One underused word that will help you connect remotely and face to face

The ring of coins that pour from a Vegas fruit machine; the sound of the Ocean; Pops Staples singing ‘Friendship’…they’re sweet sounds.

But do you know what the sweetest sound of all is?

It’s the one that’ll stop you losing people on video meetings. It’ll prevent that disconcerting silence on conference calls.

It’s the sound used by the most persuasive, engaging people to form connection.

It’s your name.

You know when you’re in a crowded room with indistinguishable chatter and suddenly someone says your name?

Immediately, your ears prick up and it becomes hard to focus on anything else.

Why saying someone’s name is so powerful

This is because saying someone’s name:

  • pulls into the core of who they are and
  • results in them being more drawn to listening to what you have to say.

It also means being seen. Not in a peek-a-boo kind of way but where you’ve really manifested before someone.

On virtual calls, saying someone’s name is even more important because you’ll increase an individual’s engagement and decrease the likelihood of them ghosting the call, that is, hopping off to the supermarket and coming back just before the close.

When you’ve got Microsoft Teams, with its maximum of 4 visible attendees, that’s even easier to do…

How to use names without sounding contrived or stilted

So, online and offline, when are the most opportune moments for you to use someone’s name?

It’s all in this 5 minute video here, where I’m joined by Beyonce:


1. Say their name as you welcome them onto the call, especially if you can’t see them.

“I see we have Tony here! And welcome, Rumi. Hi Idan, are you well?”

Think of it like greeting someone into your home. It’s more or less the same skills I’ve used in training TV presenters to host shows but it works. There’s a palpable increase in responses and involvement.

2. When giving praise: the message is more emphatic and personalised.

“Brendan, the clients are commenting on your ability to solve issues so quickly. “

3. When needing to refocus them on the matter in hand: this really pulls an individual’s attention.

“Carlo, do you think we can park that for now? I’d like to revisit it later.”

4. To bring someone into the conversation: immediately you’re pulling focus.

“Sam, what do you think? Is that doable?”

5. In an email of more than 120 words: this has the same effect as the above techniques. They’re ‘talking’ in the email but 10 lines on, still talking to YOU.

Say the recipient’s name at the end as well as in the salutation. As a rule of thumb, 120 would take up about 10 lines and the reader feels that the message is more personalised.

6. Say your own name when you’re talking.

Obviously this is for when you have participants on virtual streams. For example, when people have turned off their cameras, or are out of view in some way, it’s not always clear where the voice is coming from. So, you’d want to say something like:

“Dan here. When is the completion date, Penny?”

Notice also that it’s important to say who you’re addressing otherwise it’s one of those Taxi Driver moments: you know, the one where Robert DeNiro looks in the mirror and says:

“You talking to me?”

People just disappeared in that film through grizzly means. Make sure you don’t let them sneak away on remote calls. Do this by using their names to an even greater extent than in person.

Your Action:

1. On your next remote call, have this post right by you.

2. Use the listed opportunities to say a name – your own or others’.

3. Face to face? Drop their name in around every 10 to 15 minutes and see, how people listen differently.

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