Barbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Hello, my name is…
Updated: Dec 7, 2022
I love name tags! I try hard to learn people’s names, but using name tags is a tremendous help.
Find out what a person wants to be called – formal title and surname, full name, first name, or nickname – please call me Barb.
I am a huge proponent of having name tags whenever I give a speech, even going so far as to have larger name cards if I am incorporating discussions and participation activities. I provide blank sheets of paper and markers and instruct the audience to write their preferred name in large print and then hold up their name “card” whenever they wish to be called on or if they have a question. I prefer calling people by name over pointing or using a description, such as “the person wearing green in the back row.”
I try to use names no matter how large the audience. My first year of teaching at Purdue I had a class of 450+ students in a large lecture hall. On the first day of class I instructed the class to create name cards with their names printed large enough to read easily from the front of the room. The students kept them inside their binders or backpacks and got them out during class discussions. Over the semester I learned about 50 names of those students who contributed most often. Rather than feel like a large impersonal class, it had an intimate, friendly atmosphere.
In lecture classes I taught with 50-100 students I asked everyone to select a permanent seat so I could create a seating chart, allowing me to call students by name as well as easily identify who was absent. In the smaller lab-based course I taught in nutrition communication, the students created name tents that included a personal logo. Students often commented that they appreciated getting to know their classmates by name in my classes. I was asked to write numerous letters of recommendation due to the students’ belief that I “knew them better than any other instructor.” What contributed to that belief? Calling them by name.
Calling audience members by name gains attention and solicits participation. It builds connections between presenter and audience and among audience members. According to Dale Carnegie, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” I agree. When a person contributes a second time and you remember their name, their face lights up. Using names affirms our existence.
The next time you speak to a group, use their names. See if the difference is noticeable.
“Must a name mean something?" Alice asked doubtfully. Of course it must," Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh; "my name means the shape I am - and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost.” ― Lewis Carroll