Unforgettable Techniques to Help You Remember Names

Today we welcomed Bill Clennan, the Memory Man. Bill is a professional speaker who has given presentations at over 10,000 events and been inducted into the Speakers’ Hall of Fame. In his career, he has helped over one million people improve their memory.

marylynnOne of my weaknesses is remembering names. How can I get better at it?

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billPeople don’t remember names because they don’t think they can. It’s almost impossible to do something if you don’t think you can.

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marylynnSo we have to spin it around and start thinking that we can remember names.
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billExactly. In fact, what I tell people is … decide that you’ll remember 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time.

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georgeHow do you suggest we do that … is repeating it back the best way?

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billI never suggest to people to repeat it back. If we meet someone who uses our name over and over, we start wishing they would back off. But here’s the good news – just by thinking of the sound of somebody’s name, that part of your brain shows increased activity. To your brain, thinking about that sound is the same as saying it. I’m emphasizing the sound because when we meet people, we hear their name … we don’t see it. That’s one of the things that makes remembering names rather difficult.
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The fusion technique – fuse the face with the name
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billAt the moment I hear a person’s name, I look at their face. So I take that information along with the sound of their name and, just for a moment, I bring them together. I connect the two things. So when I see their face again, there’s a place in the brain where those two things originally came together. The next easiest thing … I might say to myself, “Tryin’ Brian”, “Shirley Girly”, “Silly Billy”, “Fancy Nancy”, “Slim Jim”, or “Georgie Porgie”.
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georgeThere you go – except I’ve figured it out. Mary-Lynn’s been using this fusion technique for years because she always calls me “Georgeous”! I think I like that better than “Georgie Porgie”!

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billFor a huge portion of the history of our species, we did not have the written word. Information was passed along in rhythm, rhyming, chant, and dance. So why not use that technique?

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“Syllable-ize” – break the name into sounds
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billWhen you meet someone who has a multi-syllabic name, break it into sounds. I met someone named “Ken Oracheski”. So I just pictured him with an oar stuck through his chest and he was on skis.
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The rhythm method
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billI met a guy in Honolulu whose name is “Takabayashi”. The very moment I heard his name, I went “talk-a-bye ashi in the tree top, when the wind blows …” When you tie things together in sound, get the first part the rest of it comes along for free. So listen for the rhythm. This is one of the clues if you have to meet four or five people in a hurry. Tie them together in sound and you’ll remember the whole string of names. I call it the rhythm method. It’s especially for Catholic folks!
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georgeI was going to say that I’d heard of the rhythm method, but it didn’t have anything to do with remembering names?

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billYeah, but this one works better!

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Bill’s links

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7 replies
  1. Mary-Lynn
    Mary-Lynn says:

    Julie, (or should I call you “coolie julie”) glad you found the techniques Bill shared helpful! I’m gonna try these out too. Thanks for checking in.

    Reply
  2. Ken
    Ken says:

    I’d have to disagree with Bill about repeating a person’s name. Obviously you aren’t going to over do it, but repeating a name at least a couple times during a conversation seems to help me quite a bit.

    Reply
  3. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    Something I’ve found very useful in remembering names, is always asking for a business card. Then, later that evening, I will jot down some notes on the back of their card about our meeting. The association of time, place and conversation topic helps me remember their name when I see them again.

    Reply
  4. Mary-Lynn
    Mary-Lynn says:

    Ken, I use that technique too. When I meet someone new, I try to work their name in twice while talking with them.

    Jessica, that’s a great way to do it too! Unfortunately, once I put something in my purse…I may never see it again!

    Thanks to you both for adding to the conversation!

    Reply

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