How To Remember Names

There are few things more frustrating (and potentially embarrassing) than forgetting someone’s name. For many it’s a constant problem. This can be a big issue for business networking, befriending your peers, or simply showing respect for people you see on a normal basis.

You can do something about it. You can learn how to remember names in a surprising amount of time. It just takes commitment to following through both at the point of introduction and immediately afterwards.

Own it in the introduction

Obviously this is where names are given, but it’s also the exact moment when the names are lost. Seriously, how often do you hear someone’s name then forget it seconds later? Too often. You need to make a conscious effort to own names the first time they are given to you.

  • The minute a person’s name is given, repeat it in your mind five times. This quick repetition exercise makes you stop and focus on the name and the person you’ve just met.
  • Use the name immediately in the next sentence. This could be your introduction back, such as “Hi Steven, I’m Mark.” Or it could be a continuing of the conversation, such as “As we were discussing, Steven…” By doing so, you are getting the name into your vocabulary immediately.
  • Ask an honest question (or make a polite statement) about the name. By doing so, you’re getting more opportunity to hear the name out loud. If it’s a tricky name, ask for its spelling. If it’s a unique name, politely ask about its origins. Make sure you’re not rude about it, as some people can be sensitive about unique names. If it’s a standard name, it’s a little tougher, but you can tie it in to some aspect of your life and make mention of it. Maybe you’ve got many colleagues that share the name, or your best friend from school has a similar name.

See the person: Build an impression

Often we talk without seeing. We don’t spend the time to really get a physical impression of the person who’s next to us. It’s especially true in quick meetings, classrooms, and networking events. It makes remembering names a challenge–really it makes it tougher to remember the person at all.

So during the conversation, spend time looking at the person (or people) you are talking to. Build strong impressions so that the people and the names have much better chances of sticking with you.

Use the name a few times naturally in conversation

Now that you’ve established the name during the introduction, you’ve got to get it into your regular usage. If you want frictionless recall of this name later on, you need to build up your muscle memory of using it. Pepper it into conversation when you can. Don’t force it–you don’t want it to appear unnatural as that can kill the rapport you’ve been building, but you must get used to saying it and seeing the face (and hearing the voice) of the person it belongs to.

Write the person’s name into your contact or address book as soon as possible

People often forget about the power of writing (or typing) things down. It can really help you own the name as you’re again having to repeat it, and you’re using new muscles and senses in the process. Your body is taking an action on the name, not just your brain. That helps things stick.

Be sure to also write down the context in which you met this person. Was it at a convention? At school? During work? Where exactly did you meet? Were there other specific things that make it stand out? These notes will give you much-needed hints later on, especially if it’s not someone you see often. It’s good to have a relationship with the name to jumpstart the memory.

Build associations between the name and the person

Or tie a relationship of your own with the name to the person. Either will help you remember the name. Even if it’s a loose association or relationship, the act of trying to create one actually helps solidify the name in your head, so give it a go!

Maybe the name has an obvious real word pairing. Associate that real word somehow with the physicality of the person (Mrs. Price likes pricy clothes.) Perhaps you had a best friend from grade school with the same name. You could even tie in rhyming techniques and your initial reactions to the person (Alice has no malice.) Again, even a loose pairing and the act of trying to build an association or relationship will help you own the name.

How To Memorize A Speech

Do you have a big presentation coming up and you are wondering how to memorize a speech? Are you about to present to your class or work peers, and you want to own your content even more? Memorizing a speech or presentation is challenging for sure, but you can do it with a little know how.

Decide: Memorize word for word or memorize beats

This is the big choice you need to make. If you are uncomfortable with being front and center, you may feel like verbatim memorization is the best choice for you. If this is you, take a look at how to memorize lines. It gives you great tips on how to learn the content word for word.

Be careful, when you memorize a speech verbatim, you may then end up sounding unnatural when you are presenting. Great presentations and speeches have a conversational quality about them, and that can be easily lost if you don’t know how to deliver memorized lines as well as an actor can.

Memorizing beats

Memorizing beats can be a much more natural way to present. The goal here is to own the logic behind the presentation and the transitions from one section to the next, but not to concern yourself with memorizing exact words. This usually ends up sounding (and feeling) much more conversational and engaging for an audience.

Start by mapping out your speech and the argument behind it. Look for the ideas (beats) that propel you speech forward. That’s the horizontal logic. Then look for the proof points for each of those beats. That’s the vertical logic. Study that logic until you know the real meaning behind your speech and can talk it in your sleep. In doing so, you are memorizing the argument, not just the words which will make your presentation much more powerful and engaging.

Write out an introduction and conclusion and memorize them verbatim

OK – you must be like “Wait a minute, you just said memorize the beats. What gives?” Yes, memorizing the beats will make your speech much more powerful, but memorizing your introduction and conclusion word for word gives you two real advantages:

  1. When your intro is memorized exactly and practiced to the point where it is second nature, you can then use those first few minutes of a speech to calm your nerves, gauge the audience and feel the mood of the room. You can scope out friendly faces that you can play to. You can decide if certain jokes or examples may or may not play well. You can tailor the speech to your audience on the fly.
  2. When your conclusion is memorized to the same level, you don’t have to worry about how to tie everything up. Many novices get trapped in the dreaded “conclusion loop” where they say the same things over and over, not sure how to pull it all together. If you’ve got your conclusion down cold, you don’t need to worry.

Practice on your feet, preferably in the room in which you are presenting

Just like in acting, much of a presentation is about physically owning your material. Your body needs to get used to the idea of presenting and the location of the event. It needs its own form of memorization. Get into the location, or if you can’t, find a place that is similar enough that it can make do. Run through your entire speech multiple times. If you lose yourself in the beats, don’t stop. Push through and find a way to continue. Remember where you faltered, work out the beat problem and then run through it again. Soon you will master that presentation and give the speech of your lifetime.

If you need to, use cue cards for the beats

If you are getting stuck in certain places with your speech, you can rely on cue cards (index cards). But use them properly. Don’t write out every verbatim word you want to say in your speech. You will get lost in those cue cards guaranteed. Instead, write out the horizontal and vertical logic bullet points that make up your beats. This will help you keep track of your speech in a format that’s much easier to follow, even with a few butterflies.