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Imagine there is a workshop or meeting with about 10 participants. You see them for the first time. Everybody introduces himself during the first minutes.

It's hard for me (and I guess some other technologically oriented people) to remember their names.

I guess electronic gadgets won't help. Writing down what other people say when they introduce themselves feels... strange.

How to remember the names of the participants quickly and reliably?

Goal: Discussing is more effective if you can use the name of the people.

Update

  • Of course I have this problem only if I meet new people
  • There is no written agenda with the list of names.
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    a workshop or meeting When you have a meeting with your colleagues, you surely know their names. It is when you have a workshop with strangers, you could have this problem. But, in most workshops I go to, there are name plates in front of everybody. I am not sure how you could have this problem. Would you please clarify? – scaaahu Jun 9 '15 at 7:05
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    A pretty geral tip: When they tell you their name, repeat it. Not just say "Nice to meet you" but "Nice to meet you, Tom" (example) – BlueWizard Jun 9 '15 at 7:32
  • "and I guess most other technologically oriented people", woah steady on there! – cowls Jun 9 '15 at 7:38
  • Could you ask if they have a business card? If not, jot down a short form of their name. You don't have to spell it properly, just enough to say it more or less accurately during the meeting. – Brandin Jun 9 '15 at 7:52
  • Not sure it's related to being technical as I know lots of techies (including myself) who can remember names. If you are having trouble, there are plenty of good tips on the internet. The "Find the Trigger" mentioned in this Forbes Article is a good one. – Laconic Droid Jun 10 '15 at 13:49
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I have this problem too (and yes I am technically oriented). It is not common here in the UK to have Nameplates in meetings other than training groups (for some illogical reason), nor does everyone have a business card and those that do often don't share them for more informal meetings.

The solution that works for me is that as soon as I sit down I draw a "map" of the desk/table/group at the top of my blank page (it can be quite small and discreet, it doesn't have to be a big drawing)- then as people's names become apparent, either through a round-the-table introduction or as people ask, speak and introduce others, I just write them onto the map. Often I include their job title, role, area of expertise or responsibility on the project, so I know who to go back to with a specific question. Tip: always include yourself on that map so later you can see who was sitting next to you, left and right, and opposite...

If it is a smaller group, and everyone has arrived, I merely write everyone's name across the top of the page, in order, starting on my left. Then to identify a person I quickly count from my left to their place around the table and pick the nth item in the list (it works quicker than it sounds for <=5 people).

This has saved me countless times. I have tried to "fix" their name in memory using the techniques outlined elsewhere, but I can never think fast enough or creatively enough!

Yes it could be perceived as a bit nerdy, or a bit weak because I cannot magically remember everyone's name, but that discomfort is soon over (if it really exists at all) but the discomfort of having to address people during the meeting and not being able to use their name when they only just told it, lasts longer and is more focussed on you. A benefit is that you then have the names of everyone in your notes, which can be very important for email follow-ups after the meeting.

  • I do this too, and over the course of the meeting (when I can do it discreetly) I try to add in other clues that may help me later -- physical traits, issues they were particularly interested in, comments somebody made about history with the team, whatever. I don't always get this right, but sometimes it helps. – Monica Cellio Jun 9 '15 at 20:16
  • nobody has to notice you're writing down names anyway. I guess you could do what you do even in a simpler way, just write down the name and some physical characteristic (hair color, glasses) so that you can use it during the meeting. This is even more discreet. Writing down names alone would not look weird imho as nobody remembers surnames anyway. Afterwards you can stalk them on facebook or linkedin if you forget the faces and details. – Formagella Jun 10 '15 at 16:15
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This is the tip I find most useful:

Find The Trigger. Try to associate names with things people tell you about themselves (careers, hobbies) that will trigger the sound or association of the name in your mind. Fred likes to fish, Margarita runs a bar–you get the idea. “You have to search in the moment for something familiar,” says Spiegel. “It’s a simple trick, but it just sticks.”

My memory for names is absolutely terrible so I think you'll only ever mitigate the problem never solve it totally. I would add to the quote if you're only give a name try to associate the name with a very strong memory or memorable event. Peter = Peter Parker = Spiderman etc... you never forget the guy you're calling Spiderman in your head.

  • I heard of this method before. It works well. But up to now I need way to long to find a matching trigger. May be I need to train this. – guettli Jun 11 '15 at 6:14
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Most meetings have an agenda and an invited attendees list. Look at the names beforehand and familiarise yourself with the names that are on the list. Print and bring copy to the meeting.

Then, as each person introduces themself, you can look at the attendees list and mark then with a number on the agenda as an ordinal position starting clockwise from where you are sitting at the table. If a person is not on the list for some reason, simply add them discretely on your paper and number them.

This also then can form the basis of the meeting minutes if you are the person tasked with this :)

  • Yes, I do this. But often there is no list. I ask for such a list some days before. This helps a lot. – guettli Jun 11 '15 at 6:16

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