Relationship building in business - and life in general, but we like to focus on your professional life, here - is critical. It's an investment, and it takes time. Walking out of a networking event with 5 business cards does not mean you built 5 new business relationships; it does mean that you have to opportunity to build 5 new relationships. As you may recall from our networking talk at Northeastern; networking is the act of meeting people and staying in touch. That can be hard to do if you are terrible at remembering names.
Solid relationships take time and effort, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to fast track relationship building (while still being authentic, of course). Think about your friends, family, classmates, coworkers; there’s always that one person who somehow manages to befriend everyone even after just one encounter. Have the image of that person in your head? Consider how they act… I’m willing to bet they always use people’s names in conversation.
Remembering names and using them in conversation immediately draws that person’s attention to you and shows them that you were interested when you first met them; that combination makes them feel special. Who doesn’t like feeling special? Using names in conversation is easy, the hard part is remembering the right name. Below are 3 tips for improving your ability to recall names, even after meeting someone for the first time.
1. Repetition is key
Repeat their name out loud while looking at them (engage in conversation and ask question - that’s an easy and non-creepy way to be able to repeat their name. Before exiting the conversation use their name as a “[NAME] it was great to meet you. If you forget their name by the end of the conversation, admit to forgetting! It’s much more forgivable in the first encounter than the third…
2. Find common ground
Chat with the person and get to know them. Ask conversational questions in search of identifying something that you have in common. If you don’t have anything in common, you will at least learn something unique or interesting to associate with them. Any defining characteristic can help you remember a name.
3. Jot it down
In the notes section of your phone write one line per person: Name - defining characteristic. Wait until after each conversation to quickly add to this list. Writing them in order throughout the event or day will help you remember who is who when you’re reviewing your new connections on your way home. As you go through the list, picture the person in your mind - the combination of reading the name and imagining the face will help it stick in your memory.
If these quick tips above aren’t strong enough for your memory, try this more complex trick for remembering names from Dale Carnegie, as explained by Business Insider. Do you have your own strategy for name recall? We’d love to hear it - leave a note in the comments!