You C.A.N. Remember Names – If You Put Your Mind To It

you can remember names_v3

“If you think you can or can’t; you’re right.” – Henry Ford, auto pioneer

Have you ever told yourself, “I’m terrible at remembering names?”

Do you realize you just did what’s called “failure forecasting?”  You just gave your mind a negatively-phrased order, and it will do exactly what you told it to do.

From now on, set yourself up for success by telling yourself, “I am going to GET GOOD at remembering names.”  And then use this simple C.A.N. system to do it.

Not only is it one of the best ways to make a positive first impression and let people know you care enough about them to make this effort; it’s a way to improve your attention/memory skills.

C = Commit

Remembering doesn’t just happen. You have to give your mind what’s called a “determining tendency.”

If you can’t remember something, it’s either because you didn’t give your mind a determining tendency, or you gave it a destructive determining tendency, i.e., “I’m terrible at remembering names.”

From now on, focus your attention on what you DO want (instead of what you DON’T want) by giving yourself a feasible, positively-phrased determining tendency such as:

•        “I will imprint and remember the names of all ten people at the board meeting.”

•        “I will remember the names of at least 6 people at this networking event.”

Put limiting labels in the past by saying, “I used to forget people’s names.  Now, I understand how important it is.  I know how I feel when someone remembers my name, and I commit to getting good at this so I do it for others.”

A = Attention on the Face

Distraction is the death of retention.  If you are scanning the room while being introduced to people, or thinking of something else when someone says their name, you’ll never remember it.

The goal is to associate the person’s face with their name, so every time you look at them, their name pops to mind.

The only way to achieve that face-name connection is to look people in the eye when meeting them. No “Look, there’s Jessica” scanning the room to see who just walked in.  Study the person’s face while they say their name so they’re imprinted and linked in your brain.

Another way to cement that face-name connection is to shake hands.  Instead of waiting for people to extend their hand, which can result in an awkward “Should we, shouldn’t we?” hesitation that gets introductions off to a distracting start, make it a habit to extend your hand first.

This causes you to lean forward which singles out that individual as the sole object of your attention.  The tangible act of shaking hands also creates a physical bridge so the two of you literally and figuratively connect, even in a noisy, crowded conference hallway or ballroom.

Try this right now.  Imagine leaning forward, extending your hand, focusing fully on someone’s face and noting the color of their eyes as they say their name.

Feel how this shuts out your surroundings?  100% attention on someone’s face is not only a prerequisite for remembering their name, it is a key characteristic of charisma, which is making the people you meet feel like they’re they only person in the room..

N = Numerous Spaced Repetitions

As soon as the person says his or her name, repeat it out loud to make sure you heard it right.

Saying “Nice to meet you Bob,” not only actively increases retention, it gives people an opportunity to correct you if you get it wrong. He may say, “It’s Rob, not Bob” which gives you a chance to say, “Thank you.  Got it.  Rob. Nice to meet you.”

By saying “ROB” out loud, and then repeating it silently to yourself every time you glance back at his face, you’re more likely to remember it because you’re using several senses to imprint it.

Memory is a result of intention + attention. Making a commitment to remember someone’s name, and repeating it whenever you look at their face, results in spaced imprinting which causes their name to “come to mind” when you see them again, even if it’s weeks later.

I’ll always remember the wife of a four star admiral who attended one of my “You Can Concentrate” workshops.  She said, “Sam, I meet hundreds of people a week. Sometimes, I go to three or four functions a day. I’ve realized I’ll never be able to remember everyone’s name. With this system, I C.A.N. remember more of them!”

You too C.A.N. remember names, if you put your mind to it, and if you use this system.  It’s one of the single best things you can do to get relationships off to a mutually-rewarding start.

[photo via Flickr User: Quinn Dombrowski // Creative Commons]

2014 POP! Hall of Fame


Sam Horn’s 2014  POP! Hall of Fame

It’s been great fun discovering what got your eyebrows up this year.  The following are our favorite intriguing individuals, organizations, book titles and taglines that POP’d out of their crowd – for all the right reasons.  Enjoy.

