“The No. 1 skill to master when it comes to business etiquette and networking is our ability to remember people’s names,” says renowned brain training coach and public speaker Jim Kwik, who will deliver the opening keynote at Imaging USA 2020 in Nashville.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Kwik says. “It’s hard to show somebody you’re going to care for them as a person—for their family, their wedding, their future, whatever you have to offer them—if you don’t care enough to just remember them. I believe the two most costly words in business and in life are I forgot: I forgot to do it. I forgot that meeting. I forgot that conversation. I forgot what I was going to say. And probably the largest one is I forgot that person’s name. Every time we think or say those words, we lose respect, we lose credibility, we lose character, we lose connection, and we could even lose the sale.”
If a person’s name is the sweetest sound to their ears, then it's a real bummer that for most people, a new name bounces off their brain and falls to the floor the moment it’s shared. BE SUAVE is Kwik’s mnemonic for getting those names to sink in and stay for the long haul.
With client engagements, you have the benefit of being able to working ahead, notes Kwik. So, for example, if you're scheduled to photograph a wedding, make the extra effort to find out and memorize the names of the parents and the wedding party ahead of time. The same goes for family portrait sessions; as much as possible, try to know each family member’s name and face prior to the session. Calling clients and their friends and family by their names elevates the customer experience.
Also in the spirit of working ahead, Kwik suggests going to the U.S. Census Bureau to look up the most common names in the United States and then creating visualizations for each of them. That way, when you meet someone with that name, you'll have an indelible image at the ready.
“I can tell you that there is no such thing as a good or bad memory,” Kwik says. “There is just a trained memory and an untrained memory. Everybody can improve their memory regardless of their age, background, career, education level, gender, IQ. None of it matters.” Once you begin practicing these techniques, you become sharper, he adds. Exercising the memory muscles that have atrophied in the smart-phone-reliant digital age strengthens them.
Most important, remembering a person’s name makes them feel good and makes them remember you, too. And in a field where success hinges on referrals from clients who feel good about their experience, that’s everything. In the words of Maya Angelou, Kwik notes, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Make them feel important by remembering their name.
Amanda Arnold is associate editor of Professional Photographer.