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Try the Forrest Gump Rule for Effective Networking

By: Bonnie Coffey


So that I can catch up with what’s going on the world, I regularly listen to our regional NPR station in the mornings as I shower and get ready for a brand new day. Not a fan of endless, babbling, overly emotional productions, I much prefer the calmer way businesses advertise their goods and services on this commercial-free format.

As I was putting on my makeup and staring into my magnified mirror, one such short spot caught my ear. It was for a plumbing company that specializes in just about any plumbing service you can imagine—residential, commercial, new construction, they handle it all. It was the way they ended their spiel that made me think they’d attended one of my F2F networking workshops somewhere along the way. After talking about the great ways in which this particular company would provide quality services at competitive prices (which we all hear all the time), the announcer ended with, “Clarke Kent Plumbing—that’s ‘Clarke’ with an ‘e.'”
As someone who teaches the skills and strategies of effective F2F networking, I want you to handle your name with tender loving care and not just blurt it out when you introduce yourself to a conversational partner. Instead, teach the other person your name so they will actually remember it—6 minutes, 6 weeks or 6 months—from when you first meet. Help the person with your name with the intention that they’ll actually remember it! Mr. Kent has found a way to distinguish a fairly common name so that when you look for his business in the phone book (because who has a pen and pencil when they’re applying eye makeup or in 5 pm traffic??) or try to recall it from memory, you’ll know exactly how to look up his company.
When introducing yourself, use what we call the “Forrest Gump” rule: repeat your first name twice. In a busy F2F networking event, there’s a lot of ambient noise, and you want to make sure the other person clearly hears your name. Find a unique way to help your partner remember your last name. I used to use a hyphenated name, saying “Allmon-Coffey;” unfortunately, that sounds too much like the special down at Starbucks, so I now simply say, “My name is Bonnie, Bonnie Coffey.  It’s like what you buy at Starbucks, but with an ‘e-y.'” I’m still waiting for my lifetime supply of this famous retailer’s brew for my part in providing valuable PR, but so far, no such luck.
Of course, there’s lots of fun that could be had with Mr. Kent’s name—he could, for example, work with the obvious connection. He could be the mild-mannered professional who turns into Superman to solve all your residential and commercial plumbing problems!
What other tricks have you used to help people remember you?
Published: September 24, 2013

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Bonnie Coffey

Bonnie Coffey is a business and community leader and, as a Certified Trainer and Associate with Contacts Count, LLC, she teaches the skills and strategies of face-to-face (F2F) networking for professional and personal success. Her far-reaching career has impacted business, political, financial, and leadership organizations throughout the country. Her client list includes AARP® Foundation, Heinz Family Philanthropies, U.S. Department of Labor–Women’s Bureau, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, American Chemical Society, Decorating Den, American Business Women’s Association (ABWA), McCombs School of Business/University of Texas at Austin, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Union Pacific. She’s been featured in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine, Creative Training Techniques, Women in Business and has been a columnist with the Lincoln Journal Star since 2001.  Her book, “Dreams for Our Daughters,” embodies her belief in the future of our next generation of women leaders.

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