1.  The best interview of 2014. The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart has interviewed thousands of people. There’s only one who’s left him speechless and who he offered to adopt on the spot.  This 17 year old (!) is also the only person to be pulled out of chemistry class to be told, “You’ve won the Noble Peace Prize.”  Kudos Malala Yousafzai.

2.  Groufie: What do you call a selfie taken with a group?  A “groufie.” The one Ellen Degeneres tweeted from the Oscars of her, Brad Pit, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, et al was the viral tweet of 2014, being re-tweeted 3 ½ million times and favorited an additional 2 million times!

3. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge:  This philanthropic social media phenomenon convinced people worldwide, including Liam Hemsworth in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle suit, to pour cold water on themselves.  More importantly, it raised $100 million for ALS Association.

4.  Al Desko:  Ever been so busy at work, instead of going to an outside café, you stayed in and had lunch at your desk? You didn’t dine “al fresco,” you dined “al desko,” as Bon Appétit magazine noted in a March 24th article.

5. “You’re not a clone, so why shop at one?”  Kudos to Gina Schaefer, Owner of A Few Cool Hardware Stores for separating herself from big box retailers like Lowes and Home Depot with this “Got Your Attention?” tagline.

6. The Bucs Stomp HereNFL’s Tampa Bay Bucaneers ran up a 27-7 score against the hapless Washington Redskins. How did The Washington Post respond? With the headline The Bucs Stomp Here!  Not to be outdone, what was their headline when the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum announced the Fossil Hall (think dinosaurs) would be closed for renovation for 5 years?  Sad to the Bone.

7. Ciao Mein and Taj Mahalo. Ever wondered what a blend of Italian-Chinese chow or a mix of Thai-Hawaiian food would taste like? Wonder no more.  These clever restaurants offer fusion food and fused, Half & Half names.

8.  Turketarian and Friendsgiving: “Friends are the new family,” said a 20-something who hosted a growing-in-popularity potluck Thanksgiving gathering.  What do these health-conscious Millennials, who can’t afford to head home for the holidays, eat?  Why a half-turkey-half vegetarian meal, of course.

9.  Listicle:  What do you call an article that’s basically a top-ten list?  A Listicle. Why are they so popular?  As Linton Weeks’ NPR column explains, they help us bring order to chaos, control the uncontrollable and organize the overwhelming.

10.  Dalai-Mama Yoga:  How can women exercise, get fit, be tranquil and have peace of mind … all at the same time?  By visiting – whose slogan is “Ohm is where the heart is.”


Did You Know GOLDFISH Have Longer Attention Spans than We Do?

Book Cover for "Got Your Attention?"

Book Cover for “Got Your Attention?”

“A lot of times people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”  pioneer Steve Jobs

I agree with Steve Jobs.

That’s why, as soon as I discovered a startling statistic from Harvard Business School researcher Nancy F. Koehn, that goldfish, YES GOLDFISH, have longer attention spans that we do (9 seconds to our 8), I knew it was, somehow, going to be featured on the cover my new book.

Why?  Because it illustrates the idea of the book.

Here’s what I mean.

Do you know the intriguing back-story behind the iconic cover of the book Jaws?

Bantam Books President Oscar Dystel rejected the original cover which simply had the word Jaws – in white text – on a black background.

Dystel was afraid readers would think it was about a dentist.

He ordered his design team back to the drawing board with the admonition, “I want to see that fish.”

The designer came back with the famous image of a woman swimming in an ocean, unaware that a huge shark is lurking underneath her.

That image proved to be so popular, the film studio used it for the movie poster. It may have been years since you’ve seen that poster or book cover,  but I bet you can still picture it in your mind.

That’s the power of illustrating your idea with an image that tells its story.

Not only is it more likely to POP! off the page and capture people’s attention, it turns your concept into something concrete that people can SEE, relate to and remember.

