Remembering Names

One of the challenges in business – and life – is simply remembering names. Meetings, conferences, parties, gatherings and holiday events. I cannot tell you how many times I have met someone and then run into them a few weeks later either informally, or at another event. AND then occasionally, even worse, I can’t remember their name! I used to pretend, or hem and haw around, but these days, I just use a simple “I apologize, I don’t remember your name.” The good news, they usually laugh and admit they don’t remember mine either.

But the truth is, that we all feel special when people remember our names and use them in conversation. A few simple tricks and habits can help us to remember names.

  • When introduced to someone, repeat their name back. “It’s nice to meet you, Linda.”
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat. Simply say the person’s name several times in your head.
  • Ask how they spell their name. This is especially helpful if the name is unusual.
  • Word association. Find something about the person that you can associate with them. Rhyming works too. (Pam is wearing purple. Rachel has red hair. Lyle has a nice smile. etc)
  • Make a connection. Maybe the person looks like someone in your family or someone famous. Remember the comparison.
  • Keep using their name. If conversing for a while, use their name again.
  • If you forget, don’t be embarrassed to ask their name again.

Do you have a unique or unusual way to remember names? I would love to hear about it!

Email me with your tip.


The Changing Face of Volunteerism

volunteersI have worked with non-profits for a long time and over the last several years I have noticed a difference in how people volunteer. Most non-profits work with a lot of committees staffed with volunteers to get things done. But over the last decade, those committees have seen a significant decline in participation.

While serving with Clovis MainStreet, the board president, Lisa Dunagan and I began to explore different ways to engage volunteers.  MainStreet is a local, grass-rots organization that builds a foundation on the National MainStreet Four Point Approach and those Four Points represent four working committees. Or at least that is how it is supposed to work.

We found that those committees stumbled along staffed with 2-3 board members and occasionally engaging another volunteer or two.

Now this is not just about MainStreet, because I have seen the same trend in churches, civic organization and other volunteer based projects.

You know – the old 20-80% rule.

20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work.

It. Was. The. Same. Everywhere.

Occasionally, we would run across an anomaly in our conversations, but they were mostly in very urban areas and on the east or west coasts. Since we are based in New Mexico, it was easy to observe what was happening there and in neighboring states like Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona and Colorado. And we found that…

It. Was. The. Same. Everywhere.

There are lots of reasons why people are not engaging, but when we asked, we primarily heard these reasons:

  1. I volunteer because my heart is engaged with the mission of the organization.
  2. I don’t have time to waste. I need to get in, get something done and get out.
  3. I hate meetings.
  4. I want to get something out of volunteering.
  5. I am not sure what they want me to do.
  6. Give me a task and let me do it.


This led to a lot of brain-storming, more questions and a lot of research.

We learned that there are generational statistics that support our ideas.

We did an informal survey and found that 87% of the leaders we spoke with were frustrated with volunteer engagement and about the same number of volunteers were frustrated with the volunteer process/activities of the organizations they volunteered with.

We stumbled across the phrase “episodic volunteerism” and it rocked our world.

We began to look at the whole committee thing in a different light and ultimately migrated our program away from committees and to task squads.

The bottom line? Volunteerism is a changing and it is important for organizations to evolve and meet the needs of those volunteers to continue to receive their support.


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