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How to Remember Names & Faces

Learn how to remember names and faces in this Howcast video about memory techniques featuring memory expert Barry Reitman.


Hi. My name's Barry Reitman, and I'm here to talk about how to remember names and faces. I'd like to mention quickly why it's difficult to remember names. But we do remember faces. If you meet someone today, and you see him a week from now, if you see him two weeks from now, a month from now, or maybe a year from now, you'll remember. I've seen that face. I know that face. What was the name?

Well, the reason you remember the face is because you've seen it. We're visual animals. And you remember what you see. You haven't seen the name. Even if it's written on a tag, "My name is John," you haven't seen it. You've seen some alphabetical characters.

So what I'd like to do is show you how to see names. It's a matter of a two-word system that I call "focus and picture." It will replace the eight-word system that you've used all your life. The eight-word system? Oh, god, I'll never remember all these names. And once you tell yourself that, it comes true. You won't remember them. So I'm going to show you the two-word system, focus and picture, and I'll show you how it can work for you.

The first person we're going to meet at a party is going to be Beatrice. I look at her. I pick out the feature that pops off the page at me. It's important to understand that there's no right or wrong when you're meeting people. I might see that bun at the top of her hair. Indeed I do. But if you pick out her lips, or her eyes, it doesn't matter.

But for the purpose of this, I'm going to picture that bun on the top of her hair. And I'm going to ask a question, "What was she thinking?" Well, she was thinking it looks cool, I guess. Now, what I'm going to do is picture it. I'm going to picture that, and I'm going to picture her name.

Beatrice. How about if I put a beehive in that bun? Or one large bee. It doesn't matter what picture I use. The sillier, the better. The crazier, the better. The wackier, the better. Maybe the more violent, the better. As I'm saying hello to her, I'm going to try to use her name a couple of times. I'm not going to say, "Hello, Beatrice. How are you, Beatrice?" I'm not going to be mechanical about it. But I might say, "Hiya, Beatrice. I've heard about you. And I'm glad you're at the party. Maybe we can chat later."

If I see her later on at the party, I'm going to make sure I say, "Hello." And certainly I'll say, "Goodbye" if she leaves first, or if I'm leaving first. But the entire time that I'm talking to her, I am going to see a bee, a giant bee in that bun. Maybe it's going to sting her. The next time I see her, I'll see that bun, I will see that bee, and it will be like a 3x5 index card with her name on it. Beatrice, I can't forget her if I want to.

Now, here's an important aspect. If you're at a party, and one person is introducing you to everyone else, make sure you spend enough time. You don't fill in, you're too long. But if somebody says, "Hi. This is Beatrice. And I want you to meet John." "Hey, give me a minute. I want to meet everybody. But let me say hello to Beatrice first." Beatrice will appreciate it. No one will be offended by that.

And now, I'm going to be introduced to Bill. Bill is an interesting looking guy. And when I see a bill, whenever I need a bill, I'll picture a dollar bill somewhere on his face. I'll go for the feature that pops off the face at me. Maybe that sweep of hair, or maybe his rather large nose. I'm going to take his nose. But I won't be able to see it because it's going to be covered over by a dollar bill. I will see that, do you see what I'm saying, "Hiya, Bill. I'm glad you're here. And maybe we can chat later after I've met everybody else. And watch out for Beatrice because she has a bee that maybe is just going to sting you on your nose if you lose that bill." I will see that dollar bill the next time I meet Bill.

And now, meet Cliff. Cliff is an interesting looking guy. Pretty dapper. I'm going to focus on his hair as well because it's kind of a tall rise of hair. You know what, you're ahead of me. It's a cliff. And I'm actually going to picture myself falling off that cliff. I'm going to be that big. And I'm falling down from that cliff. And I'm going to try to keep from laughing as I say, "Hiya, Cliff. How are you doing? I heard you're a relative of Bill over there."

And I'm being brought along to John. My word picture for John, for every John I meet is the men's room, specifically a porcelain urinal. You use what you like, and you can use totally different pictures than I'm just suggesting here. I'm just giving you an idea of the mechanics that you'd want to invent.

So I'm going to look at John. And there, too, I'm going to look at his nose. It's different than Bill's nose. But it's a prominent nose. And I'm going to use it as a porcelain urinal. "Nice to meet you, John. I won't shake hands now, if that's okay with you."

And look, it's Kelly. I'm being introduced to Kelly. What a pretty girl. Now, there are two of this. An interesting hairstyle, kind of slick down. But I'm going to look at her teeth. Those bright, shining teeth. And they're kind of big. And you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to take a bucket of green paint. Kelly green paint, and throw it at her face. And cover her teeth with Kelly green paint. I do that with every Kelly I meet. On whatever feature pops off the page at me. But you better believe that two hours from now at that party, if I bumped in to Kelly, I'll have trouble not laughing when I see her teeth. They're all green.

There's someone else we're going to meet. Miss Blukowski. She looks worried, doesn't she? She is worried. And all of her facial features point to her being worried. She's worried because she's in fear of being hit by something in the face. A blue cow that's skiing down the slope, and right at her face. Yes, a blue cow on skis. "Hi, Miss Blu-kow-ski. How are you? So nice to meet you. And don't worry about that blue cow on skis. It won't hit you."

Now, obviously we've just covered a few names and faces. But the point is very valid. You will remember faces that you've seen. Everyone does. The problem is always associating a face with a name. And by picturing those names, by making a silly, outrageous, violent, vulgar picture connected to a feature on that face, you'll remember it.

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