If you’ve read my POP! book, you may remember that I described how AFLAC and GEICO doubled their market-share in one year because they turned their nonsensical names into lovable visual icons and logos

That’s why I couldn’t get that goldfish statistic out of my mind.  I knew it would “show” the premise of the book which is, “How can we capture and keep people’s interest when they have the attention span of a goldfish?”

I couldn’t stop thinking about this.

And in 17 years of emceeing the Maui Writers Conference, the ONLY thing our dozens of best-selling authors agreed upon was to “INK IT WHEN YOU THINK IT.”

So, I got up in the middle of the night, went downstairs and sketched a goldfish with a thought bubble coming out of his mouth that said,  “Got Your Attention?”


I sent it to my COO who fine-tuned my draft and added the sub-title and Dan Pink’s cover endorsement. He forwarded it to our publisher Berrett-Koehler who took it from there.

After months of trying to come up with a Goldilocks “just right” title and cover … it all came together in 48 hours.

We’re thrilled with it, and we were even more thrilled when the CBS TV show Madame Secretary featured this dialogue, “It’s not her fault the public has the long-term memory of a goldfish.”

Much to our delight, the goldfish is becoming the (ahem) gold standard – the poster fish – of people’s shrinking attention span. It is becoming part of POP! culture, part of our Zeitgeist.

Are you trying to come up with a Goldilocks title, cover, logo or graphic design that illustrates your idea?

What’s an image that gets across the essence of your idea so people see what you’re saying?  

How can you support your verbals with visuals so people picture your point?

How can you show people the fish so they get what you mean and are more likely to relate to it and remember it?

Remember, this is not petty.  This could be the difference because confusion (and remember, CONFUSED PEOPLE DON’T SAY YES) and crystal clear comprehension.

Want more ways to get across what you care about – so other people care about it too?

Check out my books POP! and Got Your Attention?  They both have dozens of innovative ways to be concise, compelling and convincingly.

Got Your Attention? How to Create Intrigue and Connect with Anyone is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and your local independent bookstore. For information on bulk orders, please contact

How Malala Yousafzai’s Story Has Inspired The World

Malala Yousafzai // Nobel Prize

“The role of the musician is to understand the content of something and to being able to communicate it so it lives in somebody else.” – Cellist Yo-Yo Ma

This morning, 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (winning the award jointly with Indian child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi).

As The Washington Post notes, Malala, who was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman on her school bus in 2012, not only survived that attack, she has gone on to become an international champion of rights for the education of girls.

One of the many reasons Malala has become such an effective advocate, at the age of 17, is because of her eloquence in communicating what happened to her and her articulation of a clear vision for a better future.

That is one of the reasons I showcased Malala in my upcoming bookGot Your Attention? How to Create Intrigue and Connect with Anyone, being published by Berrett-Koehler in early 2015.

Below is an excerpt from the manuscript (which I turned in last month), about how we can get attention for our idea, issue or cause so it comes alive, as Malala so effectively does.

In a 2013 interview on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart asked Malala what she would do if she was attacked again by a Taliban gunman.

Instead of giving a hypothetical answer, Malala put us on the bus and spoke as if the gunman was standing in front of her: ‘I would tell him how important education is and I would even want education for your children. I would say, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.”

The audience gave her a thunderous ovation.

Stewart was momentarily speechless, then said, ‘I know your father is backstage and very proud of you, but would he be mad if I adopted you?”

By re-enacting what happened to her and projected the precise words of what she would say and do if that happened again … Malala PUT US IN THE SCENE.

When telling a story, always use the W’s – WHERE, WHEN, WHO and WHAT WAS SAID.

Now, instead of this being vague or sounding apocryphal (made up), your story is REAL because you are putting people in the scene.  They are seeing in their mind’s eye.  They are experiencing it as if it’s happening right now. THAT’s how you make a story come alive and live in other people.

Are you thinking, “Kudos to Malala for winning the Nobel Peace Prize, but how does this apply to me?”

What is an idea, issue or cause you care about?

