Training December 2014

What’s Your Name Again?

A guide to remembering people

  • Give your own name first when greeting someone
  • Skill of memorising names can be learned
  • Process should be broken down and practised

Why are we so bad at remembering names? We meet someone at a networking function and 10 seconds later, we have forgotten their name. We see a familiar face at an event, but the name escapes us.

We crane our neck to get a glimpse of their name badge hoping to jog our memory. We feel the dread of embarrassment when we have to introduce two people we supposedly know, and are unable to remember either of their names.

In business, remembering names has got to be fundamental, but many people appear to be suffering a severe skill deficit in this area.

The major reason seems to be that we have no good methodology for remembering the names of others and, thus, are constantly unprepared and failing.

A great practice is to always proffer our own name first whenever greeting someone else, to potentially alleviate any embarrassment of our companion not recalling our name.

Here are some actions that will turn you from a serial name-forgetter into a name-remembering legend.

Concentrate on listening.

It sounds simple, but often we don’t catch someone’s name because we did not hear it clearly. We may be in a noisy venue full of distractions, all tempting us from the task in hand.

In that instant when the person says his or her name, we need to shut down everything else going on in our brain that is competing with our memory function and just focus on our task—to get the name and remember it.

Ask the person to repeat his or her name if you could not catch it. The name may have been difficult to hear, the person may be a rapid mumbler or you might be losing your hearing. The reasons vary, but if you did not get it, then request a repeat delivery.

The flip side is when we give our name. Have you ever listened to a voicemail message and have had to keep replaying the message to get the name because the person is speaking so fast and so indistinctly?

We must make sure we are slowing ourselves down and saying our own name clearly. Don’t rush your name; it is your brand after all. Try this formula: “Hello, (pause) my name is (pause) Greg (pause) Story” emphasising the surname with a bit more strength, than the personal name.

Try it, and you will find many more people will be able to hear your name clearly.

Take note of the person’s physical characteristics, for example height, weight, complexion and body language. Listen to his or her voice carefully. Is it distinctive due to a national or regional accent, or style of speech?

Look at their eye and hair colour. Try to visualise the personality—do you see him or her as dynamic, reserved, outgoing, or boring? Link the impression back to the name, for example “Dynamic Dan” or “Boring Barry”.

Repeat the name to yourself silently several times to get it fixed in your mind. Try giving yourself a pep talk, that goes something like: “I am good at remembering names; this is Bob Smith, Bob Smith, Bob Smith. I remember this is Bob Smith”. That repetition drives the name into your memory right at the start.

Use the name several times during your conversation. Instead of saying “what made you attend today’s event?” just add in the name by saying “Bob, what made you attend today’s event?” Obviously, you should avoid repeating the name every second word, lest you should come across as a rampant, name-recalling lunatic. The use should be natural and subtle.

Create a picture in your mind’s eye that is colourful, action-oriented and exaggerated; the more bizarre, the better. An exaggeration really drives the image into our brain for better recall of the name.

Use helpful acronyms to aid the process of remembering people’s names.

These include LIRA: Look and Listen, Impression, Repetition, Association; and PACE: Person (what is it about this person that is distinctive?), Action (what action can you associate with him or her?), Colour (what hair colour can you associate with him or her?), and Exaggeration (are there any exaggerations with which to associate him or her?).

So slow down, take your time with the name, fix it in your mind, and become the name-remembering legend you know you really are.