A simple bit of networking finesse is to have a good memory. Remembering people’s names, faces and details when you see them again (months, weeks or even minutes later) makes a formidable impression on them. You cared enough about them to remember their name. This will make you stand out from the crowd.
What did you say your name was, again?
Forgetting people’s names at a networking event can be embarrassing. The “in one ear and out the other” is a common ailment of most adults after being introduced to someone at a networking event. Without the help of name tags, it can be quite awkward to introduce the person you just met to someone else you know if you have forgotten the person’s name already. Out of discomfort, many people default to a worse social offense: not introducing them at all.
Why does this always happen to me?
John Medina, author of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, explains the truth about how our brains handle all the data we receive:
“The typical human brain can hold about seven pieces of information for less than 30 seconds! If something does not happen in that short stretch of time, the information becomes lost. If you want to extend the 30 seconds, to say, a few minutes, or even an hour or two, you will need to consistently re-expose yourself to the information. This type of repetition is sometimes called maintenance rehearsal. We now know that maintenance rehearsal is mostly good for keeping things in working memory – that is, for a short period of time.” – Source: Page 130 of Brain Rules by John Medina
Aside from the fascinating happenings inside of our brains, I have found 4 contributing factors that we might have some control over:
1. Lack of effort
3. Failure to pay attention when they are speaking
4. Boredom. We tend to remember the things that we find interesting and quickly forget things that we find boring.
So how do you improve this situation? How do you crank up your social savvy and learn how to stick people’s names into your working short-term memory?
Try out any of these 6 strategies to help you improve name recall for greater networking success.
1. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
- Use their name at least 3 times in your initial conversation. This not only makes them feel important, but you are literally training your brain to remember their name. To help them to remember your name, repeat your name mid way through your elevator pitch. When giving a formal 30-second elevator pitch, remember to “book end” your name, that is say it at the beginning and at the end of your 30-second commercial in order to leverage the power of primacy (the first thing heard) and recency (the last thing heard)
2. Pay closer attention to the fine detail.
- Really look at the person you are networking with. Notice what they are wearing, study their facial features, watch how often they blink their eyes, identify their eye color. By paying closer attention to the details around you, you will increase your skills of observation, improve your eye contact and make you more “fully present.”
3. Ask them to teach you how to pronounce their name,
- if they have a difficult-to-pronounce name or may be from a different country than you. Engage your new contact in conversation about the origin of their name, how it is spelled, and how it is pronounced. Most people are happy to have someone take the time to learn their names.
4. Get Creative.
- Create a picture in your mind’s eye what’s unique to that person; make up a story about them in your mind; create a rhythm that will help you remember that person’s name. These imagination games you play with yourself can increase your name recall.
- Associate their name with a unique feature of that person, such as a facial feature, hair color or style or physical attribute of some sort. It’s best to use something that is likely to be permanent feature, versus something that might change, like an article of clothing or piece of jewelry. Link these two items: name and feature. Visualize the connection.
6. Exercise your brain.
- Constantly exposing the brain to new things improves the brain’s ability to search and retrieve information efficiently. Similar to building muscle strength, the best way to strengthen memory is to provide the brain with regular work outs. Things such as a daily search-a-word or a crossword puzzle can help as can starting a new hobby, learning a foreign language or new musical instrument- all things that involve the brain thinking in new ways. These will not only improve memory, but overall brain health.