Tips On Talking With People Whose Names You Can’t Remember

In a few days, i’ll be traveling to WordCamp US before that I would like to share a secret.

I’m horrible with names. And slightly less horrible with faces. I have a “face blindness”. And “name blindness”. And “Twitter avatar blindness”. And “I’ve talked with this person 20 times in the past year via email but still can’t remember this person” blindness. So conference times are hard for me.

Turns out it’s hard for others as well – I’ve had a few admit that to me. But for natural reasons few want to admit that in public or social media. Allow me to be your sacrificial lamb and offer some tips.

Scenario: You are side-swiped as this person approaches. You need a name.

Tip 1: Obvious first move is to look at the name badge. Although the universe is against you and the name badge is covered by a jacket or reversed (this is why as a WordCamp organizer i recommend when doing conference badges to make front match the back for this reason). If by some reason the conference badges print Twitter handles, it gives you an excuse to look and ask “Has That Always Been Your Twitter Handle?”.

Tip 2: Introductions. If you have someone with you that hasn’t met the person (at least that you are reasonably sure hasn’t) allow them both to introduce yourselfs. You’ll get the name that way.

Tip 3: Get into the conversation and make up a reason to ask for their email address or Twitter handle. Odds are good you’ll get something useful from that.

Tip 4: Some conferences have “unique” info on their badges and you can ask to see their badge to see what theirs looks like.

Tip 5: Ask for their business card.

Scenario: You are the one approaching, but you forgot the name (slightly better scenario because you have time to prepare).

Tip 1: It’s harder to get line sight of the name badge from a distance, but sometimes the odds can be in your favor.

Tip 2: Approach said person, excuse yourself for the interruption, and ask them for their Twitter because you want to follow them (or Twitter accidentally dropped some followers – it happens). Walk away knowing you’ll be prepared for your next encounter.

Tip 3: Never hurts to ask someone else. Believe me, everyone has crappy memories. Or mostly everyone.

Tip 4: Ask for their business card.

Wait – Why Don’t You Just Ask?

This blog post is a bit of a parody, because you shouldn’t be afraid to ask someone’s name. All of us endeavour to remember people, but stress and time put a strain on our brains. Especially if we are at conferences outside of our local area. Outside of those with total recall, this effects ALL OF US at some point or another.

If you are talking to someone, be understanding if they can’t recall your name at the moment.

Especially if that person is me.

See you in a few days, WordCamp US.

David Bisset

David is a full-time freelancer who specializes in WordPress (and BuddyPress) for startups, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between. Organizer of WordCamp Miami for 5+ years.

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