Archive for October, 2009

How to Remember Names of People: Six Top Tips

October 19, 2009


How to Remember Names of People: Six Top Tips

When I was in graduate school, I volunteered at a crisis hotline center. All volunteers had to go through an intensive three-month training.  The first day of training, all 45 volunteers formed a circle.  The group leader asked one person to say their first name and favorite food.  The second person had to say their name and favorite food, but also repeat the first person’s name and favorite food.  This went on throughout the entire circle!  I was in the middle — I had to recall about twenty people’s names and favorite foods.  I correctly recalled every person and favorite food because I was very motivated to learn their names.  If we work at it – we can remember names.  It is not an innate gift that only certain people possess. Here are some tips to help you!

Repeat the name immediately.  When I first meet someone, I immediately repeat their name.  If they say their name is Carol, I will say, “Hello Carol. Nice to meet you.”  Repeating the name serves two purposes — helps you recall the name, plus people love hearing their names!

Use an association strategy.  When I first met a lady named April, I recalled her upbeat personality — she was like rays of sunshine.  I thought to myself, “April is the month when spring is beginning — we see more sunshine.” The person with the sunshine personality is April!

Write the person’s name on their forehead (not literally!).  Franklin Roosevelt amazed his staff by remembering the names of nearly everyone he met. He used to imagine seeing their name written across the person’s forehead.  Imagine writing their name in big bright letters on their forehead.  To make it stick, keep this image in your mind between 5 – 10 seconds.

Comment on the name.  At a recent meeting I met a man named Hank.  I immediately told him my brother’s name is Hank.  That created a link in my mind.  Last year, I met a lady at a meeting named Georgia.  I told her about my many trips to the state of Georgia. Commenting about the name further reinforces the name in your mind.

Use the name throughout the conversation.  For example, during your chat say, “So tell me, Peter, what do you find are the most significant trends this year?”  Use the name during the conversation without overdoing it.

Say the person’s name at the end of the conversation.  Once again, this helps reinforce the name.  For example, say, “I enjoyed our conversation, Mary. I will email you the requested information.”

After the conversation is completed, write the person’s name on a piece of paper — this helps cement the name in your mind.

What if you see a person at a meeting that you have met, but do not recall their name?  First of all, do not say, “I am really bad with names.  I forgot your name, what is it?”  The comment is very weak and creates a poor impression.  This is how to handle the situation with finesse.  First, ask someone else at the event if they know the person’s name.  If that does not work, approach the person and mention where you previously met.  For example, say, “I recall meeting you at last year’s symposium. I’m John Smith. Will you please tell me your name again?” The person may have forgotten your name too, and will be thankful that you stated your name.

One of the most fundamental elements of who we are is our name.  It is important that we recall names. Practice these skills and you will remember names!


Edward Leigh, MA, is the Founder and Director of the Center for Healthcare Communication.  To book one of his high-content credit-hour-approved keynote speeches or training programs, visit or call: / 1-800-677-3256