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4 Ways to Ensure You Never Forget a Participant’s Name

Posted by Jeff Welch on 10/16/17 8:00 AM
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Photo by: Mary Pahlke via Pixabay

As a professional trainer, it’s likely you’ve had that awkward moment when you attempted to address one of your participants by name, but you simply forgot it. I can relate as it’s certainly happened to me.


When I first started as a trainer, remembering the names of trainees was not my strong suit. I often used name tents as a safety measure. With each workshop, I’d instruct my participants to clearly write their names on the name tent that I’d faithfully provided as part of their training materials.


The name tent “trick” worked perfectly until each completed name tent was accidentally thrown away by the evening cleaning crew during one of my workshops. Talk about panic stricken! I scrambled, trying to remember everyone’s name for the remainder of the course. At that moment, I made the commitment to never be so dependent on name tents.


Remembering and referring to participants by name really shows you honor them as individuals. After my name tent debacle, I researched various ways to improve my memory and assist with remembering people’s names. I’ve categorized my four go-to techniques into a handy acronym known as C.A.R.E.



When you first meet a trainee, do your best to concentrate and focus on his/her name.

I used to make the mistake of hearing their name but not actually listening to it. This was because I was mentally pre-occupied with a laundry list of other things. As my participants arrived at the course, I did an informal introduction exchanging names and pleasantries. However, I never really focused on their names because I was too busy thinking about things like making sure my multimedia projector was operational or ensuring I had enough coffee cups to accommodate each participant. Bottom line, I was mentally distracted.

Now, when I conduct an informal introduction with participants, I make a conscious effort to stop what I’m doing. I devote my full attention to them, actively listening as they state their names. This extra effort to concentrate and focus on each participant has really helped.



I often use mental or word associations to help me remember a person’s name.

Recently, I delivered a large course that was attended by several male participants. When Tim and Thomas sat together, I anticipated it being a challenge to remember the names of side-by-side participants, both with names that began with “T.” However, my best friend’s name is Tim and I have a fraternity brother named Thomas. I made the mental connection to my bestie and my frat brother, and never forgot either name!

Psychologists also suggest playing a word association game with yourself the moment you hear a person’s name. That might entail associating the person’s name with where they are from or what they do. For example, “Cliff from California” or “Meghan who works in marketing.”



I make it a habit to repeat the person’s name a few times, especially if it’s one that is not very common or somewhat difficult to pronounce.

I once taught a course attended by a participant named Araceli. Had I not heard her name multiple times, I probably would have struggled with remembering it and pronouncing it. In this instance, I had her repeat her own name after our initial introduction. I wanted to be clear on the pronunciation of it. I finished the interaction by saying her name twice. “Araceli. What a beautiful name. It’s very nice to meet you Araceli.”



Throughout your training course, fully engage your participants. Not only is engagement good for interaction and motivation, it also assists with remembering names.

Ask your participants questions and acknowledge their answers, all while referring to them by name. Assign them various tasks such as team spokesperson or table scribe, each time using their name. This repetitive usage of your participant’s names just might help you learn them quicker. As a bonus, the repetition of a participant’s name during an activity or exercise makes memorizing their name a normal, natural part of the training process.


Always go the extra mile to remember your participant’s names. Doing so will indicate that you care about them and respect them as individuals. Hopefully these four simple techniques will help you learn your participant’s names faster and more effectively.


What are your best tips or techniques for remembering a person’s name?

Jeff has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Speech Communications and Broadcasting from Western Kentucky University. Before pursuing his passion for training, Jeff worked as a television reporter, flight attendant, fitness instructor, and tour guide. Jeff started his career in training at the daily newspaper in Atlanta. Training seemed to be a natural fit for him since he’s always been a bit of a performer. When at home, you’ll catch Jeff watching a cooking show, recreating a dish he’s eaten abroad, or exploring one of the many great restaurants in the Chicago area. During the summer months, he hits the road to follow the talented drum corps of Drum Corp International—something he’s done since high school!

Tags: instructional techniques

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