You’re standing in a crowd of new faces. Somewhere in this sea of people at this networking event is the person who will eventually help you fund your new business venture. You vaguely recall meeting her at a previous industry event. Your potential investor is making her way over to say hello. You’re scrambling to remember her name before she gets any closer, because you know that “Hey, you! What’s your name your again?” isn’t the best way to make an impression.
My guess is that all of us have found ourselves in this space at some point or another. It may not be at a networking event. You may not have a business you’re looking to breathe life into. You have, however, met new people. You’ve smiled, nodded, made eye contact, engaged in conversation and then promptly forgotten their name. We understand that it’s difficult to make meaningful connections when we’re struggling to remember someone’s moniker. Many of us, however, also find that our brains can be like sieves when it comes to matching new names and faces together. Here’s the good news. You don’t have a bad memory. You just have an untrained memory. These tips should help.
Whether you’re meeting for the first time at a networking event or you’re sitting, nervously, at a table in a boardroom about to make a pitch, there are distractions. Tune out the white noise around you. Quiet your nerves. Tune in to the person you’re about to shake hands with and focus on what they’re saying to you.
Even names can benefit from a bit of rote memorization. When you’re being introduced to a new person the first time, use their name in the first or second sentence you speak to them. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mary” or “Nice to meet you. So, Mary, what do you think of this venue?” are both good examples. Use Mary’s name a few more times during your conversation. There’s a fine line to walk here, of course. Using her name too often can make the conversation seem stiff or salesy.
Write it Down
Depending on the context of your conversation, you may have the opportunity to exchange contact info. The act of writing (or typing) a name into your contact list can help you link the name to a face, too.
Find a Tie-in
Look for something about the person that is unique and/memorable. Maybe Frank has the same shade of blue eyes your grandfather had. Perhaps you’ll remember Nina as the woman from Yonkers. You recall Jack as the guy that told you about his collection of vintage pocket watches. It may be something about the individual’s appearance or a fact they shared that stands out to you. Link their name to that item.
Be in the Moment
All too often we participate in conversations by plotting what we’re going to say in response instead of really listening to what the other person is saying. Don’t just focus on the introduction. Stay present in the entire conversation. Work on your active listening skills. Remembering a name is easier when you’ve already committed to making it a priority to hear what that person has to say.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for the Repeat
You’re going to encounter countless beautiful, unique names. You’re also going to land in environments where you meet a lot of new people all at once. When introduced to a name you’re unfamiliar with or a group in a short burst, it can be harder to focus and retain the information. It’s okay to ask for a repeat. “I’m sorry, I missed that. Can you repeat your name?”
Even when we do all the right things, we may still forget. Be up front about it. “Hi! We met last summer at the Women in Business conference, right? Can you remind me of your name? Oh, right. Thanks, Amelia. It’s good to see you again.” As uncomfortable as you may feel asking, it’s better to own up to it. Imagine your mutual discomfort when your business partner is looking to you to introduce him to the person’s whose name you can’t quite put a finger on (even though you’ve been speaking for the last 15 minutes).
Got some a memorization trick that works for you? I’d love to hear it! Drop a comment here or join the conversation over on LinkedIn!