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The Secret to Memorizing Anything

Working in the field of Training and Development I meet A LOT of workshop participants. Meeting all these new people is one of the best parts of my job, but when I just started out running training workshops I had serious trouble remembering the participants names...   

I believe calling someone by their name is a simple way to make them feel recognized so I quickly resolved the problem. 

By using name tents. 

It didn't take long before I knew this was a big mistake. It just didn't fee right. I felt like a fraud calling out someones name right after I secretly peeked at their name tent.   

Dale Carnegie once said, “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” so I knew I had to find a way to remember people’s names if I wanted to truly connect with them.
I started using the same formula that I use in my workshop design to help people retain more from their training course.

It's called Spaced Repetition.

It is a learning technique that is highly effective because it deliberately hacks the way our brain works. It produces long-term, durable retention of knowledge and in my experience, once people start using it, they swear by it.
Spaced repetition states that in order to keep the new information in your head for a longer time, you need to try and put it into your long-term memory instead of in your short-term memory.
You can do this by extending and spreading out the memorization period.

How did this help me memorize people's names?
Here are the seven Spaced Repetition Techniques I nowadays use to improve my ability to connect with my adult learners and remember their names:

1. Meet & Greet. When someone first introduces themselves to me, I greet them by name, and repeat it immediately: “Welcome, Jeff!”

2. Use it. Next, I use their name in a sentence as soon as I can: “Jeff, there’s coffee at the back table. Feel free to help yourself.”

3. Repeat it. I take a moment and introduce the new person to someone else in the training room: “Jeff, I’d like you to meet Susan. She works in Finance too”

4. Picture it. Starting a conversation and learning about a new participant allows me to associate their name with one of the tidbits I’ve learned about them. I typically ask what they like to get out of the workshop, information about their family, etc. This way I can associate them with that information (e.g. Jeff wants to learn how to communicate more assertively and has two young kids).

5. Make it Stick. I like to rewrite their first name on my class list when I review it, rather than just check it off. I also write down tips for pronunciation that might help me recall their name correctly.

6. Associate it. On the first day of training, I like to take a 'mental picture' of everyone. At the end of the day, I’ll have more information about everyone, so remembering what they look like allows me to make associations with their image. This also helps me to remember more about them for upcoming training days.

7. Visualize it. If I have a group of learners that don’t know each other, I like to use a quick and simple name game that can break the ice and help me remember. 

I challenge you to use these 7 steps next time you wish to remember something and experience how it can benefit your memory. 
Just think of memorizing something as being kind of like building a brick wall; if you stack the bricks up too quickly without letting the mortar between each layer solidify, you're not going to end up with a very good wall. 
Spacing your learning however allows that 'mental mortar' to dry
Would you like to learn more about how we 'build' our spaced learning training programs? Have a look at our website 


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