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What’s In A Name? Use Your Audience Members’ Names

I attended the Power Networking Conference in Houston at the end of June. This is an annual event created by Dr. George Fraser – master networker, entrepreneur, and author – where the brightest business minds converge in one place.

I attended the dynamic “Art and Science of Sales” workshop by Linda Clemons, a sales and body language expert. She said something interesting that caught my attention:

“The most feared word is ‘cancer.’ The most revered word is ‘mother.’ What do people love to hear the most? Their name.”

The last part, in particular, stood out to me. I could not agree with her more! When someone says my name, they have my attention (especially if they’ve pronounced my name correctly). Think about it – you could be in a crowded, noisy room, but somehow you can hear your name amongst everything being said. It’s like our ears are attuned to listen for our name.

The scientific evidence on this is fascinating too. Studies have shown that people in a persistent vegetative state ( a condition where cognitive function is lacking and patients are unable to move or speak) demonstrated brain activity when hearing their names, even if for a moment. Even when not in a state of awareness, our names have a powerful effect on us!

Our name is connected to who we are as a person, and our uniqueness. And when someone remembers our name after meeting us, that makes us feel good inside. Years ago when I bartended at a country club restaurant, I met a customer named Bruce. It was about a month before he came back in, but when I saw him, I said –  “Hi Bruce! How are you?” He walked toward me in shock. “You remember my name??” This obviously had a positive impact on Bruce, as he probably figured I meet tons of customers every day. He made sure to come have a conversation with me each time he stopped in, after that.

Think about the impact you will have on your audience members when you say their name during your presentation. If you’ve mingled with them before your stage time and had a conversation with them, you’ll pick up names. Hearing you say their name will make their ears perk up, and you’ll have their full attention. This works especially well if it’s someone who may be distracted in the audience. They’ll instinctively look towards you and away from their distraction.

A few great ways to do this seamlessly in your speech are:

  1. During an activity. Often when I take my audience through a visualization exercise, I will mention some of their names. “Look at all the people in the audience smiling at you and giving you a standing ovation, Vicky.” “ You’re walking confidently to the stage and feeling excited to speak, Aaron.”
  2. In a question. An easy yes or no question works well here, as it doesn’t put them on the spot in a way that might make them feel embarrassed when thinking of an answer. “Parents are pretty much always on call when it comes to their children. Wouldn’t it feel great to have a set block of time to yourself every day with no interruptions, Jeff?”
  3. When they respond to you. Sometimes when you say something that resonates with a listener, you’ll see them show their approval with a gesture or movement. They may nod, smile, laugh etc. I like to acknowledge their response by saying something like “That example hit close to home; didn’t it, Lisa?” And you’ll see them positively respond to this! People like hearing their name.

Don’t be afraid to use your audience members’ names. They are not just a mass of faces in front of you. They are individuals who have come to hear you. And they love to hear you recognize them by saying their name.

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