When I introduce myself to people, I always say, “Hi, I’m Virginia–like the state.”
I didn’t always say that. I used to say, “Hi, I’m Virginia–like the state but not after it.” I had a Great Aunt Virginia who was a sister to my paternal grandmother and, typically enough, I was named after her. Until I jokingly remarked to my dad how I would introduce myself like that:
“Oh, no, you’re named after the state.”
*record scratching sounds* “What.”
“Yeah, I like Civil War history and I liked the way Virginia Lee sounded so yeah you’re named after the state.”
For fucks sake. I should probably mention my father’s name is Robert. I don’t know what he, or my mom were thinking. We’re from the midwest and the great lakes region. Have been for generations.
Anyway! Growing up I didn’t hate my name but I couldn’t fathom why I wasn’t called Caitlin, or Kimberly, or Britney, or Kate, or any of the plethora of other, more popular, more 90s names. Virginia? I sounded like my own grandmother! As I got older, I liked more and more being the only Virginia under 60+. The name had a brief comeback in the late 2000s, but the name’s still pretty uncommon. Hooray for me!
Back to my introduction. After omitting the “but not after it” part of my standard intro, I learned about some of the techniques memory competitors use, such as the memory palace. Associating something you want to remember with something tangible is a useful trick to mastering recall. Turns out when I was introducing myself I was already doing this very thing for other people. I’ve had an extremely high rate of people who remember my name when I introduce myself as “like the state”. At worst, people called me Veronica or Victoria, which have the same first and last letters so that's in itself still a win.
When a friend sent me a t-shirt from Walmart with “VIRGINIA” emblazoned across the chest in colorful letters, I began to wear in in VO webinars to make me easier to identify (‘cause we all know by now zoom names do disappear after awhile if you don’t move the cursor).
I got more Virginia shirts. Then I started wearing them to conferences. “Like the state!” people would exclaim when they saw me. “See! It works!”
Works indeed. That’s why my website is VirginiaLikeTheState.com and my business card has a watercolor image of the state printed on it.
The funniest moments were at the most recent VO Atlanta when I wore my “Virginia is for Lovers” t-shirt and had about a half dozen different VOs come up to me saying “Where are you from?” and I would sort of blink dumbly at them, realize what they meant, and clarify, “Michigan. My name is Virginia–like the state.” Then we would laugh about it.
On the flip side of introductions I have a technique as well. When I meet someone new, I repeat the person’s name back to them. I do this to be sure I’m hearing it right and for some reason repeating helps me to remember it a little easier. Often, after hearing my spiel, they will give me an association back. “Jake, like rake but with a J” for example. Sometimes they would start to find something to associate, flounder a bit, and I would jump in and we’d figure it out together. A quick little bonding moment between strangers. I love that kind of thing!
Here’s a little tip from me to you: if you say the other person’s name once in a while in a positive way while talking to them, it makes you *really* likable. Think about it: How often do we hear our own names? It feels nice to be acknowledged, to be recognized, and hearing our names in a positive tone is lovely.
So how does this tie into branding?
I’m no master, but I like to think people find me likable and likable people tend to be remembered. Want to know a secret? Here it is: be candid af. Genuinely be interested in other people and they will pick up on it. And they will like you! This is especially handy in an industry (like VO, for example) where relationships are perhaps just as important as your skill.
Va the Vo
Actor, Vocal Pro, and Writer Extraordinaire!