A memorable 1st impression is easier than taking a bite out of Elvis

How do you make a memorable first impression? I’ll tell you how one aspiring entertainer made sure The King of Rock’n Roll wouldn’t forget him, but before we go to extremes let’s try an easier method…

We live in a fast-paced world. I’ve discussed in past articles how technology has changed the way we receive information. Television and radio commercials have become 20-second blasts of entertainment, often humorous and creative, that grab our attention long enough to deliver the advertiser’s message.

A great first impression should do the same. Today it takes more than a firm handshake and a toothy smile followed by boring small talk such as:

  • “Nice weather we’re having, isn’t it?”

Your ice-breaker should lay the groundwork for new opportunities. And if you don’t know what to say, then it’s time to stop thinking about the weather and come up with a winning game plan.

Whether you’re looking to move up in your career or move on to a better one, what you say and how you say it can make you the “go to person” and set you apart from the competition. One way is to strike up a conversation by using a hook.

  • So… what is a hook?

The idea is based on the technique shared in a past newsletter (Truth + Creativity & Humor = Conversations). It gives you an opportunity to show your personality, which always counts. And if you have one (I know you do!) there’s no reason why you can’t use it for your benefit.

  • So… what is a hook?

Imagine you’re fishing with an invisible rod and reel. But instead of going for fish, you cast out a conversation starter that grabs the attention of the person you’re meeting. If you make it interesting by referring to a topic they can relate to, it should hook them into continuing the conversation.

I’ll admit I didn’t invent this technique. I’m only sharing it, with a few refinements. During my career as a talent coordinator in Hollywood, I watched some of the best communicators in the world practice this night after night. Their goal, like yours, was to catch and hold the attention of listeners.

These great communicators were stand-up comedians. And their careers depended on having successful, creative and, of course, funny conversations with audiences. Here are a few examples of million-dollar, attention-grabbing comedy hooks:

  • “Did’ya ever notice…” (Jerry Seinfeld)
  • “I don’t get no respect…” (Rodney Dangerfield)
  • “You might be a redneck if…” (Jeff Foxworthy)

Of course these hooks wouldn’t work as well in a professional business setting, but they are attention grabbers and memorable enough to be called famous. And once you hear them, you want to know what the comedian will say next.

  • How do you create a business conversational hook?

It’s simple. Find a topic you know your listener can relate to. For best results, make it something current and you’ve both experienced. Look around your settings and become an observer and commentator. For example, you both might have encountered rush hour traffic driving to your meeting place, or met over a cup of coffee during a needed break.

Borrowing a song introduction that’s been overused by more than a few bad lounge singers, the potential conversation, “Goes a little something like this…”

  • You: “How are you?”
  • Reply: “Fine. How are you?”

And like a bad lounge singer on cruise control, your verbal efforts could hit a dead end because all you can come back with might be…

  • Automatic You: “I’m fine. Thanks.”

Ouch! How often have we heard potential conversations stall because of this automatic (you’ve said it so often that no thought is required or needed) reply? It’s become such an instinctive and common reply that – from many people – it sounds insincere. They’re just saying “words.” It’s not conversation.

And even if you try to change it up with a different, but also overused reply, there’s a good chance boring small talk (yawn) will creep in…

  • Dull You: “I’m fine. Nice weather we’re having.”

That’s a conversation-starter that will single you out from the pack – right?

Wrong!

Instead, this is where you should be creative and hook your listener (Truth + Creativity & Humor = Conversations)…

  • Creative You: “I’m fine. In fact I’m great. This coffee tastes good after that drive this morning. Did you go through the same traffic? I’m positive they have speed limits around here…”

Okay, it’s not comedy club “Ha-Ha” worthy, but then again, we’re not trying to be stand-up comedians. The example was based on topics you could both relate to (driving and/or coffee) and included thoughts and opinions (personality). Chances are your listener will have a reply, allowing the conversation to continue. The goal is to make you remembered, build new connections, strengthen old ones, and improve networking.

If the person you’re talking to bites the hook – you’ll have a conversation that should make you more memorable than someone still dishing out boring small talk (yawn).

And now, speaking of bites, I promised you an extreme example of making a first impression. A newsletter subscriber who works at a very famous medical center emailed the following story. I know she won’t mind if I share it:

I recall a guy talking about meeting Elvis. He was an up and coming singer at the time so to meet Elvis, who was an icon, was very exciting. What he did though was drop down on the floor – grabbed Elvis’ leg and bit him on the ankle. Needless to say Elvis was taken aback and shouted, “What’s wrong with you man?” To which the less known singer said, “Well, if I had just shook your hand that would be it. But now you’ll remember me.” Elvis had to laugh as it was certainly true and this story has survived for 40 years.
It might have worked on Elvis, but for everyone else a creative verbal hook should be enough to (excuse me while I quote another million dollar hook) – “Git-R-Done.”

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Dave Schwensen is a nationally recognized comedy coach and author. He facilitates training seminars, breakout sessions and keynotes in communication skills and is a Pinnacle Award Winner from CILC (Center For Interactive Learning and Collaboration) for video conferences. Topics include leadership, networking, team-building and customer service.

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