How (and why) to remember names

How to remember names

Photo: Bronwen Evans

Tricks to help remember names

“Let’s start by going around the room and introducing ourselves. Haha  – don’t worry, we wont test you!”

But what if they did?

I was at a writers’ meeting last night. The guest speaker was author and blogger Kristen Lamb from Texas. My hat goes off to anyone who can speak for two hours without drawing breath!

But Kristin had another great party trick.  She remembered all our names. How we warmed to her!

Gareth is it? Hello Gareth, good to meet you. And Kura. Kura, that’s a Maori name? Kura, yes I see. Hello Jackie. Tell me what you write, Jackie.

You see what she was doing here. Repetition, repetition, repetition.

I was on a boat in Fiji once and one of the crew came around over the course of the morning to chat to the tourists, about 50 of us in all.  He asked my name and asked how to spell it – with or without an h? Friendly guy.  We stopped on a deserted island for lunch (that was absolutely as good as it sounds) and he introduced us all to each other. There were some pretty tricky names.  I’ll never forget that, we all felt so welcome. But, to my, shame, I have forgotten his name. It started with an M.

There is a lot written about how to remember names. It takes practice, of course.  But boy! is it a great skill to master. I can’t tell you how good it makes me feel when someone remembers me – me – in a big group of people.  How rewarding it must be to make people feel like that.

Here are my favourite recommendations to help remember people’s names:

1. What if you knew your life was going to depend on you remembering the names of all 12 people sitting around a table. Would you remember them? Of course you would!
Point one: Focus.

2. And repetition, Cris. See above, Cris. Now Cris will explain some other suggestions. Thanks, Cris.

3. Write their name on their forehead with red paint. Not literally, obviously.

4. Link to a picture. Actually, I do this. I’m a visual person (yes, I know, that’s tantamount to saying “I’m a bit thick”) so I pictured Kristen Lamb fluffy in the paddock – probably not her normal habitat. I’m thinking that will stick.

5. Link with words. I passed Paul in the hall.  Jenny spent a penny.  Mark’s dark. Billy’s silly and if Bob really is a builder, you’re in luck.  You have to be fast for this if you’re being introduced to a group – sure it gets easier with practice.

6. Park a name on a feature and plan to come back and get it later. David’s parked on those bushy eyebrows. Pip’s on the steely grey hair. Greg’s parked on that big nose. I think this works because you have to focus on the person to study their face (see point 1).

7. Make a point of saying goodbye. If you’ve forgotten someone’s name by then – tell them you’ve forgotten, they’ll be pleased you want to remember.

8. After your meeting if you do want to keep in touch and remember people, when you enter their name in your database make the effort to add a profile photo. When you call, or before a meeting that’s a great reinforcement. And occasionally, when you’re really bored, go through your file and try to put names to all your photos.

OK my book club friends – it’s only been a couple of years. I’m starting with you!