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February 2019
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TD Magazine

Remember the Name

The situation

You're leading a training session, but you struggle to remember people's names. You dedicate so much of your energy to facilitating rich content that the conversational aspect often slips through the cracks. How can you balance teaching learners what they need to know—which is ultimately what they came for—with amicability?

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The trick

Any great instructor knows that engaging the audience is vital. Personalization is a major factor, and it starts with calling learners by their names. With that said, they can be hard to remember. Here's a way to simplify the process:

  1. Be as comfortable as possible with your content. Allow it to become so familiar that you don't even have to think about it and it flows naturally. Not having to worry about the subject matter frees you up to be conversational, and that pays off in the long run.
  2. Be intentional. If you know you tend to forget names, don't shove it under the rug. Go out of your way to study your learners' names. Do more than take roll and read name tents—navigate the room and make a personal connection with everyone.
  3. Refer to participants by their names as frequently as possible. The more times you can pair a name with a face—and vocalize it—the quicker it will become second nature.
  4. Get the entire class to participate. Doing so is about more than engagement—it gives you more repetitions as you try to remember names, pairing every learner's name with a face.
  5. Don't allow name tents to become a crutch. All facilitators use them, but they depersonalize the discussion. Set a goal for yourself. Try to get to the point where you don't even need to look at them.

    Pro tip

    Once you feel like a seasoned veteran, challenge yourself. After 30 minutes, ask your learners to put their name tents away. If you can still address them by name, you've passed the test.

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About the Author

Nelson R. Santiago is a talent and leadership development leader with more than 20 years of experience working with all organizational levels creating, promoting, and delivering training solutions designed to enhance organizations’ business and strategic plans. Nelson is passionate about creating an interactive and authentic learning environment that supports development and employee engagement. Currently, Nelson is an internal ATD Faciliator. Prior to this role, Nelson served at several government agencies, including North Carolina Municipalities, the U.S. Coast Guard, the State of North Carolina Human Resources, and the Abu Dhabi government. Nelson has worked with multiple organizations in over 35 countries, designing and delivering programs in leadership and management development, team building, compliance, communications, customer service, change management, performance management, and many other topics. His work has always been focused on meeting the strategic needs of the organization. Nelson’s outstanding strengths include leadership, communication, facilitation, coaching, and emotional intelligence. Nelson currently holds certifications as ATD Master Trainer, DDI Certified Facilitator, and Gallup’s Certified Strengths Coach.

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