You know that awful feeling: you're at a party or — worse — at a business meeting, and you're horribly embarrassed that you've forgotten someone's name. While some tips for remembering names are probably as old as names themselves, technology has enabled a few new tools that might just save you from certain embarrassment.
Old-School Tricks — and Why They Don't Always Work
There are three, basic, non-tech methods to help you remember a name:
1) Repetition: When someone first introduces him or herself to you (e.g. "Hi I'm Mark"), repeat the name within your response ("Hi Mark. Nice to meet you"), and again when you're saying goodbye ("Mark, it was really nice meeting you")
2) Visualizing The Name: When you first hear the name of the person you're meeting, picture that name stamped across their forehead. You could also picture the name stamped somewhere else, but that might get you in trouble.
3) Association: When you are first introduced, think of a famous person with the same, or similar, name. So for example, you might associate "Neil" with Neil Armstrong or "Mark" with "Marky Mark."
The problem is, these tricks don't always work - because when we meet a new person, instead of focusing on them and their name, we get self-conscious. Maybe you're worried that you might have spinach in your teeth — or maybe you're just nervous about making a good first impression. When that happens, it's easy to forget about repeating, visualizing, and associating.
So here's where technology comes in.
New Tech Tips That Work
After you meet someone, fire up the Namerick app. This tool lets you enter your new acquaintance's name, and a few details if you like (like where and how you met), but the genius of this app is that it creates a memorable phrase around the person. Instead of just remembering "Mark" or, say, "Fred," they suggest Fred Floats Felines. You have to admit: Fred Floats Felines is way more visual and memorable than just Fred. It's both association and visual. And to capitalize on the old-school method of repetition, they also text your phone at various intervals after you met the person, with reminders about their name. This, I find to be the most useful part of the app: I know repetition is key to solidifying memory, but I forget to do it. The automatic reminder makes it happen.
Next tool: Facebook. If you know you're going to an event with people whose names you're going to forget, log in to Facebook, and search your host's contacts. You can search by affiliations — work, school, etc. — or look at the list of your host's friends to do a quick refresh on names and faces.
Finally — if you are committed to improving your name recall — use a contact organizer that allows pictures. Evernote Hello lets you hand your phone to someone you've just met and asks them to take a picture of themselves. I know it sounds weird, but if you can overcome the awkwardness of asking, it works. Plus, it automatically adds when and where you met that person for even more context.
Key to all of these memory tricks and tools is remembering to use them!
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