Friday, January 11, 2013

What's Your Name Again?

I'm not just one in a million, I'm one in 1.75 billion.

Turns out there are four Erik Deckers in the entire world. There are three in Belgium, and I'm the only one in the United States. And I totally own those guys on Google.

In fact, if you Google my name, you won't find any of them for the first several hundred results, which I'm sure bugs them to no end. But if you keep digging, you'll find a few entries for the Erik Deckers who is a real estate agent in Brussels.

I've thought about getting business cards that say "Just Google me," but that seems a little arrogant, even for the only Erik Deckers in the entire western hemisphere.

But even though I can claim this unique title all to myself, people still have trouble remembering my name. Sometimes they don't even bother learning it.

I am often called Buddy, Dude, Partner — partner? What are we, cowboys? — or the occasional Bro, especially by bartenders and baristas.

"What can I get you, Bro."

"Dude, I have a name."

"What is it?"

"Erik."

"Okay thanks, Buddy."

But while I'm not really into being greeted like a long lost frat brother, I'm not a big fan of the word "sir" either. I may have earned the honorific because I've managed to survive this long, but that doesn't mean I like it. There needs to be a middle term, one that denotes respect but doesn't make the recipient feel like he's tottering along on a cane.

Once, when some fresh-faced restaurant hostess barely out of high school asked, "what's your name, sir?" I said "Deckers."

"No, what's your first name?" she asked

"Mister."

"Thwack!" went my wife's hand on my shoulder.

"Erik," I corrected.

For the most part, I make sure people know who I am through business networking, using social media, and anything else to help them remember my name.

But it doesn't always work.

Several years ago, when I worked for my father-in-law, I visited a number of trade shows in different parts of the world every year. We always saw the same people, show after show, country after country. For some of us, this was the only time to reconnect with our friends.

We were even friends with one guy who lived six miles away in our tiny town of 10,000 people, and went to our church. We could go for months without seeing him, but always saw him every January at our big trade show in Atlanta, twelve hours from home.

Even seven years later, as I've reached out to some people from those days, they still remember my name, remember the company, and even remember my family.

But there was one guy who, no matter how many times I met him, always reintroduced himself to me, time and again. Two or three times a year for five years.

"Hi, I'm Jim."

"Yes, I know. We met in Germany last November."

Now, to be fair, this was a guy who ran a large company that employed 100 or so people, and he met dozens more at every trade show. But I saw him two and three times a year at the same trade shows.

After the third or fourth time meeting me, most people remember my name and where we met. Not this guy. It didn't matter how many times we met and talked, he never remembered me. We once spent two hours smoking cigars and talking about scotch at his company's party. We bonded. We found common ground. We spoke as men do. If nothing else, I would at least be "that guy who smoked cigars with me."

Several months later, I bumped into him at another trade show, where he reintroduced himself to me again.

"Jim, I know. We've met before. Many times. We smoked cigars at your party in January, remember?"

"Oh yeah, I remember that," he said, clearly not remembering it.

There was nothing actually wrong with his memory. He didn't have Alzheimer's or anything. I know, because he remembered meeting my wife and mother-in-law. Two years before.

One year, my wife, her mother, and I chatted with Jim for 10 minutes at one of his parties. Two years later, the three of us bumped into Jim at the same trade show. Where he hailed my mother-in-law and wife by name.

And then re-introduced himself to me.

"Hey, it's good to meet you. . . Buddy."

I said, "Thanks, Jim. You look familiar to me. Have we met before?"




The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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