The Simple Secret To Remember That Particular Group Of People
“Remember that group of people? Never! I consider myself lucky if I can meet two people at once and know their names five minutes later!”
The man who said this to me was the dignified, white-haired chairman of a large industrial firm. And he meant it.
Yet one week later, after he had mastered the principles set forth in this book, that same man was meeting twenty persons at once, and remembering their names with ease. The transformation seemed so miraculous, even to himself that he said: “I want you to come to Akron and teach my executives how to do the same thing. This is the most remarkable thing in memory education I have ever heard of, and I have been in business half a century!”
Time and time again I have encountered the same attitude and the same result. Rudolph Stiasny, banquet manager of the Waldorf-Astoria, was equally certain he couldn’t remember names. Yet, after he took the course, he was arranging large banquets, meeting dozens of people at once, and addressing each person by name. “I cannot tell you,” he said, “how great an advantage this has been. Nothing could have convinced me that I could do this—until I did it. But now I not only remember that customer, but I can remember each person’s likes and dislikes. People come back to us again and again, because they can depend on us to remember their individual tastes.”
But the mere idea of meeting a number of people at once is terrifying to the average person. So terrifying, in fact that they don’t even attempt to remember names. Failure, they know, is a foregone conclusion.
Yet we can remember groups of people, with a little practice, just as easily as we remember one or two, and by applying the very same rules. You can convince yourself of this if you make the experiment at the very first opportunity.
GIVE YOURSELF A FAIR ADVANTAGE
My advice to beginners who expect to meet a number of people is: arrive at the scene early, in order to avoid hurried introductions.
Ordinarily, people arrive at parties, meetings, and conferences in twos or threes. This means, of course, that if you are on the scene early you can meet them as they come in, and avoid having to run the gamut of a dozen flustered introductions at once.
With this simple precaution, you have merely to observe the same rules we have discussed. You get the name right, you repeat it as often as possible, you analyze the face, and you anchor the name as strongly as possible by association.
There is, however, a second precaution you will find useful in meeting groups: check yourself as frequently as possible on the people you have already met. In order to do this, take advantage of any lull in the conversation to glance over the group, repeating the names to yourself. You will obviously find it easier to remember a large group if you stop for this kind of checkup after meeting four or five new faces. If you find that one name eludes you, ask the person sitting nearest you to help you out.
This repeated checkup is really the secret of remembering groups of people. For example, William Donnelly, general superintendent of the Kingsport Press, the biggest textbook publishing house in the world, was recently invited to a dinner party. He decided to try out this method and see if he actually could remember the names of the sixteen other guests present. So he took advantage of those moments when he himself was not engaged in conversation to examine the faces of those he had already met, and repeat the names to himself. When it came time to leave, he had no trouble whatever in calling each person by name as he said good night. And this was all the more remarkable, since he was apparently the only person present who could do such a thing. Nobody else, he noticed, was able to call him by name, although they had spent several hours in the same company.
To illustrate the fact that this ability to remember that particular group of people can be acquired—by practice and by observation of the rules—I myself, on my lecture tours, frequently name one hundred and fifty of the people sitting in the auditorium. I do this, naturally, by asking people their names as they come in the door. Invariably this “stunt” of remembering a hundred people at once is greeted with openmouthed incredulity. Yet, I repeat, it is an accomplishment anyone can master. The secret lies in the four rules we have already studied, plus a frequent pause for a checkup.