Listen to the audio podcast of this story here:
Rich Liedtke knows a thing or two about remembering names. As a greeter at Vancouver’s First Church of God he has manned the same door every Sunday since 1999, welcoming the congregation on a first-name basis.
That experience led to a book, “How to be a Master Greeter,” and a series of seminars at churches around the country, where Liedtke shares what he knows about making people feel welcome.
For Liedtke, it all starts with names, and leads to relationships.
“I just learn a few every week, and then I’m ready to say their name.”
He says the key to remembering names is to focus on a handful and write those names on cards to practice. Then Liedtke transfers the names from the cards into a notebook where he has collected thousands of names since becoming a master greeter.
Next to each of the names Liedtke writes down, he’s always careful to include a simple association that helps him commit the name to memory. Liedtke calls this tactic “welding a person’s name with something about them,” and he said it’s done best when using imagination and exaggeration.
Every name is either a name you’re familiar with, a name that actually is something or a name that can sound or look like something. That is the root of how Liedtke forms his associations. So if Liedtke were to meet a woman named Nancy who just happened to be wearing a fancy dress, Nancy sounds like fancy, so Liedtke thinks of fancy Nancy and he’s got an association to remember the woman’s name.
“The more I can exaggerate it to myself, the easier I will be able to remember it,” Liedtke said.
According to the master greeter, the true core of greeting isn’t about remembering someone’s name. The true mission is making people feel welcome, acknowledged and loved; and that makes for a better community that’s a place for friends.