Author Keith Ferrazzi’s first piece of advice for remembering names is to decide to care. “If you make a conscious decision that you are going to remember names,” he explains, “because you care about the people you meet, you will immediately become much better at doing it!”
There are so many “first impression” thoughts going on when we meet someone for the first time, that we can’t focus and we completely forget the name. When I served as Director of Newcomer Ministries for a large church, I lead a Hospitality team, and was responsible for the success of a guest’s first visit. I was famous for the shock and awe factor that followed my ability to call people I had met only once by name. It makes a HUGE impression on visitors when they feel like you care about them because you remember them. Don’t underestimate the importance of this small thing, not only does it impress, it reaffirms their sense of belonging and worthiness to be accepted by someone in leadership.
Experiment with a few of my tricks to help you remember names, then come up with the method or two that works for you and will allow you to create a “WOW” for each visitor.
1. Connect the face with the written name. I am a visual learner. I made it a point to “study” between Sundays. Generally, on their first visit, I would greet them and ask their names, give them details about the church and pay close attention to any details they would convey. I’d end the conversation by putting a bulletin in their hand, and asking them to “do me a favor” by filling out the visitor information portion, so I could mail them some info about our church. Later that week I would go through the submissions and force myself to recall a mental picture of the faces for the names listed. Seeing the names written, and having a mental picture of the people I had recently met, made quick recall very easy at a later time.
2. Do research. Facebook is my secret weapon. When I receive the visitor submission cards, I search Facebook to match the names with the photos. Of course, not everyone is on Facebook, but I had lots of success finding most of our visitors. Not only will you see photos, but you can find out a lot of information about the visitor, including mutual friends, places they have visited or lived, and family unit. All of these make for instant name recall as well as an easy conversation starter when the visitor returns.
3. Find an ally. If the visitor happened to give me a little extra info, such as “we just moved here from Florida”, I would say something like “we have a few folks here from Florida”. I would immediately try to locate our Florida members to connect with the visiting family, giving me the opportunity to repeat their names during the introduction. Repeating the name is an often used trick that business professionals practice to help remember names and faces. As an added bonus, connecting these families with similar interests usually made the new family feel more comfortable because they weren’t “alone”, but in the company of someone with a common interest. This connection always helped me with prompt recall , as I could later “visualize” the families that I’d connected.
4. Use Association. Associate the name with someone or something familiar. This allows for the verbal and mental images to connect. This can be as easy as “Sarah”, Oh, we have a Sarah on staff here. Do you spell your name with an “h” on the end?” Visualizing the spelling of her name, and the association with a staff member, allows me to recall her name each time I see her. Alliteration also works. Jerry just moved here from Jacksonville, “Jerry Jacksonville” helps me each time I see Jerry.
5. Make connections. This may be the hardest, but always the most fun. Sometimes, when I got to know the person better, I’d share a chuckle and tell them how I remembered their name, back in the day. I had lots of opportunities to use this trick, but it doesn’t work for every name. I met a beautiful lady named Paula Pino. I associated her with Pinot Grigio. Robin Banks made me chuckle (Robbing Banks) and Eve Phillips made me want to wait til EVEning to “fill-up” my car. My All-Star favorite was the time I met a young couple at a PTA meeting; Louis and Anna. I said “Like the state?” I won’t ever forget their names…and it always make me smile.
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Blessed with the gift of gab and hospitality, Bev served as a staff member for a fast-growing church for almost a decade. Discovering her talent for helping people step out of their comfort zone, she began recruiting volunteers to serve in Children’s Ministry. As the church grew, her focus became the influx of visitors and the need to make sure they didn’t get lost in the growth. For this, she developed a full team of trained volunteers to create the “WOW, from the Street to the Seat”. Her success with this program lead to speaking engagements at churches across North Georgia, prompting a string of WOW experiences! Now, as Marketing Manager for Displayit at Church, she loves sharing her tips, tricks and ideas, that can make a real difference. “We’re all on the same team, the Jesus team. Let’s work together for the greater good!”