You don’t need your name. Here’s why.

Frankie Kemp

6 December 2012

‘I can’t remember names’ 


Speech developed long after body language and it is our non-verbal signals that enabled our ancestors to work out whether they could trust their spears to another or whether they might find themselves roasted over a fire.

Reading body language was literally life or death and allowed our forbears to assess mood and intention.

This is why when you meet someone for the first time, your brain is flooded with unconscious business, crushing brain data, received by non-verbal language, often blanking out the words themselves within the first few seconds (although not the intonation).

Scientists have measured the flood of this data at 400 million bits of data per second. Quite how they measured it is beyond me but suffice to say, with all that code coming through, it’s no wonder why we can’t remember names.

‘How rude! You never introduced yourself!’

So what would be the point of saying your name within the first minute of a presentation?As a presenter, the only action you need to take within the first minute, is to catch the attention of the audience, and only then do you need to introduce yourself. That’s exactly what you do in a conversation. Just in case there are any doubts that this would work, think back:Have you ever started talking to someone you’ve never met before and, having realised, you have no means to address them, then you ask their names?

If ‘yes’, think again: did you think, at any point in the conversation, ‘How rude! You never introduced yourself to me!’?  I guess you didn’t. That’s because you caught each others’ attention and had already assessed a mutual liking. By this point, you’d be more likely to remember their names because your brain would have pulled in and interpreted many of the initial non-verbal patterns.This is what you’d do in a presentation: grab someone’s attention, engage, then introduce yourself.This is why forgetting names, doesn’t mean you’re getting old, have a bad memory or some kind of brain block. You’re human and you’re not attuned to automatically remember someone’s name before you’ve worked out whether they’re a friend or foe.

How to ensure that your name is in their heads

1. Environment:

Your audience won’t remember their own names, let alone yours if they’re hungry, hot, need the toilet or feel unsafe or a time restriction. An example of this is when I presented in Turkey, in 40 degrees in an unventilated room in August. Before I started, I had to make sure that water was brought into the room and the windows were open.Sounds simple but many presenters forget that a) you can stage manage your space b) people won’t be listening to your inspiring talk when they’re dehydrating.The key to engagement is having your audiences’ basic needs sorted out beforehand.

2. Spice Rack:

 Start with one of the twelve attention grabbers that I have on my Spice Rack, before you say your name. Examples are* an anecdote – this can last for the entire presentation or just a sentence of it.* show a picture – or use visual language to describe something* use a prop – this can be a product or any other piece of realia.

3. What you do, not what your are:

Talk about What You Do, not just your Job Title

Example 1: My name is Dan and I’m a Senior Manager at 87Steps Software. – This does not tell anyone what you do!

Example 2: My name is Dan and I run the sales analysis team for 87Steps Software – This does tell people what you do!

Simple. See the difference?  Note: when you’re meeting people, pick Example 2.

You’re more likely to find opportunities with this than with the Example 1.

Maybe it is because of this propensity to forget names at the first instant, we invented ‘small talk’.  However, you decide to introduce yourself in a social situation, take the pressure of yourself and comment on the chocolate mousse, or the freezing cold, or the speaker: anything but your name. In a presentation, use the spice or adjust the environment. That way, you’re more likely to remember the names of others and they’ll remember yours.


  • Fantastic site. Plenty of useful info here. I’m sending it to several pals ans also sharing in delicious. And obviously, thanks for your sweat!

    • Alison says:

      Thanks so much for your feedback. Really appreciate that! If you have any suggestions of what you’d like to see, please let me know. Meanwhile, more videos to be uploaded in the next weeks. Happy Christmas!

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