December 8, 2008

Name-drop with care



Last year, I had a conversation with a colleague about a possible business partnership. During the conversation, he dropped the names of at least ten Internet marketers he knows. I hadn't heard of most of them, which I'm sure was frustrating for him, being unable to suitably impress me with his connections.

Not only was I not impressed, but I felt less likely to do business with this person because he seemed to be putting on a show rather than being authentic with me.

I'm sharing this article with you today about name-dropping because, as a speaker or as someone networking to build your business, you have to understand that most of the time name-dropping doesn't work the way you hope it will.

In the study referenced in the article above,

"...an individual mentioned his or her association with tennis champion Roger Federer during a get-acquainted conversation. The individual was liked less and perceived as less competent when s/he associated her/himself closely with Roger Federer, and was not perceived as more sporty."

And:

"The participants also rated how manipulative they thought their future research partner was and it was clear from these scores that claiming to be friends with Federer backfired because it led the name-dropping students to appear manipulative."

(The article mentions that the only time name-dropping seems to work is if your audience has just seen you "fail." But the article doesn't make the context of "failing" clear.)

Name-dropping is a common tactic in business situations, where someone tries to impress you with how important they are because they know certain people. Is there anyone who doesn't see how transparent and manipulative name-dropping is? Do name-droppers have the same negative perceptions of others who name-drop, but don't recognize they're doing the same thing?

Name-dropping during networking can work for you only if it's subtle, relevant to the conversation, and relevant to the other person's interests. After all, you and the other person might actually find that you know some of the same people. But picking names out of a hat to drop into a conversation will rarely work.

And if you're going to name-drop, keep the number of names to a minimum. If you think you know someone they know, go ahead and mention it. But don't keep throwing out names just because you think it's impressive. It rarely is.

8 comments. Please add yours! :

Rich Hopkins, Speaker, Author, Coach said...

Hmm. Everytime I tell people I know @lisabraithwaite people are tremendously impressed :)

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Well, that's just a given. :-)

Dr. Jim Anderson said...

There's nothing sadder than dropping a name and having the other person recognize it (sorry Lisa).

However, what's worked much better for me is to share past experiences with potential customers. Just as in speaking, stories seem to really stick with people.

Adding a name to a story just looks like you are providing more detail, not showing off. Everything has to be done in moderation, but I've had success with this approach.

- Dr. Jim Anderson
The Accidental Communicator Blog
"Learn How To Calm Your Fears, Wow Your Audience, And Get Your Point Across"

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Stories are always a good way to get your message across, and apparently a great way to name-drop, too! Thanks.1

Raj said...

I have always tried and used the names of some motivational authors like Chris Widener, Zig Zagler, Bob Urichuk whom i have written to and who have been kind enough to respond with their tips on my queries. Do you think its bad - even if i am not drawing a comparison with them - am just illustrating their examples and words to motivate others to take some action to be better humans or better speakers!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Hi Raj,

As long as you're honest about the relationship you have with the person, and don't try to make it more than it is -- or just use the relationship to try to impress people -- they will understand.

Carolyn, A Jersey Girl said...

The more someone tries to impress me the less impressed I am :)

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Me too! It's so sad when they don't get that.

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