Man thinking

Perfect your memory for names

Do you remember people’s names during and after interviews? Do you recall the names of business associates at large gatherings?

Remembering names is an appreciated courtesy you can extend to everyone at work and elsewhere. You’ll gain respect, popularity, and networking skills. You’ll advance your career. Try the following:

  1. Mental set. Before attending a meeting where you’ll meet new people, mentally prepare yourself to succeed. Research names and titles of individuals who will be in attendance. Pause between each introduction. Make eye contact with each person you meet. If possible, repeat the name of each person.
  2. Observe. Identify unusual or unique facial characteristics. Notice how this face differs from others. For example, note heavy eyebrows, cleft chin, or defined cheekbones. Exaggerate this feature to embed it in your memory. Using your imagination, mentally reconstruct the person’s face the way cartoonists do to overstate noteworthy features.
  3. Associate. Create an association between that distinguishing characteristic, the face, and the name in your mind. The association may be to link the person with someone you know with the same name, or associate an image with the person’s face or defining feature.
  4. Clarify name. If you’re uncertain about a person’s name, politely ask for reiteration. Confirm the correct pronunciation. Consider asking the derivative of an unusual name. This confirms interest and offers repetition. Repeat the name to yourself or aloud. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Huang.”
  5. Repeat and review. When introduced, ask the person to repeat his name. Use the name yourself as often as possible. After you’ve left that person’s company, review the name, and enter it in your business directory. Record the time, place, and date at which you’ve met each new person. Note distinctive information such as hobbies or career history. During conversations, repeat names wherever possible. This involves people more intimately. Also repeat and spell to yourself names of new acquaintances. When leaving a new associate reiterate the name.
  6. Pace yourself. Don’t rush through introductions. Ensure you’ve made one personal comment to each person you’ve met. Intend to remember one more name than previously at each new meeting.


Memory aids may initially be time-consuming and feel clumsy. But research demonstrate they work. Rehearse the aids with everyone you meet. Enjoy the process.

Dr. Carole Kanchier, career and personal growth expert, is author of the award-winning, groundbreaking book, Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life (2014). A registered psychologist, coach, speaker, and columnist, Carole practices in Calgary: