Learning and remembering several dozen names

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In yesterday’s post, I described the first team building activities coordinated by TechPeaks. They took the fifty (50) of us up to the mountains for a fun-filled (and exhausting) day. By the end of that night, having been in Italy for 2 days, I knew the names of most of the 50 participants as well as, usually, where they came from. Not only that, most people knew my name.

Now, obviously part of everybody remembering me was where I had come from. Jamaica has a HUGE brand. Everybody has heard of it, even if they are not sure exactly where it is. So telling people in Italy that I come from Jamaica usually creates some amazed looks. Most people think it is so cool that I came all the way here from Jamaica. But in those first two days, a big part of making myself memorable was that I successfully met just about every participant and learnt their name and said it correctly and remembered it (usually, lol!).

So what tricks did I use? No tricks really, but I do have a process.

  1. First things first, ask people their name. Sounds silly, but people often forget to actually ask people for their name. It is usually better if you ask the person yourself and not have someone else introduce them to you. Hearing their name in their voice creates a strong trigger.
  2. Next, in settings like this, where the people you are meeting come from places all over the world, ask them to repeat it. Then feel free to ask them to spell it. Few people will be offended. Listen to the spelling, picture it in your mind and try to repeat the name. You can use the spelling to remember how to say the name.
  3. Always try to use their real name. Here at TechPeaks, many of the participants are accustomed to people having difficulty pronouncing their names so they often give an “English-friendly” version. What I found is that people were often very appreciative of the attempt (and, in my case, success) at correct pronunciation. And being able to use someone’s real name creates a stronger connection. (It also helped them remember me as that person who said their name right). If you do pronounce it wrong, ask them to correct you. Hearing the name repeatedly will eventually help it stick. Even if your brain says the wrong thing first, a trigger will go off to say that’s not it and then you’ll get to the right thing.
  4. Start a conversation. You can ask them about their name and its meaning or origin. You can talk about where they are from and what language they speak. Ask them about their involvement with the group or event. You can talk about just about anything. Your goal is to have something to link the name with. They become ‘X from Y’ or ‘A the B’. People will also remember you if they have a really good conversation with you.
  5. Use the name. Don’t become a parrot simply spouting their name at every opportunity, but do use the name in the conversation. If changing topic, say “So Mike…” Another way to do this, is to introduce them to other people (slight problem if those people read this post and preferred not to have you introduce the person, but oh well, lol!). By introducing them, you cement the name in your head, and get to use some of the info from the conversation. “Hey, this is Tom who…” You now seem like the really great connector so people will also remember that you introduced them to so-and-so.
  6. Turn it into a game or test. Most people will enjoy seeing you try to remember names. Especially if they know you are actively trying to learn names. So every now and again, try to recall the names of the people you met before and see how many you get right. I quickly became known as the girl who was trying to learn everyone’s names. They sure remembered me!

So there you go. That’s my solution for learning lots of names really quickly. No mnemonics and fancy memory houses or anything like that. Just an active process of actually getting to know people, lol! Have fun!

Note: This entire process can definitely help you be memorable in the minds of those you are trying to get to know (see the italics), but don’t start out with that as your objective. Be genuine and good things can happen.