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Making a good first impression can be crucial to anyone, but it’s especially so for entrepreneurs and those working in startups and small businesses. So how do you make a lasting impression, and even, how do you make sure you are remembering and registering all the connections you meet?

We spoke recently with Ana Devdariani, an expert in networking, whose people skills and conversation tactics have led to fulfilling personal and professional opportunities.

Says Ana: “I believe in networthing – making lasting connections by being fully present and invested in the people I meet. Whether I go for a casual, social mingle or have a major event, I make sure to be the best version of myself when I get there. I always make sure to know who will be there and why I am there.”

1. Be on time

If you come late, there is a big chance that you will get stressed and confused. But if you arrive earlier, you will have the opportunity to familiarise yourself with the environment and feel more safe and confident.

2. Be fed, warm and calm when you arrive

If you are hungry, cold or overly animated, your body will not be able to feel safe; relax and be present in the moment. Make sure that you have covered basic human needs, and you can focus on your mission for the day. Open your shoulders, keep your head up, smile when appropriate, and put away your phone!

3. Remember people’s names and faces

The mission is never meeting every single person in the room; I rather focus on making a few lasting connections. This way remembering the people I do meet also gets much easier!

Encounters usually start by exchanging names. When you see a person’s face and hear their name, make vivid associations in your mind – you can even rhyme their name with some funny word.

If you meet someone called Adam, you can focus on his face and imagine his eyes to be two big apples (like Adam’s apple). Next time you see him, you’ll remember his face, funny association with the apple and greet him by his name – Adam. If you already have a friend called Adam, try to connect these two people in your mind. Next time you meet him, you’ll remember your friend Adam and the name will come to you quickly.

Also, I make sure to present myself and pronounce my name clearly. As I do this, I channel my power – my organised energy and effort. This helps others to remember me!

4. Be original and memorable

“So what do you work with?” is an entirely uninspired opening question. Most likely, the person has already answered this a dozen times. You can still keep it professional, while you show that you are interested in them and care to ask a deeper question. Try to find a twist – “What motivated you to start your current job?”

If you want to take it even further, you can pay the person an original compliment. Avoid commenting on their looks. Go for something they said or did on that occasion. Then they will remember you as the individual they met who asked an interesting or challenging question, or made them feel appreciated or noticed.

5. Keep in touch

Handing out business cards is not very environmentally friendly in 2017. Besides, If you collect too many, you’ll probably lose track of who is who. Instead, ask them to add you on LinkedIn (if it’s not an option, follow them on other social networks)! It’s a great platform, simply because of all the information it contains – their name, photo, and occupation. That way you can look back and make sure that you remember the person next time you meet them.

As you follow-up, make yourself useful by keeping them updated with news or events that may be relevant to them. They’ll appreciate that you remembered something they would be interested in, and it makes for a great opportunity to meet again.

Never lie, and avoid making promises that you do not want to keep. If someone asks you to lunch, don’t say yes if you really aren’t able to. Lasting connections build on trust, and the latter is rarely recovered once it’s broken.

Networking is never just about meeting as many people as you can. It’s about finding commonalities and opportunities to share with others. Networking is important for entrepreneurs and small businesses, as they present new ways to find partnerships, new customers and clients, and expand your business naturally.

Ana Devdariani is the head of PR and communications at Ideon Innovation, where she especially understands that networking and meeting people is imperative to new and growing businesses. She recently hosted Workshoppa where she taught networking skills and let us in on these top tips for entrepreneurs who want to be remembered.