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Atlanta Magician – Mentalist – Speaker Joe M. Turner | News and Comments from the Chief Impossibility Officer

Archive for March, 2011

The Value of a Backward Glance

Posted by Joe M. Turner | on March 23, 2011

The first quarter of 2011 has flown by! Daylight Saving Time, bumblebees, and pine pollen are all back in the mix as we speed toward the end of a beautiful March here in Atlanta.

Looking Back

Taking a moment to look back on your work can uncover trends you missed and remind you of ideas you might have overlooked.

I’m currently in the midst of packing for an evening show in Fairfax, Virginia this weekend. This engagement was a direct result of a fantastic opportunity here in Atlanta last year. The person who booked me for that event called me back after joining a new organization and as a result, she is about to become one of the most important people in the operation of my business: a repeat client.

I took a look at the various engagements I’ve had over the course of the first quarter and realized something important: the most lucrative projects I’ve had this year have come from clients who have booked me before. Repeat clients kept me afloat when the economic storms were strongest, and they are propelling me to new goals as we all seek a much-needed economic recovery.

Taking a moment to look at my calendar made me do two things. First, I kicked myself for not acting more regularly and more effectively on the basic business principle that we all already know: keep communicating with your clients! Second, I decided that I need to promote some of my good new clients from “first timers” to “repeat client” status.

If you’ve ever managed a team, you know that some individuals are almost completely self-motivated. Some clients are the same way – they have vision, creativity, and are ready to go. These are the kinds of clients who call you without prompting, ready to float a new idea past you to see how you can help. It’s through these clients that I’ve gotten to leverage my magic, mentalism and speaking skills in a variety of less common settings such as meeting host, awards MC, and even a visiting imposter keynote speaker.

Most individuals, though, are not so self-directed and require some degree of hands-on management. Most repeat clients are like this, needing an occasional nudge and direct contact. Like any good team, they will come through time and time again when directed and managed wisely, but it’s up to you to help get them on the right track.  (Note: You may want to check out my May 2010 article on Explorers, Expanders, and Exorcists for more information on various types of clients.)

Side Mirror View

WARNING: The value of that client in your mirror is greater than it appears!

This is where the “backward glance” becomes so valuable and important. It takes some management effort on your part (read that, “my part”) to convert past clients into repeat clients. A backward glance through the last month, quarter, or year of your calendar will show you that you have not yet gotten the full value of the work you’ve already done.

Mining the value of the clients on last year’s calendar will never completely take the place of developing new business, but the profitability minded performer remembers that it takes less effort and fewer resources to do more work for an existing client than it does to create a new one. Cars have large windshields to make it easy to see the road ahead, but they also have mirrors for very good reasons. So here’s my warning: the value of that client in your mirror is greater than it appears!

Many of us spent the last few months focusing on and implementing the things that we want to do differently in our lives and in our businesses this year. That’s great, but it may be worth remembering that there are some things we want to do again and again. Working many times for wonderful clients who know your work and have become advocates for you is something that never gets old.

Go promote some of your clients to a higher rank!

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How To Remember Names – The Memory Mojo! Way

Posted by Joe M. Turner | on March 11, 2011

Hello My Name Is nametag

Who needs nametags? You can improve your name memory with a few easy techniques!

At my performances and speaking engagements, one of the things people find most impressive is my apparently incredible memory for names. By the end of many of my presentations I can name just about everyone in the room. In one of my card tricks I have nearly two dozen people select cards from the deck, then I find all the cards and call each of the people by name. This feat frequently garners as much applause as the card trick itself.

My Memory Mojo! presentation teaches about a range of mnemonic memory techniques which can be applied to name recall. However, my personal approach for remembering names differs somewhat from the standard mnemonic approach. My technique combines some of the memory tricks you may have heard before, plus a personal twist that helps me lock most names into place.

The Memory Mojo! name memory system has three steps: Question, Repetition, and Visualization.


I ask questions about people’s names. As my name is “Joe,” most names are more complex than mine and many lend themselves to some comment. I almost always ask about the spelling of the name; is it Michele or Michelle, Sean or Shawn? If I sense a derivation from another language, I’ll ask about it. I try to make a person’s name my first topic of conversation with him or her.

The point of asking questions is to force yourself to pay attention in the first place. Most memory courses emphasize the importance of training oneself to attend to incoming information; this concept is called increasing primary awareness or initial awareness. Even without learning or using any of the other steps and techniques in a memory course, raising the initial awareness of information automatically improves a person’s recall. In short, the attempt automatically brings success.

To increase the degree of success, I move to the second step.


This is the one that most people have already heard, often many times. Most sales people or other people who have asked me about names have heard advice such as “use the person’s name immediately,” or “make sure to call them by name three times.” They’ve used this technique with varying results.

There’s nothing wrong with the advice to repeat a name to yourself several times. Repetition is a key to learning new material, but taken by itself it’s not what I’d consider the most efficient path to retention. Learning anything by rote repetition generally takes longer than a structured repetition of something that has already been conceptually grasped. That’s why we question first, commenting on the spelling or derivation, and generally develop an understanding of the name and person, then repeat the name to yourself.

After asking questions about the name, repeat the name in your head, then give yourself ten or fifteen seconds before using the person’s name in a statement back to them. Don’t keep a checklist of using it three or five times in the conversation; just use it at points where it can naturally fit the conversational flow.

It’s the third step, though, where you really get the name fixed firmly in your mind.


My Memory Mojo! course, like nearly all memory training courses, uses creative visualization and association as the basis of the techniques. The use of the imagination to create mental pictures to associate new information to old information is the fundamental building block of memory training.

The classical mnemonic approach is to create a vibrant and exaggerated picture with the name and associate that with some outstanding feature of the person’s face, body, or perhaps clothing. For example, the name “Frank” might call to mind a hot dog or the Frankenstein monster, which could then be associated to something noticeable about the man’s face. Other images might be based on people you already know with the same name – relatives, friends, or colleagues. This is the most commonly taught technique and it can be extremely useful.

Fountain Pen and Paper

My secret: Visualize writing the name with a fountain pen on good paper. (Image by Linda Cronin)

Another visualization technique, though, is this personal approach which I developed a few years ago. This is my own approach and it has significantly improved my name memory. When I hear the name, I visualize myself writing the name, in longhand, with a fountain pen on good paper.

I make this visualization as detailed as possible, almost feeling the ink flow from the pen as it scratches across the paper. I can feel the texture of the writing surface and even pick up the faint smell of the ink on the paper. In my mind, I can feel the weight of the pen in my hand and hear the scraping of the nib as I form the letters.

My goal is to create a rich, detailed, multi-sensory experience of the name, albeit in my mind. I picture the swoop of the letters and try to see, hear, feel, and smell what is happening as I write the name. You might visualize something different – a chalkboard, a crayon, or a Sharpie – but the point is to engage multiple senses as you think of the name. This one technique has helped me lock in names with a high success rate.

Some closing advice…

Finally, give yourself permission to forget a name. Your self-talk has a lot to do with your capabilities, and most people have unfortunately convinced themselves that they “can remember faces, but have a bad memory for names.” They tell themselves they won’t remember, and they agonize over forgetting.

Take the pressure off yourself. The goal is not a perfect name memory, but an improved name memory. You will help yourself succeed by learning to be comfortable in asking people to repeat their names when you forget.

By dialing down the pressure and using the approaches described above, I have been successful in improving my name memory. It has helped my performances, my business interactions, and in my own personal life. I hope you find success using these techniques, too. Let me hear your success stories!

(Fountain pen/paper image by Linda Cronin.)

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