Remembering Names: How to

Whether you are managing a small project, a large program, or even an entire organization, it is important and good business etiquette to remember the names of your team members, peers, customers, and suppliers. You only get one chance to make a good first impression and immediately forgetting someone’s name is not a good start.

Clearly, we always want to make a good first impression, especially as it conveys to people immediately that we’re interested in them, and helps us to make friends and win supporters more easily, both in the workplace and outside of it. Here are some tips to help you remember people’s names.

Tip 1: Make a Map

I’ve been using this tip for years, but have yet to see it written down anywhere. If you’re new to the job and have just been shown to your desk, one of the very first things you should do is quickly sketch the office layout in your notebook, marking all the desks. Then as you are introduced to people in the office you can record their name against their location in the office. Use discretion, write their name in your book only after you’ve finished your introduction.

If you need to you can annotate your map as your see fit to aid your memory. Imagine how nice a feeling it is to know the name of everyone in the office at the end of your first day.

Tip 2: Concentrate

In most situations you’re not going to be able to use the map tip above, so you’re going to have to concentrate. Stop thinking about yourself for a moment and concentrate on the other person as you are introduced to them. As they say their name to you, remember to smile and make eye contact. Repeat their name back to them as soon as you can, and say it frequently as you converse with them to help you remember it.

Tip 3: Ask Questions

Often you will come across names you haven’t heard before. This is especially true if you work in a global organization. The name you hear on first being introduced might be sound so complex to your ear that you can’t even play it back to them. In this case, start asking questions. Tell them you’ve never heard that name before, that it sounds unusual and interesting. Ask them how to pronounce it and where it originates from.

Tip 4: Remembering Multiple Names

We’ve all been in situations where we are introduced to a number of people at the same time. Has it ever happened to you that having been introduced to the last person in the group,  you’ve suddenly forgotten everyone’s name?

I, along with 50 other business people, was at business conference two years ago where a magician was arranged to provide entertainment between the courses of our evening meal. Along with performing tricks to the whole room between courses, he would visit individual tables whilst people we’re eating and perform an intimate trick for the table.

At the end of his performance he finished the evening by thanking us for our participation and for being such a great audience. But he didn’t just thank the group. He stood at the head of the room and thanked each of us by name, individually, one by one. It was an amazing thing to witness, and it didn’t take long for us to remember that he had asked us our names whilst performing the intimate magic tricks at each table.

Afterwards, I thought to myself, that this skill that would be great to have in business. Imagine walking into a room of strangers and having total recall of everyone’s name. Everyone would appreciate that you had remembered their name, and there wouldn’t be any of the embarrassment of not being able to remember who you agreed to email/speak to/write to during the meeting.

The best technique I’ve found to remembering a number of names if the Loci Method. This method will take some time to master, but the rewards are worth it. It is based on research showing that superior memorizers used a spacial approach to memorization. Using the Loci Method a person with ordinary memory capabilities will be able to remember the order of a shuffled deck of cards in under an hour of practice. The world record is approximately 21 seconds.

If this is too much for you then another simple tip is to keep the business cards of the associates you meet in the order they were given to you, and then keep them in a sequence which represents the order in which they’re sitting during your meeting.

Conclusion

It’s good business etiquette, and people really appreciate it when you remember their name. How to remember someones name isn’t something they teach in project or program management textbooks, but should be given some consideration as it can help you to make a good first impression. The techniques above can take time to master, especially the Loci Method, but given them a try and let me know how you get on remembering people’s names.