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You've Got This! How to Remember Names

By Dr. Ivan Misner



Most of us have experienced the anguish of forgetting someone's name while they're standing right in front of us! It's like a mental game of hide-and-seek that you're destined to lose. But there’s hope, I've got a strong, seven-step plan to turn your name-guessing game into a name-recalling masterpiece. Prepare to impress at social gatherings and business events, all while keeping your pride intact.


1. Stop the Name-Shaming

Let's break this vicious cycle of saying "I'm bad at remembering names." If you keep telling yourself you're bad at something, your brain's going to believe it and throw in the towel before the networking event even begins. So, let's all raise our imaginary glasses and toast to a new mantra: “I’ve got this. I can be better at remembering names.”


2. Repetition Repertoire

Imagine this: You're introduced to someone, they say their name is Jamison, and you think, "Alright, Jamison, got it." Fast forward five seconds, and it's like your brain just performed a vanishing act. The solution? Repetition! Ask them to say their name one more time, like you're savoring the sound. "Jamison”, then, if appropriate, say something relevant to the moment like: “that's a memorable name, why did your parents name you that?”


3. The Name Ninja Technique

You've nailed the repetition, but now what? Integrate their name into the conversation. Say things like; "How did you hear about tonight’s event Jamison?” As you continue to talk make sure to respond a couple times using their name as appropriate. "Wow, that sounds amazing Jamison!” Towards the end of the conversation ask them what social media platform they are most active on. Then, ask for one of their business cards and make a note as to the social media platform that they like to use. The conversation and the business card will help anchor their name in your mind.


4. Association Amusement Park

For some people, remembering names is like playing a wild game of word association. So, if you meet a Jamison who's really into football and travel, picture this: Jamison wearing a football helmet, kicking a suitcase across a field while shouting travel tips. Vivid mental images stick like peanut butter to the roof of your brain. Bonus points if it makes you chuckle in the middle of a serious conversation. Whatever form of association you make, dedicate the name to memory. Make associations in your mind. Write notes… When you are back home, review your meeting and try to remember what that person looked like and what they were saying and doing. You may want to send a quick "nice to meet you" message online to help you remember the conversation you had with them.


5. The Phonetic Finesse

If you've ever stumbled over someone's name like it's a tongue-twister on steroids, try this technique. Ask them if there's a particular way they prefer their name to be pronounced. Not only will you earn extra points for courtesy, but you'll also have a unique mnemonic device to remember their name. For example, if they say, "It's actually pronounced 'Jay-muh-sun,'" you'll forever think of them pronouncing their name.


6. The Visual Anchor

For some people, associating the person's name with a distinctive feature of their appearance is helpful. If Jamison has striking green eyes, imagine him surrounded by jam jars made of emerald glass. This technique capitalizes on the power of visual memory, making it easier to recall their name by conjuring up their unique physical trait.


7. The Greeting Gambit

Saying "it's nice to see you" instead of "it's nice to meet you" is rooted in the idea that many social encounters are not actually the first time you've seen someone. In today's interconnected world, you might have come across someone's photos or posts on social media (yes, it happens, I’ve had someone who felt bad that I didn’t remember them from our social media connection), you may have heard about them from mutual friends, or even seen them in a previous event, webinar, or video call. By acknowledging this, you're not treating the encounter as completely new but rather as a continuation of a relationship, no matter how brief or distant. Plus – this has the added benefit of not offending someone that you’ve previously met. For example, there was the wife of a business associate who was once at a party at my home. Many months later, I ran into her at a grocery store which of course, was a completely different context. I recognized her face, but I had no idea where I knew her from. When she came up and said hello, I said, “hi, it’s great to see you.” She then went on to talk about how much she enjoyed the party and voila – it immediately came back to me where I met her.


So, there it is, the ultimate guide to name mastery. No more awkward moments of standing there with a polite smile while your mind is screaming, "Who are you?!" With these additional techniques in your networking toolkit, you'll be a name-remembering maestro in no time. So go forth and conquer those social and business events with confidence, knowing that you won't be left in the awkward abyss of forgotten names!


Called the “father of modern networking” by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author.  He is also the Founder of BNI (www.bni.com), the world’s largest business networking organization. His latest book, The 3rd Paradigm, A Radical Shift to Greater Success, is a book about the amazing results that come from co-creation in business.

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