Are you telling a story that, as cellist Yo Yo Ma suggests,  makes it come alive and live in your listeners’ mind?

That is the key to inspiring people to give you their precious attention, listen and truly grasp and care about what you care about.  It is the key to genuinely connecting with people because you are creating a verbal and visual shared experience.

We’d love to hear from you.  What is a story that causes people to care about what you care about?  Feel free to share your comments below or by connecting with us on Twitter and Facebook.

[Photo via Flickr User SouthBankCentre // Creative Commons]

Why It’s Worth Making – and Keeping – New Year’s Resolutions



“I have heard every excuse in the book – except a good one.” –Bob Greene

During dinner at an end-of-the-year conference in Charleston, SC, I asked my seat-mate, “What are your New Year’s resolutions?

She looked at me, shrugged and said, “Oh, I don’t make resolutions anymore.  I just end up breaking them, so what’s the use?”

“Wow,” I thought. “That’s like giving up hope.”

My friend Glenna Salsbury, former President of National Speakers Association, wrote a great book on this subject entitled, “The Art of the Fresh Start.”

I too believe in fresh starts.

I believe that on any given day, we can choose to do things differently.  It’s one of the great blessings of being human and being alive.

I don’t believe history has to predict our future … unless we let it.  Just because we’ve broken resolutions in the past, doesn’t mean we can’t get them right this time.

“Fall down seven times, get up eight,” as the saying goes.

You know what I’m doing to turn my resolutions into reality?  I’m focusing on what I DO want instead of what I DON’T want.

My clarity around this was triggered by two emails our office received this morning.

The first said, “Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions or we can serve as a resource.”

The second was from an executive’s assistant who said, in response to our request to change appointment, “I don’t think that will be a problem.”

Yikes. I copied the emails to my team and said, “Teaching moment. My books Tongue Fu! and ConZentrate both emphasize the concept that, “Our mind can’t focus on the opposite of an idea.”

When we tell ourselves and others what NOT to do, we increase the likelihood we’ll do the unwanted behavior. For example, what do you think about while reading the following phrases?

  • “Don’t worry.”
  • “Stop running around the pool.”
  • “I don’t like it when you get angry.”
  • “Whatever you do, don’t fumble the ball.”

The words “don’t,” “stop” “won’t” and “not” are “ghost” words.

When they’re paired with an unwanted behavior, “Don’t get mad,” or “Stop interrupting me,” or “I not going to be nervous,” “Make sure you don’t double-fault” or “I won’t let him intimidate me,” our mind focuses on and manufactures the very thing we DON’T want.

That’s why, when someone says, “Don’t hesitate to call,” they’re introducing the word “hesitate” which means we’ll think twice before contacting them.

It’s better to say, “We hope you’ll call if you have questions.” or “Feel free to reach out if …”  or “We look forward to hearing from you if we can serve as a resource.”

For many people, the word problem means “something’s wrong.”  Why give people the impression something wrong if there isn’t?  How about changing “That won’t be a problem,” to “That will work fine” or “Yes, he’s open at 4:30 and I’ve changed it on his calendar.”

Words matter.  It’s in everyone’s best interests to mindfully select words that focus on the DESIRED behavior instead of the DREADED behavior.

This applies to our New Year’s Resolutions too. Instead of phrasing them to focus on what we DON’T want; phrase them so they focus on what we DO want.   For example:

“I’m going to stop sitting for 12+ hours every day and being a couch potato” becomes “I move joyfully at least a half hour every morning, afternoon and evening.”

“I’m not going to work 7 days a week” becomes “I reclaim my weekends as family/friend time and fun, recreational sports time.”

“I don’t eat desserts or fatty, processed foods” becomes “I love eating fresh fruit and healthy, from-the-earth food that makes me feel lean and clean and energetic.”

“I’m not going to waste my time being around toxic people” becomes “I seek out and hang out with quality people who thrill me with how they’re showing up in the world.”

Please note; switching the words we choose to lose and use transcends semantics.

