As a trainer/coach, you meet new people every day. Connecting with your participants during a training is a fundamental part of the learning process. Using names when addressing someone contributes to their sense of connection and involvement. But when you see so many people passing by, how do you remember all those names? With the facilitation of online training it became a lot easier. After all, the name of a participant is showed in the video image of the participant. But during a live training it is way more difficult to remember names. Do you use name tags? Or are there other ways to (quickly) memorise the names of participants?
Why is the use of names so important during training?
Dale Carnegie once said: “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” Using a participant’s name is important. Name use makes the interaction more personal and contributes to a sense of belonging. You are important to me. I have seen you! The use of the name also ensures that you can easily divide attention in the group during a workout. “What’s your opinion about that, Erik?” will lead to a faster response rather than asking a question to the entire group. If you ask questions without specifically addressing a participant, you will notice that often the same people answer your question. That does not contribute to healthy group dynamics. And moreover, you miss valuable insights from the less expressive participant.
Remembering names, how do you do that? One person is incredibly good at that, the other finds it really difficult to remember all those names. But even if you find it difficult, you can get better at it. By exercising. And it is worth it. According to Bill Clinton – he is known for always remembering names – anyone can learn. So you don’t have to be genetically well-endowed for it. You don’t even have to have a talent for it. You can learn to remember names by practicing. Bill Clinton uses a (quite obvious) method for this, consisting of three steps.
1. Listen carefully during the introduction
Back in the old days when I started as a trainer I learned one very important lesson: as a trainer you are present well before the start of the training. Making sure you are all set up, at least half an hour before you expect your 1st participant. This ensures that when you welcome (that is different from receiving) the participants, your head is clear for the first step in connecting with people: listening carefully. The half hour of coffee reception is perhaps the most important moment of your entire training. When you welcome someone, make sure you are there. Physically and mentally. Don’t be busy with your phone. Don’t look around. Focussing on the participant is your only priority. At this moment you have to deal with the information that is most relevant to you for facilitating a good training: the name of the other!
2. Register the person carefully and link it to the name
Registering a person is not limited to the moment when they say their name. It’s about the whole moment; listen carefully, make eye contact, pay attention to how you shake hands (I believe we will be allowed to do so someday …). Maybe there are even special features that you notice. Is it a difficult name? Feel free to ask how you pronounce the name correctly. That gives you the opportunity to repeat the name 2 or 3 times without making a fool of yourself.
All the information you register now and link to the name in your head will help you to easily remember this name during the training. How long does this ‘registration’ take? Sometimes 10 seconds and other times maybe 10 minutes. In all cases pay attention to the registration of striking information, for example:
- This person has glasses
- This person gives a very firm handshake
- This person has a “French” name
- This person is full of energy
3. Repeat their name
You can give your memory a helping hand by repeating the name a few times. While everyone is watching and listening? That is possible, but it can also be a bit more subtle. Walk around the participants and name the names in your head. If you do it “silently” you can pass the registered data (glasses, handshake, etc.) again. And sometimes I am just very open about it. When everyone is seated and we start I say “Okay, let’s see what my ‘remember the names score’ is today!”. At that moment, no one will blame you if you have forgotten a name and because those people whose name you forgot will repeat their name, it is more likely that you will remember them now.
And then the superlative in memory training: how cool is it when you remember the names a few weeks later during the next training day? Bam… a great start to your training day that is guaranteed to earn you respect. Difficult? No, it is not. Repeat the names regularly throughout the day. Even the days after, when you think back to the group. Connect with them on Linkedin. Searching for them and learning more about their working experience and background will boost your memory. Let the people (and their data) pass by again.
So no more name tags as far as I’m concerned. Making sure to get enough sleep. Be well prepared. Welcoming my participants with full attention. And listen, listen very carefully. It may be clear that this does not only apply during training, but at every (first) acquaintance. Because from a sincere connection everything becomes easier. And also a lot more fun!