Within an hour yesterday I experienced two moments that are familiar to most of us. The first occurred when I said hello to a man I worked with in a previous company several years ago. I saw his face light up in recognition, a quick hello and a betraying glance down to my name tag for help. Reassured we carried on with our conversation and moved on to others. An hour later turnaround; an industry acquaintance from years ago said my name with a big smile, shook my hand and it was my turn to betray a glance to his name tag. These two moments occurred a couple of times over during the day. Such is life at a trade show.

You know many people at a trade show when you’ve spent any time in an industry. Faces are familiar, names are sometimes elusive. A trade show is a sensory explosion of people and product, sights and sounds, quick meals and long, slow expensive meals. Grasping for a name is understandable given the distractions, but it always bothers me when I’m at a disadvantage. Saying someone’s name is a sign of respect, and I don’t want to slight an old acquaintance, even if the acquaintance was brief and long ago.

Names are part of our identities, and I make the effort to learn a bit about the people I’m doing business with and stay in touch afterwards. But jobs and roles change, time marches on and years later you’re facing that person once again after just looking up from another conversation and… blank. And so we begin again.