As an entrepreneur, embracing the power of networking and building relationships is an integral part of your role. As you embark on the journey of getting to know more people, remember that when you express authentic interest in a person, it both deepens your connection and tends to spark their curiosity in you and your ventures.
One of the early steps in making a new friend and expressing interest in a person is learning to call them by their name. If you can become better at remembering people’s names, you will be a more effective business networker and build better relationships. On the other hand, if you keep forgetting names or often call people by the wrong name, it can be very detrimental to building your network.
As an author and keynote speaker on the topic of memory skills, I often open presentations by naming hundreds of people in the audience after hearing each name only one time. This is simply the result of training and practice. Anyone can learn how to do this, and the process can be a lot of fun.
As you set out to develop new skills for the new year, keep the following four steps in mind to enhance your ability to remember the names of people you meet.
1. The moment you are introduced to someone, immediately repeat their name.
“Nice to meet you, Jack.” That’s it. Very simple. It may seem obvious, but most of the time, when we are introduced to someone, our mind is on all sorts of things other than the person’s name, and we pay no attention to it. This first step forces you to pay attention for at least one second to the name in order to repeat it.
2. Ask the person a question using their name.
“Jack, how do you know Chester?” Or “Jack, how long have you been with the company?” Using their name just one time early on in the interaction will help to better cement the name in your mind. There is no need to make things awkward by continuously repeating the name.
3. Take a few seconds to think of a connection between the person’s name and literally anything at all that you already know.
Jack might make you think of Jack Nicholson or Jack in the Box. This should take only a few seconds or less and will really help to solidify the name in your memory.
4. Make one last effort to use the name when saying goodbye.
Something like, “Hope to see you again sometime, Jack,” should suffice. That extra effort to use the name at the end of the interaction will give you a better chance to remember a person’s name long-term.
Note these memory enhancing tips
If you can get into the habit of going through the four steps above when meeting people, you’ll notice an immediate improvement in your ability to remember names. You can take things to the next level by also trying to keep the following principles in mind.
- Visuals are very powerful. We tend to be good at remembering things that we see. After we meet someone, we can often remember their face, but not their name, because their appearance was recorded into our visual memory — a name is something much more abstract to the brain. So, when you meet someone, try to come up with an image linked to a person’s name to help create a visual memory of their name. For example, if you meet someone named Mike, think of a microphone, or perhaps think of a white rabbit to remind yourself of the name Alice.
- Involving more senses aids memory. Engaging more of your senses when you learn something activates more areas of your brain, which builds more connections in your mind and makes it easier to retrieve information. In the example with the name “Alice,” in addition to visualizing a white rabbit, imagine that you’re petting a white rabbit, or you can smell it.
- We can easily remember things that are strange or extraordinary to us. As you imagine images and smells and sounds, try to make all of that in some way crazily unusual and out of the ordinary, because there is a psychological aspect to human memory. We tend to remember things that are extraordinary and that catch us by surprise. If the white rabbit starts to eat Alice’s hair, suddenly, the imagery becomes even more memorable!
I realize that some of what I’ve described might seem a bit silly, but it’s all very powerful and effective. Give it a try, and I’m certain that you’ll be remembering more names than ever before. You’re also likely to have a great time in the process!
Contributed to EO by Chester Santos, a recent EO 360° podcast guest and “International Man of Memory.” Chester is a U.S. Memory Champion, author of Instant Memory Training for Success and Mastering Memory: Techniques to Turn Your Brain from a Sieve to a Sponge, and popular keynote speaker who astounds audiences with his memory skills while providing actionable tips that help people improve their memories and sharpen their minds.