No good with faces (…and I’m bad with names)

Amy Groome
4 min readApr 13, 2022

Tips and tools for networking in the digital era

Image of a crowded networking event. People are animated and talking with one another, some holding drinks in their hands.

Does Jack Johnson’s song “No Good With Faces” sound like an accurate depiction of your networking experiences?

Personally, I have always struggled with remembering names. Whether it be celebrities, new acquaintances, second cousins, or even clients. This shortcoming used to be a major insecurity of mine, especially in the “bygone days” of in person networking events and happy hours. I’d be in a crowd of people whom I might have met once, perhaps twice…and I couldn’t for the life of me recall their names or pin point when we had met. I am sure many of us can relate to the paralyzing feeling of seeing someone familiar approach us, and thinking…how on earth do I know this human?

On a biological level, we can blame our anterior temporal lobes in the brain for playing a key role in the retrieval of people’s names. As we age, the function of this component gradually degrades. While there are some compelling electrode stimulation therapies to support in nominal recall, this approach may not be necessary for most of us!

Image of the temporal lobe — located at the base of the brain nearby our ears

After far too many networking events where I left empty handed in expanding my network, and far too full of charcuterie…I decided it was time to rework my approach. I discovered Forbes writer Kristi Hedges’ 5 memory hacks to support in name recall:

Meet and Repeat — You can stick a mental pin in someone’s name by simply repeating it aloud upon introduction. ie: “Hello, my name is Mark.” “Hi Mark, nice to meet you!”

Spell it out — For longer or less intuitive names, ask your new connection to spell out their name for you. Even better if they have a name tag…

Associate: This is my personal favorite method — as it requires some creativity. I often use alliteration such as Marketing Manager Mark to help the name stick. This could also work with a pneumonic device (similar to our old friend PEDMAS from Algebra class). Another method from a Dale Carnegie training course is to “Picture images that sound like a person’s name — and combine it with other things you know about them.” Perhaps Mark shared with you that he grew up in London, England…so you could picture Mark standing in a red phone booth eating fish and chips to paint a picture in your mind.

Make a connection: This method can be super helpful if you have a personal data bank of celebrities or other easy-to-remember figures in your head. Our new friend Mark may somewhat resemble the famous actor Mark Wahlberg…and voila you have a neural connection! Just be sure to call him by the correct last name, or don’t if you’d like to flatter your new friend :)

Choose to care: Sometimes it is as simple as paying better attention — zoom in on the person in front of you and take a mental snapshot of this individual. Don’t let the panic around forgetting names stand in the way of actually hearing a new one!

Today, with the luxury of remote networking events and video-call connections, I have started to leverage note taking and LinkedIn headshots to tap into some of the memory recall tips listed above.

For me, it isn’t enough to only know a person’s name and job title…my memory works best with story telling. Where did I meet this person? How did they get there? Did they sit in horrible traffic on the way to “x” event? Did they get held up at home walking their new Australian Shepherd puppy?

A snapshot of my Networking Tracker developed on Google Docs. The link to this tracker is below for your use.

I invite you to make a copy of my personal Networking Template (shown above) as a starting point in documenting your professional address book.

Click the link HERE to download the spreadsheet (please hit File → Make a Copy) to create a copy of this document for your personal use!

Good luck out there :) And if you’d like to connect, find me on LinkedIn to say hello!

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Amy Groome

Architectural turned UX Designer Passionate About Accessibility + Inclusion