Congress 2016. Memorable indeed.

Have you ever heard someone say, “My memory is actually quite good, it’s just really short”? Have you yourself ever had trouble remembering information or people’s names? Ever forget someone’s name immediately after being introduced? I have. Many times. It’s not pretty. If you’re in sales it can be cause for full out anxiety attacks. If one is not fortunate enough to extract oneself from the conversation quickly enough, one must be prepared for major embarrassment.

Well never again. I learned a very important lesson over lunch the other day from a man I have never met but whose name I will never forget. I was sitting in a conference hall with about 500 other people at Landscape Ontario’s Congress listening to Ron Rosenberg. Ron is a short, foul-mouthed, balding Brooklynite – bless his heart – who has a very cool technique to improve our memory.

It appears that we remember things that are strange or unusual. Memory is typically triggered by issues of quantity, size, pain/violence or disgust. So the way to remember someone’s name is to focus on an outstanding feature and tell yourself a strange or unusual story about this feature using words that sound like the person’s name. It sounds far fetched, I know, but I have to tell you: I met many important people while at Congress last week but the only faces and names I can remember are the (clip art) characters that Ron introduced us to over lunch, including Mrs. Caine (cracked in the teeth with a cane) (note, Ron’s own example, to fulfill the violence criterion), Mr. Kulkarni (the fine featured cool Carni working the rides at the fair), Mr. Starnowski (are those stars coming out of his mouth now on skis?) and Mr. Rogers (if I pulled on his beard, would he sound like Mr. Rogers, “Oh, hey there neighbour. Hope you liked pulling my beard.”).

Using the same technique we also committed a list of 15 random words to memory, which we were later able to recite in order – and reverse order! This was accomplished through devising a ridiculous little tale about an “elephant” getting into a “car,” driving into a “bank,” slipping on “marbles,” which the bank manager scooped up in a “soda” cup, which he then placed on a “computer,” which was showing images of “ballet.” The dancers were actually “Michael Jordan” and a group of “dogs,” which turn and jump out a “window” shattering glass into some poor soul’s bowl of “cereal,” which then sprouts a “beanstalk” growing “3-ring binders” containing pictures of “Barney” doing “karate.” (For those of you who were there…How did I do?)

Ron’s little trick is a great personal tool, but it also says a lot about the power of storytelling in memorability. Stories stick. We humans are just wired that way. Lately, we’ve been thinking about that a little more at Compass and re-visiting ways of working with these principles to make our own clients’ stories more memorable. So thank you Landscape Ontario, and thanks Ron Rose-in-a-berg for improving my memory and teaching me a valuable lesson I will never forget.

Now where did I put my keys?

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