Communications Insight For More Inspiring Leaders Terrible at Remembering Names? Want to Improve?

Terrible at Remembering Names? Want to Improve?

 8th Jan 2022
Terrible at remembering names? Want to improve?

Last night, I finished reading “Moonwalking With Einstein – The Art And Science Of Remembering Everything” by Joshua Foer. It’s a compelling read.

In 2005, Foer attended the U.S.A. Memory Championship as a journalist. The event piqued his interest, triggering 12 months of intensive research and training in the discipline of memorisation, mentored by British memory expert, Edward Cooke. In 2006, Foer returned as a contestant… and won the Championship.


Some key insights I took from Foer's journey:

1 Imagery is all. The clearer, more vivid the better. When we associate a piece of information with a related (and potentially bizarre) picture in our minds, we are much more likely to remember it.

Ed Cooke on how to remember the name Joshua Foer:
“I’d imagine you 'joshing' me where we first met, outside the competition hall, and I’d imagine myself breaking into four pieces as a result. Four/Foer, get it?”

Presentation skills expert, Patricia Fripp Presentation Skills Expert: "Your listeners won't remember what you say. They remember what they 'saw' when you said it." (love that)


2 Human spatial memory has evolved to be STRONG. When we visit a place – a friend’s house, a school, our place of work, a local shopping street – we have a very good ability to recall the lay-out. We are good at picturing places in our minds.

Hence use of the fabled “Memory Palace” – a mental location in which to “store” specific memories. It doesn’t literally have to be a palace; it might be your home as a child. But it must be a place you know well, so you can journey through and visit the images you wish to recall.

Competitive memorisers might have many hundreds of Memory Palaces, each filled with images associated with specific sets of information.


3 With conscious application, this is a skill and it can be learnt. Competitive memorisers will go so far as to encode a unique image association for each of the 52 playing cards in a regular deck (though I'm not saying we go that far!)

To win the U.S. Championship, Foer didn’t "memorise" the 5 of clubs, 9 of clubs, 3 of diamonds, 5 of spades and 6 of diamonds.

He saw “Dom Luise, celebrity fat man” [5 of clubs]… hocking a “glob of spittle” [9 of clubs] onto “Albert Einstein’s thick white mane” [3 of diamonds]… while delivering “a karate kick” [5 of spades]… to the groin of “Pope Benedict XVI“ [6 of diamonds].

See, told you the imagery had to be vivid!

#personaldevelopment #memory #publicspeaking #science #leadershipskills #research

One of the best investments in personal development I had at BP was to engage Simon Bucknall as a personal public speaking coach. He was phenomonal and key to my moving from being a very nervous public speaker to a strong and confident one.


 Joe Little, Self-employed, Former CTO - Senior Technology Consultant at BP

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