Total Recall of Names & Faces

Got a mail from a friend last week that said:

“I’m currently rubbish at remembering names and faces, this needs to change. I’m very good and remembering places so my mind obviously works to some degree, it just needs some tuning. Do you know of any great strategies or courses that might help me?”

It is a problem I used to have myself. Social events were a world of blank looks and pathetic conversational fishing as people slowly sank into disappointment at not being remembered that only partially matched my embarrassment for not remembering. I was in awe of those that had, what appeared to be, the “gift of total recall” of names and faces.

Recognising the power and value of the ability I set on a path to discover the best way to achieve Total Recall of names and faces myself. Here’s the best of what I found on the journey:

Make the person important enough to you and you will remember their name!

Often the reason we forget is that we simply don’t care, value or believe the person can help us (the “selfish gene” is a powerful beast). Not saying your “selfish” only human. Make them important and suddenly you will store them differently in your mind.

In group situations like training there are lots of tactics I learned to use such as:

1. Repeat the name 3-times when you first engage the client- Repetition is the mother of memory
2. Association with what they are wearing or a characteristic ;big Ben, Tom the hat, Jenny the smile. (Funny, never had any problem remembering beautiful ladies)- We always remember images
3. Get below the first layer of conversation (Bill works at Honda, Hazel loves Paris etc.)- Create a story and you will remember the person in it
4. Create movies associated with the person you are remembering; being handed a Bill at a Honda garage, eating a Topic with (Hazel nut bar) in Paris- The wilder more outrageous it is the more you will remember

Nothing worse than not knowing the name of someone you meet. Here’s the advice I received:

1. Don’t bluff… go early with lines such as; “charming to meet you again though you have me at a disadvantage..”
2. Plan… ask others in the company who the person you know the face but can’t place the name before you meet them. They will be impressed.
3. Best advice.., Read their name badge, they never know (try this in ASDA)

Remembering names is a great ability to a have and some of the most successful people I have met seem to be amazing at it, people like… um… uh.. you now.. the football guy… his wife’s name is Nicole, beautiful eyes and that dress. Now… what’s his name?

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Ed Miliband on Sales & Training

So Ed Miliband has become a capitalist. Well maybe, maybe not. Every political party and politician needs the middle to get elected and they will say whatever they believe you want to hear. Democracy is based on promises. We vote on promises and then vote again for a whole new load of them when we are let down. I don’t believe we are falling for the same scam every time, just we have no alternative. Maybe it is our own fault because we would never elect someone who tells us the truth anyway.

Now to Ed and Sales. In his speech at the Labour Party Conference today, for a moment I was drawn to something he said, something I feel politicians have ignored for too long. If you want to get the country out of recession the only way is to sell your way out. Ed said we need to “… train, invest, invent ,sell”. Here, here Ed!

You and I know that if you don’t sell it it doesn’t move. If it doesn’t move then you stop making it. If you stop making it people lose their jobs. But why is there no focus on sales in education and why is sales so ignored as a key skill in the talent mix for British working population. You can’t study it at school, college or University and very strangely, Business Schools don’t focus on it either. What is it about Sales that stops the powers in the education and training establishment from grasping the opportunity?

Leaving it to companies to train their own sales teams is not enough. I have enjoyed a great career in sales with many different companies, but in reality had no more than a few days training and most of an unremarkable quality. The truth is most sales people are left to their own devices. Even at the highest level strategic sales, the kind of sales that BAE Systems need to secure the jobs of their workers, are not trained to a level that makes the difference. At TALENTStream we are committed to lift the quality and availability of Sales Training available in the UK.

In a competitive market the sale is won on value not price. Sales people build value, build relationships, build businesses and build countries. It is time to train more sales people to levels that mean we win more business at a higher price, that generates more profit leading to more investment and more jobs. I don’t think I’ll say this very often but Ed is right, but he has it the wrong way round. Ed, and any other politician listening, it’s “ Train, Sell, Invest, Invent” then add “Employ”. It is how nations are built and it might even get you elected!

TALENTStream are a Harrogate based Training company specialising in Sales and Management for Sales. More at

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Where Were You on 9/11?

