(Blog post by Andrew Thorp)
Given how self-absorbed politicians are, it must have really hurt Chancellor George Osborne when President Obama (at least twice) referred to him as “Jeffrey” when they met at the G8 summit yesterday.
Jeffery Osborne it turns out is a 65 year old R&B singer (see right) most famous for the hit “On the wings of love” but one imagines there wasn’t much love in the air when the Chancellor was mis-identified by the Commander in Chief!
In his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie claimed that a person’s name is the sweetest sound they’ll ever hear in any language. People tend to tune in more closely when the speaker refers to them by name; it also shows a certain respect that the speaker has bothered to identify you correctly and address you in person.
Where the name is mis-remembered the listener feels under-valued and probably wonders if the speaker is actually ‘losing it a bit’.
Good name recognition is also a great technique to use when presenting. If you’ve got to know someone in the audience and you refer to them by name during your talk, it makes not only that individual but also the entire audience feel more part of your presentation. It personalises your pitch and sounds more relaxed, spontaneous and conversational.
Perhaps Obama should take lessons from one of his predecessors, Bill Clinton. The former Arkansas Governor was a master at remembering not only people’s names but also details of their last conversation, their family and other relevant matters. He was known for making everyone he met feel like the most important person in the room.
But it’s most commonly in so-called networking situations that business people come a-cropper with name recognition. Here’s a few pointers for both speaker and listener.
Get better at listening – simple! Actually it’s not a simple thing to do at all – most people listen on a very superficial level so it’s no wonder they struggle to remember names. Get some feedback on your listening skills, get some professional help and practise!
Repeat the person’s name back to them at the start to make sure you’ve got it right. Being unsure of their name will undermine any confidence you have in the subsequent conversation. The very act of saying their name clearly at the outset will help you remember it throughout.
Associate the name with something. I met a Vlad recently so for me he’s “Vlad the Impaler”. By the way, there’s no need to share your recognition hook with the actual person!
Do your homework – people who are good with names often have a system behind them; it’s not always a natural gift.
The Talker – make it easy for people to remember you
Say your name and company clearly. You’ve heard it a million times and that’s the problem – you trot it off casually because you know what it is but it’s often unclear to the listener. “The name’s Bond, James Bond” seemed to work pretty well for 007!
Give them a way of remembering it. I have a pal called Witkewicz and he always summarises it as “like Weetabix”). You don’t forget that!
Finally, don’t be forgettable. If you’ve got a bland, factual pitch you’ll get lost in a sea of noise. Develop a great story and learn how to tell it well.