Ten Tricks To Help You Remember Names

business networkingDo you find it difficult remembering names? I sure do.  It’s very frustrating. I’ll meet someone new, and the first thing we do is tell each other our names.  Then we talk for a few moments and the name is gone. I’m left standing with this person, who I may have actually connected with and want to talk to again, and all I can do is hope that someone will come up and say their name.  Even if someone does say the name, or I do think to ask again, the euphoria of that dodged bullet is short lived because moments later, poof. It’s gone. Does this happen to you?

Tomorrow I’ll be heading to New Media Expo (formerly Blog World) where bloggers, podcasters and online content creators of all kinds get together to share ideas.  The reason I go to conferences like this is more for the networking than the content.  Don’t get me wrong, there are A LOT of really smart speakers and presentations, but if that were all I were interested in, I would save a lot of money and just buy the virtual pass. No, I’m a huge believer in taking things offline and meeting people face to face.  Almost every great business opportunity I’ve had, started with a conversation.  So I make it my business to have as many conversations with smart people as I can.  But big conferences like NMX are only great networking opportunities, IF you can remember the names of the people you meet!

A few years ago I was in a venture developing iPhone apps that helped people learn and memorize things.  In the process I did a lot of research about the science of memory and learning.  People much smarter than me have figured out how the brain takes in data, and developed methods and techniques that help you learn and memorize things quicker, and retain what you learn. I thought it would be helpful to review my old research before heading to NMX, and share the techniques here to help you remember the names of people you meet.

How To Remember Names

Generally speaking, the reason you forget someone’s name moments after you hear it is because you do not link it in your mind with enough associations.  Here are some things you can do to fix that:

  1. Really listen and pay attention when the person says their name. If you miss it or forget it a few seconds later, say “I’m sorry I missed your name. Could you tell me again?” Doing this early on is never embarrassing.  If you have trouble understanding the name, say, “I’m sorry, could you spell that for me?”
  2. Repeat the name immediately, and incorporate it into your conversation as early and often as possible without over doing it. Some great openers are:  It’s nice to meet you, Jane.  So Jane,…  or  Tell me, Jane,…
  3. Every time someone is introduced to you, look around you. Who’s there? Take in as many and wide a variety of surrounding facts and circumstances as possible.
  4. Think of the person’s name, and take a good look at their face. Observe how they are dressed, their physique, their voice and manner.
  5. Think of their name in conjunction with the name and personality of the friend who may have introduced you.
  6. Use mnemonic devices or alliteration to help you remember names- Tony from Toronto,  Bob who may give me a job, …
  7. If your name is hard to remember or pronounce for others, help them out. For example I pronounce my name Ian, as {eye-in}.  Most people pronounce it {ee-in}. So I often say ,”it’s like Ryan, without the R.”
  8. Try to make as much of your conversation about them as possible. This is good for a lot of reasons, not just remembering the other person’s name,  but the more you get to know about them the more you will be able to associate with their name.
  9. Introduce them to someone else you know.  This is not only a great way to repeat their name, but it gives you a safety net if you forget to do all of the other things on the list.
  10. Write the name down after your conversation.  Make note of the name and something about your conversation that you will remember later.  If you exchange business cards, write something memorable about your conversation on the back.

In general,  memory is not some feature of the mind where some of us are more generously endowed than others.  It’s just a matter of developing good habits.  Your memory is like a muscle. You can develop and grow it through exercise, or you can neglect it and let it atrophy.  I want to be one of those people who remember names.  It’s important and it makes the people you meet feel important.

What about you?  Do you have any tricks you use to help you remember names?  Please share them in the comments.