The world we live in moves very fast, and so do the people within it. There are more people and things vying for our attention, and we’re constantly trying to keep up. We skim emails, watch the first few seconds of videos, and scroll through headlines, looking for just a quick hit, just the gist, so we can move on to the next thing.
So how can we, as individuals, make a lasting impression? How can we be more memorable in a quick-hit culture?
Lead with the most important information first.
We can learn a lot from journalists in how we present information to the world. News articles don’t lead with backstory or take the time to set the scene; they grab your attention with the most important information first, then trickle down from there. If you only read the headline and the first paragraph of a news article, you won’t know everything, but you’ll get the essence of it, and hopefully, you’ll be intrigued enough to read more.
When people visit your website or your social media pages, they’re not going to scroll through pages of content to paint the full picture of who you are. They’re going to read the headlines, look at the photos, and scan a few lines of content. Then, they’ll make a decision about whether or not they want to move on.
When I meet people at networking events, most lead with their name and their industry affiliation, which isn’t necessarily the most compelling information. For example, my wife used to meet people and say, “I’m Nicole and I work in finance.” Not surprisingly, there were a lot of blank stares, then a transition in the conversation. Now, she leads with, “I’m Nicole and I help working mothers in the corporate sector achieve more meaningful roles.” –She has noticed that those she meets are more likely to take interest and continue the conversation after that intro.
Brainstorm the various aspects of who you are. This can include your job, but more than that, it should include things you’re passionate about, things that make you unique, and most importantly, the things you want to be known for. You may be bartending while you work on the next great American novel, but do you want to be known as a bartender or a novelist? You may be a publicist or a marketer, but that will leave you lumped into a general category with all the rest. What kind of publicity or marketing do you do? What makes your work, or you, interesting and unique? Whatever it is, that is what you should lead with, both online and in-person.
Some of you may feel self-conscious about making this shift, and that’s understandable. Societal norms tell us to identify with our primary jobs or the thing we spend the most time doing. We get imposter syndrome and feel like we’re misleading people by starting out with the thing we want to be associated with rather than what we deem to be the most visible aspect of our current reality. We fear that identifying with something we’re passionate about rather than the official title of the work we do to pay the rent could come across as “showing off.”
Please check these concerns at the door.
If you sit down and write on a regular basis, and that’s what you want to be known for, then by all means, call yourself a writer. If you spend most of your time in corporate employment, but are passionate about volunteering and charitable giving, then call yourself a philanthropist. It doesn’t matter if that’s your primary gig. I’m not entering the Olympics anytime soon, but I still call myself a triathlete. Our job titles, our education, our “current status” do not define us unless we let them. We decide what we want to be known for.
We’re constantly battling between a culture that moves too fast for build-up and backstory, and one that also discourages bragging or being too forward. We need to capture people’s attention in an instant, but feel self-conscious about giving an elevator pitch in those precious seconds.
You can. In fact, you should. If you lead with the most important information first, you will become more memorable and make a lasting impression on everyone you meet, both online and in-person.
Not sure whether or not you’re making a lasting impression? Take this quiz to find out: