Secrets to Remembering Names

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As a memory expert and two-time U.S. Memory Champion I am always challenged to see if I can remember the names of all the people in the room, or count cards. It’s almost like a doctor or lawyer to get asked for advice everywhere they go. I don’t mind, it actually gives me a chance to sharpen my skills and practice, and I love the look on people’s faces when I remember their name (everyone likes to know they are remembered).   Interview

This skill is a learned one, not one that I was born with. I believe I have the same brain capacity as anyone else, but I have just been able to channel and concentrate my mind through learning a series of memory techniques that have done we well. In addition, I have had some great memory coaches who have taught me invaluable lessons on how to focus my attention on the project at hand, and not allow distractions to make me lose my concentration.

I am going to tell you some of the secrets I have developed in order to remember names.

1) Focus.   I can’t stress this hard enough. If you do not concentrate on the person in front of you their name will go out of your head as quickly as it came in. I concentrate on that person, look at their face and ask questions. By the way, by focusing on that person you will immediately make a great first impression because it shows that person you are interested in them and what they have to say.

2) Keep using their name. Repetition reinforces the name in your mind. When you are introduced, don’t simply say, “Hello, it’s nice to meet you.” Say, “Hello James, it’s nice to meet you.” Continue to use their name throughout the conversation, if not out loud at least in my mind. When you are through with your conversation, say “Thank you, James, it was nice meeting you.”

3) Find a feature that sets them apart .   This is referered to as a mental file. Does this person have big ears, large nose, bushy eye brows, etc. Create an image in your mind using features that stand out of that person.

4.) Have a predetermined picture for most common name

For example:

Steve = stove

Karen = carrot

Lisa = Mona Lisa

Brian = brain

Lynn = lint

Ron = run

Michelle = missle

Wendi = wind

Gary = garage

Kathy = cat

Tom = tomcat

Harold = hair that is old

Eric = ear ache

Tim = tin (can)

George = gorge

David = divot (golfing)

Kevin = cave in

Dave = cave

Al = owl

Albert = burnt owl

Lee = leaves

Sue = sew

Lance = sir Lancelot

Charles = charcoal

Matt = mat

Paul = ball

5)  Practice visualizing this picture on their faces on the distiguishing landmark. For example, if their name is Steve and they have bushy eyebrows imagine the stove cooking the eyebrows.


Very few of us are born with the ability to remember everything or everyone. We have to rely on mnemonics or visual aids in order to retain information. Most of us will forget a person’s name and ask them to repeat it. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it shows you care enough to ask again. Remembering names is a learned skill, and with practice, and a little memory expert help, you can develop a sharper memory and perhaps a few more friends.

This is Ron White, and I am a two-time USA Memory Champion, memory training expert and memory keynote speaker.

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Psychology Today – Remembering Names: Secrets of Memory Experts:

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