Making a SMALL change in how we language our resolutions can make a BIG difference in whether they become reality.
Instead of our resolutions ending up being a “to-do list for the first week of the year” (as Annie Taylor Label humorously pointed out; in the cartoon at the top of this article); they can help us live up to our vision of a better self and a more rewarding life.

I’m ready for a wonderful year.  How about you?


[photo via Flickr User Sam JR // Creative Commons]

Want to Get the Attention of Your Convention Audiences?


speaking to the masses

“I have found there is no substitute for paying attention.” – TV anchor Diane Sawyer


Unfortunately, in today’s culture of impatience and distraction, it can be challenging to motivate people to pay attention to our programs, events and conventions.

That’s one of the reasons Kate Mulcrone, Web Editor for PCMA – Professional Convention Management Association – interviewed me for their industry newsletter.

As Kate points out, meeting planners have their work cut out for them these days because of the shortened-attention-span of audiences.

Kate features a few of the ideas we discussed on how to engage busy, distracted participants in the article How to Grab Your Audience’s Attention in 60 Seconds or Less below that was in Convene magazine.

If you know someone involved in the meetings/convention industry, please share this with them.

I’ll be offering an in-depth webinar for PCMA  on Wed. Nov. 12- that is open to the public – on how to boost attendance and audience engagement at events.  To find out more, or to register, click here ….

The webinar introduces innovative ways to host interactive meetings that “put cheeks in the seats,” and that give everyone opportunities to connect, contribute and customize their user experience so it’s a bottom-line ROI for them and their sponsoring organization.

Would you like a program on this topic presented to your association leaders and corporate meeting planners?

Would you like to interview Sam for your newsletter on how to get busy people’s attention in 60 seconds or less?

If so, please contact us at   We look forward to hearing from you.

And thanks again, Kate, for a fun and fascinating interview.  Hope everyone finds it intriguing and useful.


How to Grab an Audience’s Attention in 60 Seconds or Less (featured in Convene Magazine)

By Kate Mulcrone

With an audience’s emails, tweets, and texts competing for the attention they should be paying a speaker at a live event, engagement can seem like a moving target.

Sam Horn, communications strategist, executive coach, and author of Tongue Fu! Get Along Better With Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere and the upcoming Got Your Attention? How to Create Intrigue and Connect With Anyone, has several strategies for captivating an audience and immediately earning its respect. “If we don’t get their eyebrows up in 60 seconds, we’re going to lose them at ‘hello,’” she says in this month’s video for The Intersection: Where Technology Meets Inspiration, presented by PCMA and PSAV Presentation Services.

In an interview with Convene, Horn pointed to a recent joint report from the National Center for Biotechnology Information and the U.S. National Library of Medicine that puts the average human attention span at eight seconds — one second shorter than that of a goldfish — to show how quickly an audience’s attention can wander.

She encourages the speakers she coaches to do their homework before every talk, no matter how many times they may have already delivered it, in order to tell attendees something they don’t already know before the 60-second mark.

Another strategy she suggests is beginning a talk with a three-part question — asking an audience if they’ve read an influential article in The Wall Street Journal, discussed it with a friend or coworker, and then thought about how it might affect their company over the next six months, for example.

She also stresses the importance of “setting the scene” at the beginning of a talk, thereby creating context for the audience. A speaker should ground her talk by sharing where she was when she had her killer idea, realized her calling, or heard an anecdote that planted a seed. “Starting with ‘why’ can be vague or abstract,” she told Convene, “whereas starting with ‘where’ is visceral.”

In the video, Horn outlines her A.P.P. (audience, participation, presentation) formula to engage an audience and encourage in-session networking. She has a speaker begin with a startling revelation and address the audience for a mere six minutes. Attendees then break into small groups for another six minutes to discuss how they could make what they’ve just learned part of their business strategies. Next, several members of the audience take the stage for a six-minute share-out.

