memory skills

Memory Skills

Everbody knows one of these people; they remember everyone they meet and when they greet even the most casual business acquaintances they make them feel like a dear old friend. They always ask about the wife and kids by name, they remember where you took your last vacation….you know this person. I am always awed by these people- how do they do it? How do they keep so many intimate details about so many people filed in their mind, ready for reference at a moment’s notice? Whether they’re speaking to a vendor or a client, they put people at ease. You want to be one of those people, don’t you? Sure you do. Well you can, with a little awareness, a little effort and a lot of consistency. It’s just a matter of working on your listening skills and your memory skills.
I’ve listed some tools and exercises that can help you be ‘one of those people’;

  • Pay attention! This is both the simplest and most difficult exercise to practice consistently. When you are not focused on the present, (because you are rehearsing your pitch in your head, or you forgot that you had a dentist appointment this afternoon…) you can not focus on what’s being said to you, nor can you retain that information. So try this for a week; whenever you feel yourself slipping away into your thoughts, consciously pull yourself back into the present. I think you’ll be surprised how often you have to do this for the first few days.
  • Take notes- After paying a visit to a client; as soon as you get back in your car, jot down some notes on who you spoke to, what was said, names, introductions, anything that you can store for future reference. Pay particular attention to personal information; birthdays, hobbies, travel plans, family’s names, etc. The next time you visit these clients, review your notes before you walk in, and you will score major ‘connection’ points. Eventually, this habit will seem very natural, and you may not have to write notes- you can just sit with your eyes closed and “log” the information from that visit.
  • Rehearse & repeat- Information must be rehearsed to be placed properly in long-term memory. For example; you’re at the gym on your lunchbreak and you get this amazing idea for how to handle a client’s next ad campaign, but you have nothing to write on. repeat to your self (out loud if you can- it helps to hear it as well) your idea as though you were explaining it to your boss. The act of walking through the conversation (rehearsing) helps ‘set’ the idea in your brain.
  • Use cues- There are two types of cues; the first is called visual elaboration, which is simply creating a mental snapshot to help enhance a memory. For example; a prospect whom you have been courting tells you casually that he can’t see you today because he’s on his way to his son’s hockey game. Picture that person wearing a hockey uniform, skating on the ice, scoring a goal! The more ridiculous the more vivid the memory will be. The next time you talk to this prospect, you will recall the hockey scenario, and will be able to impress him with your attention to detail in remembering something he told you off-handedly. The second type of cue is called verbal elaboration, which includes the use of acronyms, word associations and rhymes. Some examples of verbal elaborations that you have been using your whole life would be “Spring ahead, fall back” or “thirty days has September”. I am someone who never forgets a face, but I have always had a hard time with names. I’ve worked on it my whole life, and the tool that I have found most helpful is using a combination of visual and verbal elaboration; I will think of a rhyme for someone’s name (verbal) then I will make a mental picture of the rhyme incorporated with the person (visual). For example; let’s say I met someone named Carl. I might think to myself, “Carl likes to snarl”, then I would picture Carl with huge fangs and lots of slobber, growling and snarling like a pissed off dog. That’s a rhyme enhanced by a visual cue. Okay, so this example isn’t very flattering, but do you think I’ll remember old Carl’s name the next time I see him? You betcha!