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How to Be a Master at Recalling Names

18 Jun 2019

Today we’re diving deep into one of the smallest soft skills to have at a trade show or any subset of social situations that involve meeting new people – learning and recalling names. It’s often an overlooked skill. You often have badges at conventions and conferences that helps you out when you need it most, and no one realistically expects to learn over fifty or so names over the course of a single event (this depends on what your role at the trade show is). However, the ugly truth is that committing a person’s name to memory is one of the most effective and subtle tools to gain trust and liking.

Think about it. No one wants to be forgettable and using a newly made acquaintance’s name in a follow-up conversation is key to building a real connection, which is a really useful stepping stone later on when you’re looking to pitch your products. Our previous article talks at length when the right moment is to deliver a sales pitch.

Now, do we go about remembering names?

Concentrate on the New Conversation

The reason names often slip through the conversation cracks is simple – you’re not present in the moment. You’re thinking what to say this person than completely actively engaging with what they’re saying. Being an active listener will not only help you remember the person you’re talking to, but what you’re talking about, and that’s going to be all the more valuable once the trade show ends and you wish to reconnect with your new contacts.

Repetition Leads to Mastery

The simplest trick to try out at first is to repeat the new name at least five or six times to make it feel familiar. Although one way to do it is to repeat it to yourself after the interaction is over, we advise you to try and work the new name (casually!) into the chat, because then you’ll have an easier time associating the name with the person. There’s also the added benefit that people love to hear their names spoken, so it’s a victory on two fronts.

Associate the Name with a Familiar Name

This one works best for when you’re attending a fair or conference in your home country, and chances are you’re going to meet a predominantly local crowd. Chances are new contacts will share names with people you already know and the easiest thing to do in this situation is group the new person with the familiar person. Each country has at least ten names for both men and women that a lot of people share, so this technique works always without fail for a significant number of new contacts.

Ask What the Name Means

If you’ve encountered a rare name or are introduced to foreigners, one way to remember their name is to ask for its meaning – most names have an interesting story behind them. Whether they have a religious meaning or are tied to a specific location or historical figure, it’s a strong detail to help you with remembering. What this also does is show interest in whomever you’re talking to, so there’s an added bonus to this technique as well. Connected to this is to make up a short song or rhyme – the so-called mnemonic pegs to do this, if there is no deeper meaning behind a person’s name.

Connect Facial Features or Appearance

You might not be one for remembering words, but you are good with faces and visual cues. It’s simple, then! Focus on the face of the person and how they look. Do they have a distinguishing facial feature? Are they tall or short? Do they speak in a certain way and gesture? Are they wearing interesting clothing? Find something that stands out about them and connect that with their name.

Technology is Always There

If you’re the person who just takes a long time to remember names in general, then you always have ways to cheat. After meeting someone new, take their business card immediately and write down on it where you met this person and who they are. You also have your phone to take notes on the name as soon as the conversation ends, so you never miss anyone. What’s useful about writing things down is that often the physical act of writing a name down is conductive to committing it to memory. You also have a cheat sheet, which you can browse later to refresh your memory.

Another way to combat this is to go to LinkedIn and connect with them right away. If you’re very upfront about your intentions to stay in communication with a new contact after the event is over, working this into the initial introduction will be in your favor. Ask them to connect on LinkedIn and explain that this is the best possible way for you to stay on top of any networking. People are often understanding – they have to deal with all of this, too!

Tell us, do you have any special memorization techniques?


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