Something that I’ve come to appreciate during my time in higher ed is the value of face recognition. Whether it’s someone you’ve seen a dozen or more times or someone you just happen to randomly bump into 5 years ago in a stop and shop parking lot. Remembering the times and places we’ve met individuals along the road of life can be a hugely beneficial tool when we find ourselves diving headfirst into large national conventions.
My problem is, names. I have one of the best image memories of anyone I know, but when it comes to connecting that face to an actual name, title, etc. I am more often than not at a loss. Why won’t my brain just store everything nice and neatly in a filing cabinet format so I can connect these important details?
I know this is an area of weakness of mine. So recently I tested things out to see how I may still be able to take full utilization of my memories of interactions, and the product thus far has been quite fruitful. As I interact with folks either on campus, at small conferences, or at enormous conventions, there are 3 things I do.
- The business card / self email. Usually folks in the field have business cards. As many folks have learned, trading cards and writing the information of your conversation on the back for a refresher later on is very useful. I’ve also gotten in the habit of actually writing down the specific place, time, interaction, and any unique things that happened in that contact moment. It’s not even that I look back at all of the cards for reference, rather, I’ve found that simply writing it down increases the percentage of retained memory by an amazing sum. Unfortunately, at many of the larger conventions, lots of the attendees are grad students and new professionals who may not have cards yet to dole out. (Although the trend is changing thankfully!) To cover my bases there, I’ve actually been a digital nerd and will systematically send myself an email with all the persons info, our interaction, and a brief physical description, so that when I return home, I can still look back and make a mental recording for future interactions.
- Connect soon thereafter. I’ve been notorious for not connecting for months after conferences and institutes. As soon as my feet hit campus again I get thrown into the melee and the momentum to keep connected quickly dissipates. Its normally not until I’m cleaning out my car a few months later and I find the collection of business cards that I remember to reach out! This is a bad habit and I highly suggest you do not do the same. Rather, now I have found much better use for my time in airports and rest stops en route to the home turf. Instead of checking facebook or doing office triage from a distance, I take those minutes and hours and reach out almost immediately. In an ideal world my face and persona will be memorable for at least a couple days post meeting me, so that may just be the best time to engage in an initial follow-up dialogue. It’s been great creating and maintaining those relationships better.
- Find folks EVERYWHERE! LinkedIn is great, but with the way technology is, it’s actually incredibly easy to (in a healthy way) stalk those you’ve met on other platforms as well. Linking on LinkedIn is a good start, but then see if that individual has a facebook where you can become more of a pro-social acquaintance or friend. The other big one is Twitter. I seek and follow as many folks as I can that I meet in person at various places and events. Tweeting in many ways has become my new texting, and as such, it’s much easier to stay in touch leading up to the next possible opportunity to see each other, and also have great convos on things like #SAChat. Finally, using this time to find any blogs that those folks might author can be huge, as you are now able to create a mutually beneficial resource relationship.
Although it’s only been a few short months now, taking these actions have really advanced my ability to retain a face AND name connection with folks I’ve met. As we leap into our various conferences and conventions in the coming weeks and months, my hope is that the masses of folks I encounter will become new colleagues, connections and friends. For all of you, I wish the same! Figure out what works best for you to make connections that last both mentally and physically, and you will surely win big