Why We Forget
According to Charan Ranganath, the director of the University of California's Memory and Plasticity Program, people are better at remembering things that they're motivated to learn. There are times we're happy and excited to meet someone and learn their names, but other times it's more of a passing thing and, at the time, it doesn't seem important. Other times, we underestimate the work necessary to remember something as seemingly simple as a name.
Meet and Repeat
One of the easiest ways to catch a name and log it into your brain is to repeat it as soon as you hear it ... "Nice to meet you, Austin." Or ask a question with his name at the end, "So, how long have you been working in finance, Austin?" Often, we get distracted by hoping to make a good impression or hold a conversation that we blow right past the introduction and thus, end up forgetting the person's name.
Think of ways to connect a name with something familiar. Memory champions like Horsley advise making compelling associations that stick in the mind like a TV commercial jingle. Try creating an alliterative pattern involving the name and something you know about the person, like "Daniel from Delaware" or "IT department Ian." Another way association can be helpful is to make a connection between the person you're talking to, and someone else you know with the same name—be it a friend or family member, or simply a celebrity who shares their first name and looks vaguely like them.
Make Entertaining Connections
The more vivid your mental images or actual interactions are, the more memorable they will be. Horsley points out, there's a good reason that children pick things up so quickly. Think about how kids first learn about a puddle. "What does that child do with that puddle?" he asks. "They jump in, they experience the moment, and they have a little fun." So be outgoing when you meet someone and don't be afraid to have some fun. Even if it's just with childish connections and associations in your head. It'll do your memory some good.