How to remember names

By Alex Burden, Student Blog

6 May 2019

Ever been stuck for words when introducing someone at work or a conference? Their name becomes a fleeting memory and dances on the tip of your tongue, despite only meeting them five seconds previously. If this happens to you, then you need these tips for perfecting the art of remembering names.

Unless you sit at home with a ring binder of photos and business cards practising your recollection skills, chances are that you may occasionally struggle with memorising everyone's moniker.

This recollection ability becomes even more important in the case of large, global companies, where first name terms of address can be prevalent.

And even politicians like Ed Balls forget names at salient moments, as witnessed in this 2015 interview.


Word association

Shirley likes golf, Graham enjoys decaf coffee and Sophie hates public transport. If you can connect each name with something memorable, then you've already created a handy shortcut to the memory.

If it rhymes or uses alliteration, then even better! For example, we have very little use for nursery rhymes in everyday situations, but somehow our brains retain their sing-song catchiness for decades.

Benjamin Levy's FACE method (focus, ask, comment and employ)

Benjamin advises would-be memory masters to look at people's faces while asking their preferred name and provide a relevant comment. This latter step can be conducted in your head (Charles wears lovely shoes), or directed at the person in question, which also covers 'employing' their name in conversation.

The act of saying their name out loud will help commit it to memory, but many of us are guilty of leaving this step out when meeting new people. It may seem awkward to say someone's name back to them right after they've introduced themselves, but chances are that you'll remember it all the more.

“A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”  - Dale Carnegie, American writer and lecturer

Polite recovery

If it's not possible to remember someone's name, then a polite recovery is essential. Apologise and mention that you've enjoyed speaking with them, but that their name has momentarily escaped you. They will at least be happy that you are making the effort to recall them.

Business card back-up

Savour those business cards at networking events, and take a moment to write a brief descriptor of the person on the back (once you've finished meeting with them, of course!).

Feats of memory anyone can do | Joshua Foer | Ted Talks 

If all else fails, avoid 'this is'

We've all resorted to staggered introductions at some point in our lives, but you box yourself into a corner when introducing your new acquaintance to someone else with "this is...".

Unless you can unleash a quick recovery with a description of their job ("This is... our new audit consultant."), then it's best to introduce the person you know to the person you don't and prompt your new contact to introduce themselves.


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