If you take five minutes right now to learn the skill of remembering people’s names, I promise it will be one of the highest-ROI activities you’ve ever carried out.
The reason I make this bold claim is that remembering a person’s name is one of the best ways to instantly make a deposit in that person’s Emotional Bank Account and to make that person like you. Conversely, a failure to remember a person’s name is an indicator to that person that you don’t consider him or her important. You’ll make a withdrawal from that person’s Emotional Bank Account before you’ve even made any deposits and you’ll damage the relationship right off the bat.
(By the way, I failed at remembering people’s names a couple times at MicroConf but not nearly as many times as I succeeded.)
You’ll instantly get better at remembering people’s names if you learn one simple fact: The problem isn’t that you forget a person’s name. The problem is that you never really learned the person’s name in the first place.
At conferences you’re often introduced to people in groups. As you greet each person in the group and hear each person’s name, there are a number of things you might be doing simultaneously, such as judging the other person’s appearance, thinking about your own behavior and how you’re coming off, continuing to digest whatever was said right before you heard the person’s name, having an unrelated thought pop into your head, or any number of other things. By the time you hear the third person’s name, you’ve already forgotten the first person’s name.
The solution to this problem is to pay very close attention to each person’s name as it’s said and to take a couple steps to deeply imprint the name in your mind. When I met my new friend Ed at the conference I said, “Ed? Nice to met you, Ed. So, Ed, what do you do?” It might sound slightly silly but it feels pretty natural. It’s really very difficult to overuse someone’s name. People love hearing their own names.
That takes care of hearing the name but how do you lock it down permanently? I do a few things. One is to come up with a concept to pair up with the person’s name. I met a guy named Dele at the conference. I’m a big Hieroglyphics fan so I immediately thought of Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, which was my mnemonic device for Dele. In college I met a girl at a party named Cate who I called “Cool, Awesome and Totally Excellent”. That was my (stupid) mnemonic device for her (but effective!). Another thing I sometimes do is to imagine the first letter of the person’s name imprinted on the person’s forehead as I’m talking to the person. Believe it or not, it works. Lastly, the simple repetition of the person’s name throughout the conversation is usually quite effective in permanently implanting that name in your brain. You can repeat the person’s name out loud or just in your head to yourself.
Put these into practice and you can avoid the embarrassment of forgetting people’s names. People will be impressed by your “good memory” and you’ll be more likable because you’re signaling to the other person that you like him or her and consider him or her important enough to remember.
If you were at MicroConf 2016 and you and I didn’t get to talk, I want to meet you. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what you do and we can be friends.