julian Treasure on how to listen effectively:
It’s difficult to learn anything about another person if you’re dominating a conversation. Give others the chance to speak first. Refrain from interruptions or commandeering the dialogue.
Understand the Event’s Purpose
So much of memory is proper preparation. That means setting the stage for your mind to thrive with minimal distractions. Specialized networking events based on industry (e.g. Boston HR Summit) or geography (e.g. Boston Network After Work) help you determine a baseline action plan. Anticipating audiences that attend these events allows you to set certain demographic expectations before you arrive. Here, outliers – those who stand out for whatever reason - to these expectations already possess a novelty. Knowing the crowd helps you allocate more effort into focused conversations immediately as you’re already prepared to engage.
Ask Clarifying Questions
Learning to ask the right types of questions will boost your networking memory immensely. Use these opportunities to educate yourself about a topic and reinforce particular points made. Pinpoint your inquiries after you hear a keyword trigger. These keywords triggers often occur when you have no idea what something means.
New Acquaintance: I primarily work on data migration projects for my clients.
Me: Could you explain what data migration is? What happens during that process?
Use questions like these to reveal further depth and improve your knowledge:
- Could you explain?
- What’s an example?
- Who helped you? Who did you help?
- How does that work?
- How much or how many?
- When did that happen?
- What was your strategy/approach?
- At what point did you…
Build On Shared Experiences
Begin constructing profiles of new acquaintances based on context they share past your first touch points. You’re both in marketing. Great. Who is she beyond a marketing manager?
- Where did she work previously? Maybe you share mutual connections based on the industry or company.
- What major projects did she handle? What were the parameters? What were the successes and challenges? Who was part of her team?
- Where did she go to school? When did she graduate? What was her major? What clubs/teams/commitments did she pursue?
- What does she spend time doing? What are her hobbies? What organizations/causes does she support? What are her plans / goals?
This information provides greater depth and nuance to your elementary understanding of somebody. Of course not everyone will feel comfortable sharing background details. Gauge the flow of your conversation and proceed based on your repartee’s responses. Be friendly and approachable. Remember, they don’t owe you anything. Otherwise, it could be quite awkward and uncomfortable.
Repeat Names Again and Again
Repetition is crucial for me. I need to reiterate a person’s name several times before that person is committed to memory. For some, reinforcement creates more pathways and links.
Periodically address someone by his first name during the conversation. Make direct eye contact to associate that name with that face. If a new person joins, consider taking the lead in introducing your acquaintance by name. Then, let him/her provide more context.
Write Down 3-5 Takeaways
Keep a pen nearby to record important findings from each person. Aim for 3-5 unique talking points that summarize the flow of your interactions. Act like a detective. Fill in details on who the person is, what they do/did/want to do, and where/when/how you met. Remember to include triggers – memorable phrases, keywords, anecdotes – that help you quickly recall that person.
Being memorable can be as helpful in remembering others as you recalling them. Carrying yourself with an honest, genuine demeanor with an emphasis on helping others will get you noticed. More importantly, delivering on that promise builds trust and credibility. A reputation of quality work and servitude inevitably expands your network as you gain referrals, recommendations, and experience success.
This doesn’t mean you need to be loud, provocative, or inflammatory for attention’s sake. Invest in who you are, what you do (especially what you can do well) and how you can help others.
Take a Selfie Together
This may be the most millennial advice you’ve read all week. If agreeable, ask for a joint selfie with your new contacts. Now you have actual photographic record of who someone is.
Ask follow-up questions on how you can share that picture. Consider posting it on LinkedIn if you both agree that the visual is particularly relevant, striking, and flattering. Offer to be an impromptu photographer for other people at events. Get their contact details to confirm who they are and how you can share that photo. Make sure to tag/mention everyone for maximum reach and visibility.
Learning how to remember acquaintances is an exercise in practicing different techniques to establish new habits and processes. Memory is certainly imperfect; we all need references and anchor points in our appreciation of others.
What helps you remember new people? Leave a comment below!