How to Remember People’s Names…


When we run a training course we take a good deal of trouble to remember the names of our delegates. That can be difficult when there are more than sixteen or so – but not impossible. It’s a great skill to have (it is a skill – rather than a gift – you can get better at it the more you practise) and always impresses.

As Dale Carnegie (author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People”) wrote, ”If you remember my name, you pay me a subtle compliment; you indicate that I have made an impression on you. Remember my name and you add to my feeling of importance.”

When building relationships – say at a networking event – it can fast-track rapport building. After all, if you forget the name of the person who just introduced themselves to you just three minutes ago, your brain tends to fixate on the fact you’ve forgotten – and if you’re not careful you then forget to listen as you tell yourself “I can’t remember her name…I can’t remember her name!”

So, here then are our Top Tips that will help you remember people’s names…

Stage One: Switch Off Your Brain!

Often our head is full of internal chatter at the point we meet someone new. You know the sort of thing: “Will they like me?” or “I really don’t like networking…”  or even “My goodness – what is he wearing?”  You might be playing amateur psychologist in assessing their handshake… “Ugh! What a wet-fish of a handshake!” All of this internal chatter (for want of a better description) can get in the way at a very important stage of commencing a new relationship. So prime yourself. Ready yourself by clearing this internal chatter. In short make yourself ready to receive the name of the person you are about to be introduced to. Tell yourself – “I’m about to hear a name – I must catch it!” and now you’re ready for Stage Two.

Hear It!

Stage Two: Hear It!

Sounds bloomin’ obvious, but now you’ve primed yourself to hear the name – you’ll be amazed at how many people don’t actually tell you their name when they introduce themselves. They’ll say hello – of course – but often people just don’t tell you their name (and this is one of the reasons you don’t remember it.)  Your brain, in the past, has tricked you into believing you’ve forgotten it!  So, now you’re primed and alert you’ll know whether they have or haven’t. If they haven’t just say, “Sorry I didn’t catch your name.” rather than the less supportive, “…and your name is…? Assuming they have told you their name check that you’ve heard it correctly by moving onto Stage Three…

Use it or Lose it!

Stage Three – Use it…or Lose it.

Use the name of the person you’ve just been introduced to. Use it in a conversational way. “So, David what is it you do, then?” “Tell me, David is this a group you attend regularly?” Assuming that his name is David he’ll be impressed! Honest. Some people have a real problem with this. They’ll say, “I can’t do that,  it sounds ‘salesy’ or ‘smarmy.'”  Well, work on it so it sounds genuine, then. If you’ve remembered his name you can concentrate on what he’s saying. It also means you can introduce him to other people and it means you can say goodbye courteously. People often tell us they have real problems, “moving on” at networking events.  This overcomes that problem. Just hold out your hand and say, “Well David, it’s been a pleasure meeting you,” and you’re on your way.

Other Tips:

David? David?

Association (works for some people) Are there any other Davids that you know? Call them to mind. Picture the new David standing with the other David. The very act of thinking this helps lodge the name in the brain (for the reason why, see Tony Buzan’s writing about memory – Use Your Head or The Memory Book and many more.)

Use your Own Name Help the other party out – use your own name in conversation. “People say to me, “Ken how do you remember people’s names so quickly?”” They’ll love you for it, especially if they’ve forgotten it.

Wear a name-badge in the RIGHT place Don’t rely on name badges to remember other people’s names – they’ll often wear them in places that means your eye-contact may stray where it’s not welcome! If YOU wear a name badge wear it high on you RIGHT-hand lapel. As you shake hands it will be in the natural line of sight.

Admit it! So many people have a problem remembering names they’ll forgive you saying, “I know we’ve only just met but I’ve forgotten your name.” Not ideal, but if it helps you stop worrying about it worth doing (once only please!)

Please share your Top Tips for remembering names – we’d love to try them out too! And if you want even more TIPS see our FREE Downloads Page


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10 Responses to “How to Remember People’s Names…”

  1. Jody Fletcher Says:

    Great blog post – It’s something I think all networkers worry about to some degree and I’ll definitely put your ideas into practice next time I meet new people, Ken!

  2. Joy McCarthy Says:

    My dear old Dad had a very useful trick if he couldn’t remember someone’s name.

    He would say something like … “I’m sorry, I can’t remember your name”. The person would reply ‘Fred’ (or whatever) and he would respond, “I know its Fred. It’s your last name I can’t remember.”

    If they responded as ‘Mr Bloggs, he would say it was their first name he didn’t remember. Worked a treat and got him out of several awkward situations!”

  3. Jody Fletcher Says:

    Joy, That’s also a great tip! I am sure I will be able to put that into practice too!

  4. David Clare Says:

    Thanks for the great tips in this blog post, just about to start my career and remembering names is a good idea!

  5. Raine Hilson Says:

    I try and remember names with alliteration (spelling?) – so – at New Tricks you guys are Tall Tim and Kuddly Ken !! Jolly Jody… but the worst one was another Tim who looked like the Harry Enfield character and he was always Tim-nice-but-dim… !

    • Ken Norman Says:

      Kuddly Ken indeed! But if it works…

      We once met a lady who said, “Right I’ll remember your names, you’re Tim Brook-Taylor and you’re Ken Dodd. So, whilst the association/alliteration thing works it’s probably best not to share the thought process with the person you’ve only just met!

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