Never Forget a Name Again

By Jendayi Harris

“Hi, I’m Peter.”


“Hey, I’m the new guy, John.”


“Glad to meet you, feel free to stop by anytime.”


“Will do. Ugh, what’s your name again?” 


My bet is it isn't looking like a great first impression for the new guy.


You’ve been there, someone you just introduced yourself to, forgets your name within seconds. Or you were the one to forget. It doesn’t feel good at either end. You’ve made the excuse, I can’t remember names or worse, tried a strategy that associated Kate with Kangaroos or Donald with Donald Duck. Not cool, current or necessary to do this.


A large part of productivity is effective internal and external networking, productive meetings and engaging training sessions you lead. To be more effective make it a point to recall names.

When you take a moment to remember who you are talking to, that person feels more open to what you have to say. Wouldn’t you be more perked up in your meetings if the facilitator knew your name? When you can use a name any minute, it increases the unpredictable factor that causes eyes and ears to focus in on your teaching exponentially. It also causes people to have instant respect for you, because you showed respect for them.


Would you like to increase your sense of participant engagement or connection in your meetings? An amazing way to gain more connection and to express that you care is to learn everyone’s names, by memory.


Don’t believe me, hear from participants that it can be done:


“Loved that you remembered everyone’s name- made it feel like you actually cared that we learned.”


“Side Note: very impressive that you remembered everyone’s names with no reminders – definitely keeps everyone accountable during the seminar.”


“I am surprised that you can remember all of our names to the “T” by just asking the names once.”

I speak, train and coach in productivity for a living, and was asked by an observing facilitator, “How did you do that?”


I realized my strategy was oblivious to me. What exactly was I doing to recall upwards of 30 to 40 names a pop? Could I teach her as she requested? So, a year ago, I started teaching others how to do this and found that it was transferable to others. So, sadly, I’m not special. Anyone can do this!


If people are important to you, increase your sense of human care with this 4 step name recall strategy:


Step 1: Introduce yourself to everyone individually. Say, “Hello, I’m (your name), your [instructor, project leader, vendor, meeting facilitator], what’s your name?”, and they will automatically introduce themselves. Use your first name, as it encourages them to use only their first name which is easier to store in your short term memory. Collect about 3 to 5 names at a time then move to step 2 and 3.


Step 2: Repeat names in your head a couple times. If they say, “Steve, Sharon, Yolanda, Kenneth and Mike” you can repeat this sequence of names in your head a couple of times. Look at them when you are doing this to create a mental picture. Sometimes you are doing this as you head back to your computer area to complete step 3.


Step 3: Write down the names. You only have to do this one time for it to support the short term memory’s temporal lobe. Once you collect a group of names from your introductions, write the names on a sheet of paper, create a diagram of the room if applicable and make a note of the names and where they are sitting in the room. Now, repeat steps 1-3 as needed until all participants are on your diagram. If you can’t write it down, just skip this step and go to step 4.


Step 4: Say the names as soon as you can. If your class does introductions, use their name to say who goes next. Call on them by name to share a slide. When someone makes a comment your presentation use his or her name. Using the name often helps you recall it. 

It’s really that simple. Test it out and have fun with it. It will strengthen your overall memory especially the temporal lobe (short term memory) and it will create a greater sense of connection to anyone you encounter.

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