The Name Game: The Lowdown on Learning Names!

by Sue Schnorr on December 6, 2009

by Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon. (provided to you, try compliments of  Sue Schnorr, sick President of Training Insights, Inc. and  Certified Associate for Contact Counts.)


Do you feel like a dummy when you can’t remember names?
You’re not alone.

Ninety-seven percent of the people in our workshops admit they are terrible at “the name game.”
There’s a reason people aren’t able to remember names. The next time you’re at a business or social event, watch people introduce themselves and count how many seconds this vital activity takes. Almost everyone zips through the exchange in less than six seconds!

You can do a lot in six seconds. Send a text. Blow out the candles on your birthday cake. Buy a lottery ticket. But one thing you can’t do in six seconds is teach someone your name and learn hers or his.

So slow down. Linger longer. Don’t sabotage your greetings by saying to yourself, “I never can remember names.” Instead, set a goal. Say, “I’m going to learn the names of five people I meet today.” Imagine that you meet a newcomer at the next Chamber of Commerce event.

Challenge yourself to remember his name long enough to introduce him to someone else. If you remember it for three minutes, then you’ll probably have it for 30 minutes . . . or perhaps forever.
To learn someone’s name:

Repeat it. If the other person says her name first, repeat her first name in your greeting. Say “Hi, Theresa. It’s good to meet you.” Ask about her name or comment on it.

You might ask about the spelling: “Do you spell Theresa with an “h”? Focusing on the spelling is a good idea, because 77 percent of us are visual learners. That means we learn best when we see something spelled out in our mind’s eye.

Ask separately for the last name. Say, “Tell me your last name again.” Notice that your conversation partner will say the last name clearly and crisply, rather than mooshing it into the first name.
To teach your name:

Give your first name twice. Say, “I’m Leo. Leo Torvette.” (This is the Forrest Gump Rule. Remember how he said, “I’m Forrest, Forrest Gump.”)

Say both your names clearly and distinctly.
Take a tiny breath in between. Don’t run them together.

Provide a way for people to remember your name. Say, “It’s like Corvette but with a “T.”
If people are wearing name tags, use them as visual aids. Look at your partner’s. Point to your own, when you say your name.

Often people say this about the name exchange: “Oh, I just rush through that part to get on to the good stuff.” But, in networking, names are “the good stuff.”

 Unless you learn someone’s name and teach that person yours, you can’t really expect to begin a relationship. So, abandon the six-second ritual. Be smart.
Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon are principals of Contacts Count, a nationwide consulting and training firm that specializes in business and professional networking, and career development. They are co-authors of six books.  The most recent is Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success (2007, AMACOM).  Fortune 500 companies license their training programs.  Visit them at and

Sue Schnorr is a Certified Associate for Contacts Count and President of Training Insights, Inc.

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