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Be Remembered at Networking Events

How to use memory hooks to stand out in a crowd

Q: I'm often at networking events where I have to stand up and briefly introduce myself to many people all at once. Do you have any suggestions on how I can improve my introductions?

A: Memory hooks are excellent tools to use when you are introducing yourself to many people at networking events. A memory hook is something in your introduction that so vividly describes what you do, people will be able to visualize it clearly in their mind's eye. This visualization of your product or service makes it easier for them to refer you whenever they meet someone who needs your service.

For example, many years ago I met a telephone equipment sales rep at a networking meeting. When his turn came to give his 60-second commercial, he painted a vivid picture in everyone's mind about the type of company that needed his product. He said, "The next time you're in someone's office, look at their telephone system. If they have a phone system with fat wires, they need me."

He explained that old phone systems use thick wires, while new, more advanced systems use thin wires. Consequently, anyone with fat wires has an old, inefficient phone system, and he could offer that person a more cost-effective alternative. To this day, every time I go into someone's office I look under the secretary's desk to see if the phone system has fat wires! (I've had more than one secretary say to me, "Dr. Misner, is there something you're looking for under my desk?") It's been more than 10 years, yet I still remember that memory hook as though it were yesterday. The result is that this salesman, in effect, has many "salespeople" like me out in the business community looking for businesses that need his service.

A good memory hook doesn't have to be funny, but it helps. A skin-care consultant once rose at a meeting I was attending and said: "If you have a face, you could use my products. If you know someone who has a face, they could use my products." A lot of people remembered her because of her humor in describing her target market. She went on to explain to everyone that her products were not just for women, but for men, women and children--anyone with a face.

At a different meeting, a rotund fellow who owned a popular Italian restaurant stood up. While holding his belly out for all to view he exclaimed, "As you can see, I'm a walking billboard for our pasta!" He proceeded to describe in mouth-watering detail how his restaurant used only the finest cheeses, handmade pasta and a wonderful slow-cooked sauce made from the freshest ingredients. By the time he was finished, all the people in the room were ready to finish their networking in his restaurant.

And then there was the gentleman who stunned his networking group by saying: "Did you ever want to shoot a relative? Call me, I'm a photographer!"

Here are some other notable memory hooks I've had the privilege of being hooked with over the years:

  • Chiropractor: "You'll feel fine when your spine's in line." Or, "We're always glad to see you're back."
  • Dentist: "We cater to cowards." Or, "My filling station is downtown, where I put the bite on decay."
  • Electrical contractor: "For your commercial and residential electrical needs.give us a call and we'll check out your shorts."
  • Hairdresser: "If your hair is not becoming to you, then you should be coming to me."
  • Lawyer: "Before you turn to dust, see me for your will or trust."
  • Maternity-shop owner: "We carry everything for you but the baby."
  • Plumber: "Remember, a flush is always better than a full house."
  • Realtor: "I help people find a home--not a house, but a home. Not a place where you live, but a place where you love to live."
  • Therapist: "I have the owner's manual for your mind."
  • Water filter representative: "Either buy a filter or be a filter."

I've always believed that memory hooks like these were money in the bank. One day, before starting a workshop I was giving in Glendale, California, for about 60 businesspeople, I watched as a young dentist stood up and gave his brief introduction to the assembled group: "I'm a dentist. I believe in the tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth, so help me God." After everyone finished laughing, he gave his name and phone number and sat down.

I realized this was the perfect opportunity to test my theory regarding people remembering memory hook presentations better than other presentations. So later in the morning, when I was talking to the group about the importance of well-though-out presentations, I asked for them all to stand. When they were all standing, I asked them, on the count of three, to point to the person who believed in "the tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth, so help me God." Not much to my surprise, all 60 people pointed to the dentist, without hesitation!

If you take the time to develop good introductions at group events, people will take notice. If you don't, you're losing a great opportunity to someone else who will.

The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Ivan Misner is founder and chairman of BNI, a professional business networking organization headquartered in Upland, Calif. He is co-author, with Hazel Walker and Frank De Raffele, of Business Networking and Sex: Not What You Think (Entrepreneur Press, 2012).
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