How to Make Better Introductions and Remember Names (Part 1)

Making Introductions is hard. Remembering names is even harder. In this two-part series, The Public Speaker shares 5 secrets for making a proper introduction and remembering the names of people you meet. 

Lisa B. Marshall,
December 20, 2013
Episode #231

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Recently my mother-in-law and I needed to pick up my children from school.  As we headed for the school, I noticed another mom walking in.  I recognized her. I clearly remembered attending a committee meeting with her.  I even remembered our conversation from the first day I had met her a few years back. Unfortunately, in my mind she was “Eva’s mom” and I just couldn’t remember her name!  I felt horrible.

When we all arrived, I sincerely asked, “Hey, how are you doing?” She excitedly told us about an upcoming trip to Disney.  I wanted to introduce her to my mother-in-law and thought to myself,  “The next time she pauses, I’ll just have to confess that I don’t remember her name.”  Lucky for me, just at the moment she saved me by introducing herself.  I was so embarrassed and I apologized for not introducing her immediately..

Unfortunately, I think my story isn’t uncommon.  Today, in Part 1 of this two-part series, I’ll talk about making proper introductions. And in Part 2, I’ll talk about how to remember names of people you meet.  

We’ll start today with rules of introduction:

Introduction Rule #1: Always Make the Introduction

I’ll start with the most important rule; always make introductions. Even if you are embarrassed; even if you’re not quite sure what to say; even if you think you may have introduced these two people before, go ahead and make an introduction.

Making an introduction is a sign of respect. No one likes to feel left out and introductions help everyone to connect and get comfortable.  I find many people don’t introduce someone because they can’t remember their name.  However, if you can’t remember the person’s name, you’ll can say something like this:

"This is embarrassing, I know your name, but right this second, I'm blanking out." Or "I know you're Eva's mom. I’m so sorry, would you remind me your first name please?"

Don’t assume the two people know each other unless you’re sure of it. My friend Sue has introduced me to her mother-in-law at least five times. That’s ok. I’d much rather be introduced too often than not at all.

If you are in a situation and you sense the other person is struggling to remember your name, just go ahead and introduce yourself and spare them the discomfort.

If you think the two people have probably met, you can start with something informal like “Do you two know each other?” That opens the door to either an introduction or for the two to acknowledge each other and start talking.

Finally, if you are in a situation and you sense the other person is struggling to remember your name, just go ahead and introduce yourself and spare them the discomfort.  Again, the goal is to make connections and make people feel comfortable; that should be the first priority.

Introduction Rule #2: Start with the Right Person

Allow me to review the rules of introduction etiquette.  I admit I’m not an etiquette expert, we’ve got Modern Manners Guy, Richie Frieman for that, however, when it comes to introductions, etiquette calls for younger people to be introduced to older people, children to be introduced to adults, women to be introduced to men in social settings. In professional settings, the lower rank person is introduced to a person of higher rank and clients are introduced to internal employees.  

I know it can be a bit complicated, that’s why I follow this simple rules: always start with the person you’re honoring. For example:

"Grandma Vincenza, I’d like you to meet my college friend, Larissa."

"Armando, this is Tian Hai. She’s the project manager in software QA. Tian, this is Armando Velasquez, our Chief Operating Officer."

"George have you met my client Nancy Brown?  Nancy's been the CEO of SciTech Company for the past five years. Nancy, this is George Harvington who was recently promoted to development manager for our XYZ product." 


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