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Memorize This: Three Tips for Remembering Clients' names, Faces and More

State Street

July 17,2018

Phone numbers. Driving directions. The correct spelling of the word tranche.

They’re among the ever-growing list of things many of us no longer feel compelled to remember because technology does the work for us. With smartphones and other devices, a tap, a swipe or a voice command are all you need to instantly access critical information.

But as tempting as it is to use tech to supplant our memories, it’s not something that we can do all the time … nor should we want to, especially in the course of day-to-day business. In fact, having a great memory can make you stand out as the pivotal person who can recall a critical statistic during an important meeting, or the one who can greet a key client by name at a crowded soiree.

“When you’re face-to-face with people, you shouldn’t look at your phone. You can’t look at your computer,” says Frank Felberbaum, the author of the book The Business of Memory. “You have to interact with somebody using the most powerful biocomputer in the universe, and that’s your brain.”

Felberbaum, the president and CEO of Memory Training Systems, consults with corporations around the world to help their employees dramatically improve their memorization, concentration and thinking skills. Techniques to bolster one’s memory can vary, but Felberbaum offers the following three key tips:

Create a Visual Story for Names and Faces: During the business of a conference or networking event, it can be challenging to keep names and faces straight. Felberbaum suggests observing a person’s face to isolate distinguishing features, such as a large nose or cleft chin. Then concentrate on his or her last name, since last names tend to have more distinctive sounds or associations than first names. Next use imagery — the stranger, the better — to connect the two in a “mini-story.” In his book, Felberbaum uses the example of a man with the last name of Moskowitz who happens to have a broad forehead. To remember this man, a person could imagine a forehead “dashing around Moscow,” Felberbaum writes. “Your goal is to visualize the name in a way that permanently associates it with the face in your mind so that you simply are not capable of remembering one without the other.”

Review and Reinforce: Whether you’re honing in on just names and faces, or intent on memorizing other specific details, like a client’s quarterly results, it helps to periodically review the information. Felberbaum keeps a notebook with lists of all the new people he’s met and important information about them. He makes a point of reviewing the book from time to time, and says that helps him recall about 85 percent of the thousands of people he’s met over more than three decades.

Though some people have naturally great memories, many more can significantly improve their skills through training and practice.

Take Care of Your Health: What does your physical health have to do with your memorization skills? An awful lot. Studies show that a lack of sleep and poor nutrition can hurt cognitive function, including your memory. Exercise, in contrast, helps keep blood flowing to the brain. “Your brain uses 20 percent of your blood flow,” Felberbaum says. “Your biocomputer needs all that blood. It needs to be nourished.”

Though some people have naturally great memories, Felberbaum says many more can significantly improve their skills through training and practice.

“Memory is a verb, not a noun. It’s something you do rather than something you’re passive about — you can train your mind to retain all kinds of information, but no one appreciates the real value and power the human brain has,” he says. “They think they need help through technology at all times. People have delegated their regular thinking process to their smartphones and laptops.”

Felberbaum and others say we should be relying more on our brains again, particularly when it comes to storing and recalling important information. Now we just need to remember to do it.

1. Felberbaum, F., & Kranz, R. (2005). The Business of Memory: How to Maximize Your Brain Power and Fast Track Your Career. Gordonsville, VA: Rodale. 

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Topics: Talent Management , Training


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