About a year
ago, I was at a cocktail party and saw a woman who had once hired me
to work with her teenaged son Jimmy. Her son needed help on his
campaign speech for senior class president. She waived me over to
where she was chatting with three friends.
gave a wonderful speech and won the election for president of his
senior class,” she boasted to her friends, as I smiled a little
embarrassed. “And he really needed to win that election because it
helped him get into Brown.”
Then she looked
from her friends to me with a beaming smile. “And it all happened
because of the coaching of Jerry Archer!”
Not having the
heart to tell her that wasn’t my name, I just smiled and thanked her
as I excused myself to “to get another beer.”
With that story
in mind, here’s a New Year’s resolution that will help anyone
aspiring to improve their business and personal relationships: learn
to remember names. It’s not hard. It pays dividends. And it’s fun.
the self-help guru, once wrote that “A person’s name is to him or
her is the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” I’ve
found that remembering names greatly improves my own ability to
connect with clients. When speaking with groups of 25 to 40 people,
I always get one question afterwards. “How did you remember all of
our names? Do you have a system?”
I do rely on a
system that I’ve adapted from several well-known methods. Perhaps
the best known system involves word association and is from “The
Memory Book”, a fun read by Harry Lorayne, a magician and
self-described memory expert, and Jerry Lucas, the NBA Hall of Famer
and former New York Knick.
Step 1: Hear the
remember what you don’t hear in the first place. People often say,
“I’m terrible with names.” That usually means they don’t hear the
name in the first place. At parties, networking events, and
workshops I carefully listen for names.
Step 2: Repeat
the Name Out Loud.
“John?” I say.
“Do I have that right?”
To my mind, the
relationship starts the moment that you repeat a person’s name.
That’s when they consciously or unconsciously think “This person is
trying to get to know me.” They’re usually a little flattered.
If it’s an odd
name, ask about it. During a recent sales call, I met a woman named
“Edwidge”. “Edwidge?” I said. “What an interesting name. There’s
got to be a story there.” She was delighted to tell me the name’s
Step 3: Make an
Odd Word Association with the Name.
This is the word
association trick from Lorayne and Lucas. First, find a substitute
word for the name that is easy to visualize. So for “Bill”, you
might imagine the “bill” at a restaurant. For Kevin, you might
imagine the inside of a cave (Kevin sounds sort of like “Cave in”.
Then you connect
that image with something memorable about the person’s face. If
“Bill” has a prominent nose, imagine Bill’s nose looking like the
“bill” at a restaurant. If Kevin has a big forehead, imagine it as a
cave with someone inside.
associations may seem like a stretch. And this does take practice.
But it doesn’t matter if you come up with clever word associations.
Simply trying to come up with something cements the name in your
By the way,
Harry Lorayne demonstrated this word association trick on “The
Tonight Show with Johnny Carson”. He schmoozed with the audience
before the show, memorized everyone’s names, and then demonstrated
his memory live on the show. If you want to see the footage, go to
Google and search “Harry Lorayne and The Tonight Show”.
Step 4: Test
collected about four names, I give myself a little test. Looking
around the room, I’ll say to myself, “That’s Sarah, That’s Jack,
That’s William, That’s Janet.” And I do it several times until I’m
sure that I’ve got all the names.
names is a great way to start relationships. It’s fun. And it’s
easy. Take it from me, Jerry Archer.
is President of Speechworks, a selling and communication skills
coaching company in Atlanta. He has worked with hundreds of lawyers
and with dozens of firms helping them grow their business and
connect with clients. He is the author of “Selling and Communication
Skills for Lawyers” and “Even A Geek Can Speak.” He can be reached
at 404-266-0888 or by .