It happens more often than you like: You’re standing there speaking with someone at a cocktail party, networking meeting, conference, convention, etc., and you realize you have no idea what that person’s name is. You’ve been chatting it up, yet, you have no idea who the person is or, worse still, how you might introduce them if you need to. And you’re hoping that doesn’t somehow come up.
See also: 10 networking mistakes to avoid
Repeat their name back to them when someone introduces themselves to you. “Hello Lenny. My name is Michael. So, what type of work do you do, Lenny?” Repetition gives you a better chance of remembering the name and engaging in a richer conversation. People really do like hearing their own names and will feel a sense of intimacy when someone they meet for the first time is using it.
I will almost always ask for a clarification in spelling no matter what the name is — even if the name is Joe. It as a way of making the conversation more interesting, gaining clarification, and serves as a memory hook. “Is that John with or without an H?”
Ask for a business card
If I think the person I’m speaking with will be someone I’ll be speaking with again, I’ll ask if it makes sense for us to exchange cards. Once I have their business card in hand, I now have a visual of their name and other related information.
A mnemonic device is a tool used for a memory aid. My favorites are using the spelling of someone’s name — Linh with an H, Brian with an I, Tom with one T — but anything that’s kind of witty or catchy will help me remember names.
When you’ve lost it
If despite all of this you still forget the name of the person you’ve been talking to, simply say, “I’ve been standing here this whole time and have forgotten your name. Again, you are?” As long as it’s important enough for you to try to remember someone’s name, people appreciate it. We have all been there before and you have nothing to lose by asking.