No matter where I go I get asked to do some kind of memory challenge. It’s all part of being a memory training expert and two-time U.S. Memory Champion. I don’t mind. It’s not only flattering, but it gives me a chance to practice and tune up my skills, and I really get a kick out of seeing the faces of people when I rattle off a list of names and each of the people hear their name. 

Most people have a problem remembering names. I hear all the time that “my memory is bad” or “I am just not good with names.” The truth is they just aren’t paying enough attention, and with a little fine-tuning of memory techniques anyone can improve their ability to remember names and faces.

I was not born with an abnormal memory. Most people aren’t. I have been able to learn different memory techniques that have served me well, and it’s something anyone can do if they have the desire to. I also have had some wonderful help, through friends and memory coaches who have shown me how to fine tune my skills and focus my attention in order to become better. Again, it is a learned skill and not something I was born with.

I would like to share with you some of my “secrets” to remembering names.

  1. Pay attention.  I can not stress this enough, if you do not want the name of the person in front of your to run through your head as quickly as water through a sieve, pay attention and concentrate. Look at their face and ask questions. As an added bonus, you will be making a great first impression! People are impressed when someone shows a genuine interest in getting to know them and what they have to say.
  2. Repeat their name.  Your mind imprints more when you repeat something over and over. When you are introduced to someone, don’t simply say, “Hello, it’s nice to meet you.” Use their name and say, “Hello James, it’s nice to meet you.” Continue using their name throughout the conversation, (although not in every sentence). When you are through with your conversation, say “Thank you, James, it was nice meeting you.”
  3. Associate a feature. While looking at their face, pick out a feature that you can use to associate them with their name – example: Sarah has a mole on her nose. You can also associate them with hobbies, interests or friends you have in common. Find something that will set that person apart from the others, put their name with this association, and repeat it. When you need to remember their name again – say at a restaurant when you run into them again, you will be able to retrieve the name without difficulty. Imagine how impressed they will be that you remembered their name after only one short introduction!
  4. Use memory aids. It’s not cheating to write down a person’s name and where you met them! Teachers use class rosters so they can associate their students with their seating location until they can get their names down.

The majority of us, even memory experts, have to rely on mnemonics or visual aids in order to retain information. Most of us will forget a person’s name at one time or another and have to 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, it’s not something we are born with. If you have the desire, the focus and practice fine tuning this lesson you can become very good at remembering names and faces, and have developed a better overall memory as well.

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





Psychology Today – Remembering Names: Secrets of Memory Experts: