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Whenever I attend a conference, tradeshow or social gathering with people I have yet to meet, I make it a point to try and add a few new friends or professional contacts to my network. Sound familiar? Yet it is not unusual for me to forget the name of a new acquaintance. I am often distracted by the circumstance of our meeting, trying to make a good first impression. And while it’s perfectly ok to apologize and ask for the individual’s name a second time, I decided not too long ago to look for a “cure” of my instant amnesia. I needed to find a way to remember names and other important information.
As someone who coaches lawyers from a variety of firms, I learn something valuable from virtually every lawyer with whom I work. One relevant example came from my time with Scott Sugino, a corporate lawyer who works in the Tokyo office of O’Melveny & Myers. A talented M&A partner, Scott competes in triathlons in his “spare” time (and has added several valuable individuals to his network from this endeavor). During one of our calls, Scott introduced me to “Moonwalking with Einstein.” Written by Joshua Foer, this fascinating book explores the “lost art” of memory—it’s importance to daily life before the printing press and its continual decline with the advent of more and more devices that remember for us. Foer became so enamored with the topic that he trained for and competed in the U.S. Memory Championships.
Foer (and Scott) introduced me to three basic mnemonic techniques:
- The memory palace: Remember a list of items by placing each item at an unusual spot within a familiar place (the family home, for example).
- Chunking: “Chunk” large numbers or items into smaller, more manageable groupings – (880) 552-3312 is easier to remember than 8805523312.
- Creative visualization: When meeting someone, create a visual reference related to the name. Imagine someone named Bill Baker wearing a baker’s hat, for example. Interestingly, Foer’s book recommends that the dirtier or funnier the visualization, the better for retention.
I try to use creative visualization whenever I meet someone for the first time. I might say “My name is Kevin; think of heaven.” Seems to work.
The 2018 LMA Annual Conference is just a few days away—what a great time to build our respective networks. This year, I will be working on my mnemonic techniques, particularly creative visualization. Hope to meet you there.