Horn runs through the cycle three times during an hour-long session.  This allow attendees to network without having to make small talk. The focus in on sharing actionable takeaways from the meeting with their colleagues once they return to the office.

Read more:’s-attention-in-60-seconds-or-less#.VFk4v54tB3U#ixzz3I8Nq0CdW


[photo via Flickr User grabadonut // Creative Commons]

Tongue Fu! is #3 in South Korea!


Tongue Fu!’s popularity in South Korea, where it is the number 3 business book, and its use by entities ranging from the US Embassy in London and the US Navy,  has reminded me of the fact that the need for better communication is in no way limited by borders, especially with my  recent interview in Chosun Biz.

Its use by NASA reminds me that its not even limited by planet!

One of the most important  lessons that comes to mind which can be applied globally is that, “If you make someone pay for being unpleasant, you’re going to pay right along with them.”  Being able to turn conflict to cooperation is something that is important internationally, and this can be done through making small changes!

Little changes, like changing ‘but’ to ‘and’, can have a big impact on your communications. Looking for little ways to improve your communication is important wherever you are in the world!

The ability restate and reframe how you communicate is an important step towards mastering Tounge Fu in any language, and don’t forget, staying positive is just as important!

What Can Ukulele Player Jake Shimabukuro Teach Us About Communication?

jake2I’m here speaking in Waikiki and chanced upon an excellent PBS-Hawaii documentary last night about Jake, a virtuoso who has “hit it big,” yet remains grounded in his values.

Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings A favorite segment of the PBS special was when Jake played his ukulele in Sendai, Japan (ravaged by the 2011 tsunami), at a senior care center.

The expressions on these people’s faces, their tapping along with Jake’s strumming, was particularly poignant and profound.

Perhaps most powerful was Jake’s statement, “My goal when I play is to connect with my audience, to play music that moves them.”

Kudos to Jake. His goal deserves to be our goal as speakers and writers.

The goal of speaking is not to get a standing ovation.

It is not to get a perfect 10 on our evaluations or to generate lots of “back of the room” sales.

The goal of writing is not to have a book that serves as a business card (gak).

It is not to have a bestseller or to have “product” that drives our career.

Those are nice; those are welcomed; they’re just not the primary reason we speak and write.

The goal of speaking and writing is to connect with our audience members and readers; to share ideas, insights and stories that move them to feel something, to rethink something, to do something differently.

A participant came up after my presentation on Friday and said, “You just radiate joy. What is your secret?”

First, I thanked him and then told him, “I am so grateful for the opportunity to speak for a living.

To stay centered in my goal of genuinely connecting with participants and sharing something that puts the light on in their eyes; I repeat the following mantra to myself in the minutes before a presentation.

I am here to serve; not to show off.

I am here to inspire; not to impress.

I am here to make a difference; not to make a name.

Then, I start every presentation with Arthur Rubenstein’s quote … “I have found if you love life; life will love you back.”

I have found that if I center myself in that mantra and start off with Rubenstein’s quote, it grounds me in how much I love speaking.

And when we love what we do, people often love being around us and want to be part of it.

Any nervousness or self-consciousness disappears.

What takes its place is a sublime stream-of-consciousness where we’re swept up in an exquisite state of flow in which we’re one with our audience.

What mantra do you use to ground yourself in your clarity that the purpose of your speaking is to serve, not to show off; to inspire, not to impress; to make a difference, not to make a name?

When writing, I picture someone specific across the desk from me and write to that person.

It could be one of my sons, a client or a friend, someone who could benefit from what I’m trying to get across.

It transforms writing from being an intellectual exercise, a brain dump of “What do I want to say?” to “What would put the light on in this person’s eyes?”

When I mentally reach out to a specific person, when my purpose is to write something that would resonate with them; the words flow out so fast my fingers can hardly keep up.

How about you?

Who are you going to speak to – write to?

How are you going to keep them top-of-mind by focusing on how you can reach them, resonate with them?

How are you going to center yourself in your intent to connect; which is the real reason we communicate?

Always has been.

Always will be.