The chances are you can remember exactly where you were, who told you and what you did when you heard about the attack on the World Trade Centre (Twin Towers) on September 11th, 2001. I do. I had just come out of a Sales Meeting on the 3rd floor of our building near Heathrow and everyone was crowded round various computer screens and televisions aghast at what was happening on a crystal clear September morning in New York. It is still as vivid today as it was the morning after and just a week from the event. So why do we hold on to such dramatic memories more than others?

A survey carried out by the University of Manchester, commissioned by Yesterday, a UK TV channel, sheds some light on what we remember and how. It looked at peoples recollection of events and compared shared high profile events with more personal landmarks. The findings are astonishing. It seems we remember shared high global events and personal successes more than family or personal landmarks. Take for example the following:

82% of people surveyed could recall the detail of their hearing of 9/11 compared with only 72% being able to recall the same level of detail about their wedding day.

62% were able to recall in detail their whereabouts on hearing of the death of Princess Diana compared with only 50% being able to recall details of their child’s first birthday.

Findings from the data clearly show that the dramatic shared experience is recalled more easily than personal and less dramatic events. Thinking about the implications of this in training I started to list and recall training events I attended as a delegate over the years (and there has been 50 or so). I set myself the task of trying to remember the trainers name, the name of the course and a single learning point from each.

When I reviewed my results I was shocked at the findings. I remember the training stars of course like Bandler, Robbins, Covey and Anderson and others, but most of the standard business trainers and training have drifted away. In fact of the 50 or so I know I’ve attended, I struggled to recall even 10. The only exceptions were the dramatic courses, the big changes and the ones that made me personally feel successful (strangely enough the most remembered personal event in the survey was a personal success; Passing your Driving Test at 79%).

Do your own personal survey and tell us your results;

Step 1. List the training events you have been on in the last 5 years or so. (Do you think you have them all down or have you even forgotten a few already?)

Step 2. Write down the trainers name next to the course. (What was his name again?)

Step 3. Write down the title of the course or what it was about. (Was it…?)

Step 4. Write down 1 key learning point you remember. (Nope! Gone.)

I’m guessing you have gaps everywhere and I know that you are not alone and everyone has a similar experience.

Does this mean that most business training is wasted? Only if it is boring. If it is dramatic (different) and makes delegates feel successful then recall is higher and learning is guaranteed.

The message from all this is obvious. In designing training make sure you have compelling events (not irrelevant icebreakers by the way, they are lame), shared experiences and built in success. In choosing a training provider make sure they are different, stand-out, excite, engage and make people feel good about themselves. Make sure their stories and metaphors are vivid and compelling and their teaching styles varied and flexible. If you do that then I know that your teams will be able to at least recall the three things you couldn’t and perhaps have learned a lot more.

For more information on outstanding presentation and to report “Boring Presentations” and “Trainings” go to

For the source report on the survey visit

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Shopping, Rioting and Related Behaviours

I was taken by Andrew Gilligan’s writing this week in the Telegraph ( He painted a very real and frightening picture of what was happening in the London riots and it got me thinking about why people do the things they do, like shop or riot.

We know that self-esteem or the like is essential in delivering our mood and that it shapes how we deal with the world around us. We also know that whenever we are praised, stroked or complimented endorphins are released in our brain that top up our self-esteem and make us feel good about ourselves. But what if no-one bothers to say nice things, do nice things or we feel ignored?

Well many people find they start other activities that release endorphins… like shopping for example. We all understand the term “retail therapy” and now you know it is simply making you feel good by releasing endorphins you are not finding elsewhere. You are literally buying happiness. The thing is once you have bought one thing, the endorphin buzz makes you want another. This is why you never leave the supermarket with just the one item you went in for. Endorphins make the next decision easier and taste even sweeter.

Rioting? Well the first point is the rioter has something missing (intelligence I hear you shout) and possibly we may find it is self-esteem (OK and any modicum of “respect for others”). Where you and I may shop to top up our joy, if you haven’t got the money, and it looks like you can get away with it, then you are a stones throw away from an endorphin rush (pun intended)… and you know what happens when you get one of those, you want more.

This rush may be one of the reasons riots escalate the way they do and when you add in the irresistible power of Social Proof you see why normally reasonable people (slightly stupid and morally void) somehow get drawn into the endorphin fueled frenzy of a riot.

To riot or loot is wrong and there is no excuse and I don’t have the answers. But there may be a clue in making people feel good about themselves; because when we do we don’t feel the need to shop too much or riot for our endorphin fix.

Be happy!


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