Would you rather write your next article on a typewriter—or go to a networking function and try to remember the names of everyone you meet?
Pass me the bond paper.
I’m horrible with names. I shake hands with someone, the person says his or her name and within 10 seconds I’ve forgotten the moniker. It doesn’t matter if I’m meeting a new neighbor or my counterpart at one of our competitors—the name does not stick.
As PR and communications professionals, we know the importance of building rapport and maintaining relationships with clients. It’s not always easy when you can’t remember the name of the woman sitting next to you at lunch.
Don’t fear: There are plenty of techniques and tricks from business pros and memory experts to help you remember names. Here are several:
1. Pay attention to the person’s name when it’s said.
This may seem obvious, but it’s not always easy to do.
Sometimes people introduce themselves and then jump right in and ask a question. You might be focused on the question and not pay attention to the name—or maybe you’ve been introduced to a big group of people at the same time and you don’t remember who was who.
Do your best to register each name as it’s pronounced.
2. Say the name out loud as soon as possible.
Repeat the name to yourself and then use it in a sentence:
“It’s nice to meet you, Cindy. What did you need my help with?”
Then repeat the name to yourself. End the conversation by using the name again:
“I’ll be looking for that email from you, Cindy.”
3. Comment on the name.
This might seem like something George Costanza from “Seinfeld” would do, but finding a way to comment on the name can help:
“I have a cousin named Cindy.”
“Is your last name one word or two?”
“What does your last name mean?”
4. Associate the name with something meaningful.
If the person’s name is Brian and your brother is named Brian, tie them together. Picture them standing next to each other.
Here’s another trick: Associate names with what people tell you about themselves. For example:
Peter owns his own PR firm, has two boys and likes to play soccer.
5. Form a visual association between the face and the name.
From the person’s physical appearance, create a mental picture of one thing that stands out and associate that with the name. If Sarah is short, remember “short Sarah.” Make a note that David Green has brown eyes.
6. When possible, look at nametags and business cards.
As you are speaking, keep the person’s business card in your hand. Glance at the name on the card and at the person, or from the name tag to the person. (Be careful when glancing at the nametag, so it doesn’t seem awkward.)
This will help you associate the face with the name. After the event, write notes about the person on the back of his or her business card.
7. Use an app.
If these tips fail, there are several apps designed to help you remember names:
- Nameshark enables you to store names and photos and assign contacts to groups. It will also quiz you to help you remember names.
- Namerick enables you enter information about the person you just met and it uses mnemonics, keywords and reminders to keep the name in your brain.
- Nameorize will remind you of new names that you enter at specific intervals (10 minutes, 24 hours, five days, two weeks).
8. Be upfront.
Don’t try to hide it if you can’t remember someone’s name. Mumbling or guessing a name can make the situation even more awkward. Instead, come right out with it: “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”
Ragan readers, how do you remember names?
Laura Hale Brockway is writer and editor from Austin, Texas. Read more of her work on PR Daily and at Impertinent Remarks.