As a startup founder and the Director of an Entrepreneurship Center, I meet plenty of new people each day. I expend a lot of effort to ensure I remember each person I meet, but the sheer volume of people I'm introduced to each day makes it challenging to remember each person and the context under which we connected. Because of this, I've had to develop a few tricks to interact with people whom's names or faces I don't remember.
Before I share my " hacks", I must advise you that the best (and honest) thing to do is to admit that you don't recall a person's name, and politely ask for them to share it again if possible. This works if your initial encounter was a short interaction, and can serve as the foundation of an authentic interaction in the future.
But sometimes the person whom's name you've forgotten can be so friendly and familiar with you that you may feel guilty for not remembering the person. Asking them their name in these instances may be awkward, because they obviously know who you are and asking them their name could signal to them that you didn't value your initial interaction with them. In those instances, here are some things that I've done to give the appearance that I remember a person, even when I actually don't. When considering these tips, take into account that I'm extroverted, an African American male, ENFP (for you Myers Briggs nerds), and in my mid 30s. So these "hacks" may need to be modified to fit your unique characteristics.
1. Greet Them With Enthusiasm
When the person whom's name I've forgotten is a woman, I give her a firm, warm embrace, compliment her appearance, and say "its so good to see you again" in a very enthusiastic tone.
Here's an example: ***Reaches in to Hug*** " It's so good to see you again. That dress looks amazing. You know you're always stylish whenever I see you."
If it's a guy, I typically say "what up bro" if they are younger and/ or I suspect the connection is informal. If they are also an African American male, I may even throw in a "bro hug"( the half hand shake/ half hug we naturally do when greeting each other).
If I suspect the connection is formal or if the gentleman is my senior I greet them with "How are you sir?" After the greeting, I immediately divert the conversation to sports by saying "Did you see that game last night?" The brilliant thing about this is that even if they aren't into sports, they'll try to participate in the conversation because they want to appear to be one of the guys. Use the male ego to your advantage in this instance! If they say, "I missed it", proceed to share the highlights from the game with them.
2. How's Business? or How's Life?
For my network, asking "how's business" usually works as the next question. It also gives me more clues about who they are and how I know them. Sometimes I'll remember their business even if I forget their name, and this can be used to engage in authentic conversation while causing them to assume that I remember them.
If "how's business" doesn't work or isn't appropriate, use "how's life treating you?" This question keeps the conversation high level and buys you time because when they ask you the same question you can say something general like "grinding" or " you know how it is, the work doesn't stop". Typically, people give superficial answer to questions like these, so use this to your advantage.
3. Stay in Character
Always act as if you totally know who they are. Think about it, we interact with friends, romantic partners, and loved ones and never say their name in most conversations. The person who you don't remember will only suspect you don't remember them if you give them the impression that you don't.
4. Tell them "We Need to Catch Up Soon" To Learn Who They Are
Close the conversation by saying "we need to catch up soon" and ask them for their card again. If they say they don't have a card give them your phone and let them put their info in it. That way they can type their name without you having to ask them for it.
If they say, "you should already have my number", simply say "Let me check, could you share it with me again?" Then joke about having a senior moment. Then, when they recite their number, type it in your phone and if you have it stored their name will appear once you dial it in. If no name pops up, simply say "I don't see it, I need you to put it in my phone again". Then go to the contact section, and hand them the phone so that they can type their information. Remember, they'll never suspect you don't remember them unless you do things to make them think you forgot them, so just act natural.
After experiencing this stressful encounter, their name will be seared into your memory! You'll definitely remember them the next time you see them. If you don't, then shame on you !
So there you have it, four tips to ensure that they feel acknowledged, and that you don't look like an ass for forgetting their name.