Monday 1 May 2017

Your Work: Five great tips to ensure you can remember names

Gina London
Gina London

Gina London

'Oh, I'm terrible with names." How many times have you heard that? Perhaps you've even said it yourself. As self-fulfilling prophesies go, this may be one of the easiest to fall prey to. If you tell yourself you're not good at remembering names, you probably won't be.

I, on the other hand, am good with names. I'm not bragging here. I really am. I may not be great - I do occasionally have to be reminded of one - but I am good.

Recently, I was the featured speaker at the Enterprise Start-up Awards in Limerick. I was introduced to dozens of people in rapid succession.

I met contestants, academics, and some very high-profile people, including one with a famous family name of perhaps the most influential entrepreneur in Ireland. But all people matter, so all names are important.

I remembered them all. Especially, Jerry, the technician, to whom I was introduced during the set-up, long before the event began. Later, during the program when my mic wasn't working properly, I looked up to the control booth and asked for him by name: "Jerry, is there another microphone?"

Smiling, Jerry zipped down with a new mic in hand. I then introduced him to the audience and asked everyone to give him and the other stagehands a well-deserved round of applause. An opportunity to recognise the efforts of someone, made stronger due to the fact that I remembered his name.

I don't deploy Derren Brown-style "memory palaces" or other fancy mental gymnastics to partner a person's name with a rhyme or an object.

Like 'Fancy - Nancy' or 'Burt in the Red Shirt'. No way. I am not that clever nor quickly creative.

But, simply, here is what I do. I find it really works.

1 FOCUS Slow down and really focus on the person's name. Chances are, when you're introduced to someone, you may have other things on your mind. Turn that off for a moment. Make the moment matter. Genuinely look at the person's face and let their name sink in.

2 REPEAT Silently say the name over and over in your head while you're looking at them. I'm not talking a mindless repetitive mantra here, say it to yourself in a thoughtful way. Find meaning in the name.

Is it a name of someone you've met before, perhaps a relative or a dear friend? Jerry happens to not only be the name of the technician, it's also the name of my step-dad for whom I have enormous love and admiration. That helped the memory stick.

3 SPEAK: Say the name back to the person. Don't let yourself off easy, with a simple "nice to meet you". Add "nice to meet you, fill-in-the-person's-name-here."

Of course, you don't want to over-use the person's name as an obvious measure to remember, but here is a great opportunity.

4 LEARN: If it's an unfamiliar name, take time to try to learn it properly; don't simply nod and gloss over the introduction. In today's global marketplace, this is especially important.

Here in Ireland, I am learning that names written in Irish, "Caoimhe" for instance, are said differently than I may first have thought. I also do a lot of work in Africa and am learning a range of great new names there as well.

The wife's name of a business associate in Nigeria, for instance, is Olaseyi. It is pronounced "Oh-lah-SHAY-ee" and it also has a lovely lowering in pitch on the final syllable.

Where does your work take you? Wherever you go, the point is not to create a fuss about a new name, but to demonstrate your sincere interest in expanding your horizons - embracing the new - and getting it right.

This can build rapport with the person in addition to solidifying your recollection of that person's name.

5 ENQUIRE: Take a moment to ask a question of the new person. Try to learn something about them. In your mind, repeat their story along with their name.

Rather than overloading your memory, this gives the name a story to stick to which makes it easier for you to recall the name when you need it.

After the awards ceremony, the head of the Limerick Institute of Technology Foundation, Kieran McSweeney, wrote to me: "It was an absolute pleasure meeting you yesterday. The inspiration of your talk was only surpassed by the warmth of the sincere friendship you extended to everyone."

Thanks, Kieran, I credit that, in part, to taking time to remember names.

It's a good place to start to build a friendship. Business is built on relationships.

On Tuesday, Cpl Resources, Ireland's largest recruitment agency, is holding a conference in Cork to feature its latest research on 'The Future of Talent'.

It will showcase how the best companies are getting the best people. Why jobs are being lost to machines - machines, like my iPhone, which are programmed to "know" your name.

"Hello, Siri."

"Hello, Gina."

Don't let a machine beat you at having the human touch. I still believe people are the future of talent and if you're a person, you can be better than Siri.

So, don't tell yourself or others that you're no good at remembering names.

It's a blow-off comment that doesn't get you off the hot seat. Take a breath and discipline yourself.

Try. You can remember names.

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant.

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