My name is Schoun. It is pronounced Shon. I am a student in your class. I have paid a generous amount of money—or my company has shelled out big bucks—for me to attend. There are 12 of us in class. You forget my name in the morning. No problem. You forget another person’s name later. In the afternoon you forget my name again. Now, I am a very important person to my company. I am smart. I know computers.
The only difference between us is that you know this particular class and I don’t. This is a technical class, and I consider you my equal. You seem to be getting by but c’mon, if you can’t remember my name then how can you recall all the material for the class? When I report back to my company on the status of a pending contract with your company, I have reservations. It may be professional; it may be personal. I have an ego and you may have bruised it. I am a geek with a name. Remember me, for I am important. Did you get our contract?
Personal recognition is extremely important in the training business. People love to be recognized, assured, and rewarded. When you call someone by name you become his or her friend. You take impersonal learning and turn it personal. Instead of, “Yes, sir, you can double-click to open the file,” it becomes, “Sure, Mike, double-clicking will work.” You’ve made the leap from instructor to friend— maybe not all the time, but the odds are on your side. This makes a medium- sized class of 15-25 people seem small and a small class seem intimate. Can you take this further? Yes.
Classes are excellent places to let your students shine. Bill knows NT Server. Carol knows accounting. Alex understands Visual Basic. Bob doesn’t have a clue. Let’s say the class is Access. A creative instructor would recognize this collection as a potential to involve the students, calling them by name, and asking for their contribution to an example made up specifically for them. Recognition, assurance, reward. Clueless Bob, who may have floundered in an impersonal class, is involved in the excitement and may actually contribute something. Why? Because you called him Bob. You’re his friend.
Calling people by their names is a sign of respect. It promotes civility, comfort, and familiarity. They feel good about your class and want to return for another one. You can choose your method of name retention: memory, cheat sheet, name tags, or name plates. Just remember, we all like to be important. Addressing someone by his or her name is a great way to begin. Okay, sir?
Schoun Regan is the director of training at the Mac Group, a research and development, consulting, and training firm. To comment on this article, send us an e-mail.