What's in a Name?

Ah yes, the never-ending “how to remember names” dilemma. As part of several of my workshops and webinars, I provide tips on how to successfully manage what seems to be a big problem for many.

Of course, the need to network has never been more of a focal point (and expectation) for professionals. And yes, we will get back to in-person networking after COVID-19 is under control.

We find ourselves often meeting people briefly as we work the room going from person to person. So how can we collect names, remember pertinent details while being the delightful bon vivant?

Whether at a cocktail party, wedding, backyard barbeque, or a business meeting, the art of remembering names can be easily practiced. So roll-up your sleeves and get serious because this does matter. Everyone (that includes you and me) likes to feel acknowledged and significant enough that our name was remembered.

Here are a few of my tips to help remember names as well as some etiquette pointers:

  • Focus…be in the moment – seems simple, but many people are way too focused instead on what they are going to say rather than paying attention to the introduction
  • Not only hear the name but visualize it – spell it in your head, and I promise once you “see” it, it will be put to memory
  • Use their name as part of the greeting – “Jonathan, it is a pleasure to meet you finally.”
  • Caution…do not overuse their name, or it feels smarmy – yuck, what are you trying to sell me?
  • If you didn’t understand or hear their name, ask for it again – it happens especially if the environment is noisy
  • For difficult to pronounce names, ask them also to spell it assuring them you want to get it right - they will be impressed that you care
  • Challenging/multi-cultural names -  take a moment and put their name phonetically into your smartphone (not while they are watching)
  • Make good eye contact when being introduced –  forced listening without interrupting helps with our memory
  • Never alter a person’s name – if he gave you his name as “Michael,” don’t call him “Mike”
  • Hyphenated names are never separated – if they give you a double name “Jean-Louise Velasquez” refer to them as “Jean-Louise”


And for when you draw a blank:

  • Start with your name first – they will often follow suit: “Samantha Stevens, we met last month at the YWCA event…good to see you again”
  • Start with a point of reference to demonstrate you remember them even if you’re struggling with their name – “I always look forward to seeing you at these events. Pardon me, I need help with your name.”
  • Do not say things such as: “Sorry I can’t remember your name…I’m having a senior, blonde or Alzheimer moment” – highly offensive
  • And honesty always works – who hasn’t forgotten a name? Apologize, admit it without a lot of fanfare and move on!


A question I am often asked – on which side is the nametag worn? On the upper right shoulder – hence why it is called the “sightline” as we shake hands. So take a peek at their name, and as you “see” it, it becomes fixed in your mind.


Say my name, say my name, and please get it right!

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