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The biggest challenge that most people have with their memories is the ability to remember the names of people that they have met. So this month I am going to give you a couple of tips that you can use to help you remember names more effectively.

I often have delegates on my courses complain that they can never remember the name but they can always remember that they have seen the face before. So why is that? Well as you will know if you are familiar with these pages, the brain thinks in pictures and as someone's face is a picture, it is only natural that you will recognise it. But what was their name?

The main reason that it is difficult to recall someone's name is that you probably never heard it correctly (if at all) in the first place. Often, introductions are hurried affairs, particularly if there are several people to be introduced to, and most people's attention is on saying their own name correctly or shaking hands with just the right grip and so on. So if you never got the name in the first place, how can you ever expect to remember it. The following tips will help you:

1. As you are introduced to someone, get a good look at their face so that its image is clearly impressed onto your mind.

2. When they offer their name, repeat it back to them saying something like "John it is nice to meet you" or "Mrs Jones, welcome to the Grange". This is a good way of developing your social skills.

3. Clarify the spelling and pronunciation of any unusual names to make sure that you have got it just right (it is of course only polite that you do so). Don't feel uncomfortable doing this, the person that you are meeting will be flattered that you are taking the trouble to ask.

4. During the course of the function that you are at mentally review the names of the people that you have met by looking at each one and recalling what they are called. Listening to others speak to them or of them, will help you fill in any gaps.

5. During the conversations that you have with these people, use their name as you address them or refer to them. For example you could say "Well David, what are your views on that?" or "That was an interesting point you made there Eleanor".

6. At the end of the function, if you have been introduced to someone, then it is only courteous that you should say good bye to them. This of course is another opportunity to use their name again to reinforce it once more. You could say something like "Mr Onion it was a pleasure to meet you and I am so sorry we did not have time to talk about your gout".

7. As you say farewell, there may be one or two people that you wish to keep in touch with and so now is a good opportunity to exchange business cards. When you have their card, make sure that you get a good look at it so that you can see the name written down for the very first time providing yet another anchor for the name.

8. After the function, make notes about the people that you have met, ideally on the back of any business card that you may have been given. Then review these notes as described in the Article on Memory Rhythms (See October 1998) to really embed their name into your long term recall.

Just by doing this, you will increase your probability of remembering everyone that you ever meet by at least 50 %. It does take a bit of effort and you have to balance the benefits of doing it this way against the problems associated with forgetting names. In the future I will tell you how you can use visualisation to create memorable imagery that will add to the process that I have already described.

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