Tips to Remember That Name When You’re Drawing a Blank


Have you ever been at an event and started to introduce your boss to a Very Important Person and then, out of the blue, you couldn’t remember the VIP’s name? You’re a rare and lucky person if that hasn’t happened to you.

What do you do? How do you recover and save face?

It’s Not the End of the World

During this time of year you will no doubt be making the rounds of parties. Parties mean lots of reconnections and introductions to cope with.

You won’t lose a potential account if you forget a prospect’s name when you bump into him at the bar. It’s how you present yourself and handle the situation.

If you’re stuck, you can say something like, “I’m so sorry, but for some reason I’m drawing a blank. Please remind me of your name so I can introduce you to the head of my department.” Remember to stay calm, smile and maintain eye contact.

At a recent book party, I rode up in the elevator with a very senior corporate communication’s executive. She seemed familiar but I could not place her or remember her name. I was honest and said exactly that.

She was very gracious and re-introduced herself, reminding me that we had worked together a few years ago. Back then she had very long dark hair. During our recent encounter she had short hair with blond high lights. No wonder I was at a loss for her name. She and I both had a good laugh over my not recognizing her.

Who Get’s Introduced First?

People get all tangled up in how they are supposed to introduce people to each other. In a business situation, it’s proper etiquette (and probably good for business) for you to first address the higher-ranking or more important person.

If it’s a prospect, you could say, “John, I’d like you to meet my boss, Bill Peters.” Then say, “Bill, this is John Jones, the President of XYZ Company. John and I have been in discussions about his PR account.”

You may be at a large and noisy party. Your prospects – and boss – have no doubt met many people.

John may not remember your name so when you first walk up to him, if his eyes seem to be glazing over, re-introduce yourself. “Hi Bill – Jeff Sinclair, good to see you again.”

Now you might wonder why you’d want to mention the discussions to your boss. Your boss may not remember that you’ve been in discussions with John. In fact, John may not remember your name or your discussions!

So in just a couple of sentences, you’ve set the stage for a conversation where no one needs to be embarrassed by not remembering names or the business context.

Tips for Remembering Names

Remember That Name
Remember That Name

Imagine you’re at a holiday party or a business event. How do you remember the names of the people you meet and want to reconnect with later?

Here are some tips that will help:

  • Give the introduction your complete attention.
  • Establish eye contact, smile and shake hands firmly during the introduction.
  • Don’t think about what you’re going to say next.
  • Listen carefully for the name and immediately repeat it aloud.
  • Associate the new person’s name with someone you know or know of with the same or similar name.
  • Associate the person’s name with a physical or personal characteristic.
  • Picture the letter of the first name on the person’s face.
  • Use the person’s name periodically and especially at the end of the conversation.
  • If you forget then casually ask, “You said your name was…?”
  • Write the name down and some detail that will help you recall the person at a later date.

You’re not the only one worrying about remembering that name. Help the people you meet remember your name by repeating it. “Hi, I’m Jack – Jack Smith.” Emphasize your name when you repeat it.

Who knows, it might encourage the person you’re meeting to repeat his name, too. “Good to meet you Jack. I’m Scott, Scott Jacobs.”

Everyone forgets names once in a while. If you draw a blank the next time you meet someone you know, relax. It isn’t the end of the world. Take a deep breath, smile and politely ask for their name.

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