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.
I don’t know how people who code for a living keep their sanity in check.
For context, I made my own website, using Weebly (now Squarespace). I originally used the free template, then I moved onto a paid tier so I would have a cleaner url and F E A T U R E S like SEO (that’s “search engine optimization” to you (and me) non-IT nerds. (Basically it’s a way search engines find your website. The more SEO tags the page has the more likely google and its ilk will find the page (God, I love parentheticals))).
I liked the idea of a website template that is simple to use, is drag and drop, and doesn’t have too many options to slog through. A friend recommended I try Weebly when I was first facing the fact that I needed a website.
As if being an artist isn’t expensive enough!
But I concede the importance of being easily found when one wants to be seen. Or in my case, heard. A website equals online presence. A good website, in my mind (me not being a coder), is something that is clean, easy to navigate, visually pleasing and balanced, and most importantly WORKS.
A few iterations of my website ago I decided I admired the simplicity of a smooth scrolling webpage. That’s one single page with buttons at the top that take a visitor to a specific part of that one page instead of having to slog through multiple pages of material. Considering how little time I know I have to catch someone’s attention if they’re visiting my page for the first time, I wanted to give them the pertinent stuff and weed out the fluff. I think there’s still a little too much fluff on my home page, but I have a tendency to cut too much of the fat when we all know fat equals flavor (did I mention I was a chef once?) so for now it remains.
ANYWAY, genius I am, I decided to try my hand at coding. Lord save me. I now have a lot of respect for what coders go through, after the little I was exposed to! Like any technology, it’s beautiful when it works but damn when it doesn’t it’s such a pain in the ass to figure out why it won’t.
It took days of feeling like my eyes were getting smaller and smaller as I slogged through instructions that oft didn’t work. Until finally. FINALLY. It did. And it was glorious! And glorious it remained.
Until I started this blog.
Turns out smooth scrolling only works on the page it’s coupled to! I wanted to have a separate page for this blog, to keep some kind of divide between my writing and my work-related VO stuff (check it out here!). But whenever I tried to click on the navigation link to my vocal samples or to my contact page from the blog I couldn’t get it to work. Nowhere seemed to have an answer to solve this particular coupling issue. I nearly bricked my webpage a couple of times. I felt like I was inching closer and closer to being SOL and needing to buy yet another webpage. Knowing how little time I have to keep a visitor’s attention I needed to figure out a way to remove any guessing and confusion.
If nothing else, I am very, very good at just making things work. It took me hours but I did it! Kinda! Now I’ve got a shiny, simple TAKE ME HOME! button for visitors who somehow end up here.
Sorry! And you’re welcome! ?
Va the Vo
Actor, Vocal Pro, and Writer Extraordinaire!