How to… improve your memory

Improve your memory and improve your networking skills

Chester Santos – a memory training expert and former USA Memory Champion – offers a few simple tips on improve your memory to enhance your networking and presentation skills

The ability to recall names and information about acquaintances at networking events can be vital to maintaining professional relationships, and remembering key facts and figures during a pitch can secure a lucrative investment. But what if your memory often fails you? World-renowned memory man Chester Santos – who can recall a random 100-digit sequence in less than five minutes – advises incorporating these few simple techniques into your everyday interactions, training your brain to retain more information and improving your ability to impress peers and clients in the process…

1. Repeat a person’s name after meeting them and ask a question using it

Santos says: “This may sound obvious but when we’re introduced to people we pay almost no attention at all to the name. Get into the habit of repeating their name by saying: ‘Nice to meet you, Steve.’ Then, early on in your interaction, ask them a simple question using their name, such as: ‘How long have you been with this organisation, Steve?’ You need only do this once, and it’s really going to get the name to stick instead of going straight in one ear and out the other.”

2. Turn their name into a more memorable image

“We are very good at remembering things that we see – it’s naturally built into us, and when meeting people we see their face, not their name, which is something much more abstract. By turning names into a vivid image we can connect better, so with someone named Bob you might imagine bobbing for apples, or for Jim I might think of a dumbbell that I’d lift at a gym. You can then choose to connect that image to a unique aspect about the person’s looks; for a woman named Jane you might picture a chain, and if you notice she has beautiful hair you might picture her hair as chains.”

3. Involve other senses in your visualisations… use your imagination!

“The more senses you involve in the encoding process the more of your brain you’re using, and by making the image extraordinary you can also take advantage of the way your mind can commit some things to long-term memory automatically. I may see Jane’s hair of chains and the chains are clacking together, and there’s some kind of aroma coming from the chains [thus incorporating sound and smell]. The next time you see her you’re likely to notice her hair again and the image of her chain-hair will remind you her name is Jane. It’s a skill that you build up over the years and with practice you’ll get better at coming up with images even when it’s an unusual name.”

4. For memorising long passages, use the ‘story method’

“Say you’re giving a presentation and you want to minimise the amount of notes needed. Research your topic and build a simple, yet imaginative, story around the images that reminds you of the points you want to make. If your topic is healthcare and your first point is cost, you might picture a stethoscope (representing healthcare) and suddenly shooting out of its end are £50 notes, representing the high cost. Your next point may be the amount of red tape in certain procedures so you might see red tape wrapping itself round the £50 notes, and so on. Once you have a narrative, read through the story in your head and recall every major object you encounter. That will give you all the points in your presentation, forwards and backwards.”

Chester Santos CV

Who Chester Santos

Education Studied psychology at the University of California at Berkeley

Memory championships Former software engineer Santos achieved a top-five finish in the USA Memory Championship every year from 2005–2010, winning the title in 2008 and representing the US at the World Memory Championship.

Current role World-leading memory training expert for business with clients including Google, Morgan Stanley, Harvard University and London Business School

Did you know? Santos taught an 85-year-old to recite every Best Picture Oscar-winning film of the past 25 years.

Improve your memory: find out more from Chester Santos

Santos’ latest book Instant Memory Training for Success is out now, published by Capstone

For more on Chester Santos visit

Twitter @chesterjsantos

Email Chester Santos

About author

Hannah Gresty

Hannah Gresty

Until she left the magazine in August 2019, Hannah Gresty was the assistant editor of Director. She previously worked on a local news website and at a fashion PR company before joining the Director team as editorial assistant in 2016.

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