Follow these 8 Golden Rules and NEVER Forget Someone’s Name

Introducing: The Introduction Memory Game

How many times has it happened; you’re in the middle of a conversation and you pause and think, “Oh no! What in the world is this person’s name?”

For many, remembering new names may seem more like torture than a game. I get it. Names hold no specific information; they make no connections. The simplest way for your brain to remember names is to connect the name to something in your life. For example, you might remember where someone is from because it is near where you went to school. But a name on its own will rarely provide those connections.

Your brain also uses patterns to connect memories and you can hack this system to your benefit if you understand how these memory connections are made. The reason this is considered a game and not the silver bullet method for remembering is because the connections have to be made and connected to each new person upon introduction.

Regardless of whether you’re a memory champion, by following these simple tips you’ll have an easier time remembering and recalling names. So enjoy and welcome to The Introduction Memory Game!  

  • Listen and Care:  When introduced to someone new, most people are more interested in what is happening around them or concerned about what questions to ask to make great small talk. By not being engaged, present, and caring you are already setting yourself up to forget the name, seconds after hearing it.

  • Repeat:  If you didn’t hear the name correctly or you are unsure how to pronounce it, ask them to repeat their name. No one can pronounce their name better than themselves.  Now it is your turn. Try saying, “Great to meet you (NAME)” or “it’s a pleasure (NAME).” Anything that gives you the opportunity to say the name again will help to make the name stick. Try using their name while you introduce yourself. “It is great to meet you (NAME) I am (NAME).”

  • Look, See and Study:  When introduced take a moment to look at who you are meeting.  See if there is anything outstanding in this person’s appearance that makes them stand out in a crowd. Then study their face, in particular the eyes. Making eye contact is not only polite and shows confidence, but forces you to look at a person’s most distinctive feature.

If you are still having difficulty with the basics, you can use mnemonics. This is a fantastic trick that can be used for many types of memorization but is incredibly useful for remembering names.

  • Make Connections & Associations:  Pick out the strongest sounding syllable that can be turned into a word in that name.

    For example, Brandon-RAN; next think about the feature on your new friend’s face that stands out to you the most. This feature will be your link that connects the face to the name. Take a moment to imagine the feature doing the action word from the emphasized syllable. For example. If you meet someone named Brandon and, he has bright blue eyes, you imagine 2 blue eyes crossing a finish line because they RAN a race.

  • Alliteration is your Ally:  Alliterative patterns are easy for your brain to remember. Even if the connection doesn’t make sense, you can always make up your own patterns, ex. Tammy from Tennessee/Lucy from Louisville. Tammy doesn’t have to be from Tennessee but you’re more likely to remember the alliteration than remembering Tammy is actually from Galveston.

  • Spell It:  Ask someone to spell their name for you. Imagine writing their name on their forehead in big black marker or spell it out in your head. The more you think about the name, the easier it is for your brain to encode the name for better recollection.

If all else fails using the above tactics, the final two tips are ways in which you can get the name again. Run it through the name game once more, and remember successfully the second time around.

  • Ask for their name again:  Let them know you forgot their name. If you just met or you don’t see each other too often, asking for their name again can save both parties a great deal of trouble. In all likelihood both parties could use a name refresher. Be polite and there should be no harm done.

  • Use your super sleuth skills: If you are with friends who may know the name of the person you’ve just met ask them slyly for the person’s name.  If you’re in a pinch, mingle close by as your mystery friend is introduced to someone new and try to pick up the name as it is mentioned. This tactic can be difficult particularly in a loud crowded room.

Using these tricks should help turn your interesting meet and greet into a fun introduction game. Remember to enjoy any opportunity to practice learning names. Try to embrace the challenging moments. It is always okay to ask for help. If at any point you have forgotten someone’s name there are a couple great options to get you through this moment without panic.  Remember, practice makes perfect! So whether you’re out for dinner, at a party, or just meeting new people in your neighbourhood get out there and start playing the introduction memory game!

(Note from Travis:    We're excited to feature this article from Life's Secret Sauce - Sam Field is a camp friend and former Camp Big Canoe staffer!)

Life’s Secret Sauce, founded by Brandon Slater & Samantha Field, has been designed to teach young urban professionals how to have engaging and meaningful conversations as well as increase their networking skills. As public speakers in the Cruise industry they have learned what it takes to build relationships, connections and engage in great conversation without distraction. Currently they live in Miami with their Shiba Inu puppy, Azumi, and enjoy hiking in Alaska throughout the summer months. To learn more click here!

Post-Season Staff Surveys 101

As the season wraps up, many directors find themselves tasked with sending out surveys to try to solicit feedback from frontline staff. And that begs the question, what questions should I ask?

Start with Why

First, as with much of the advice from my Camp Code co-hosts, ask yourself "why?"

  • Why are you collecting this data?
  • Did something go wrong?
  • Do you feel out of touch with what happened on the frontline?
  • Do you want to confirm that your perceptions were on par with others?
  • Was everything perfect and you want to figure out the formula for how to recreate that again?

This will help you narrow the types of questions you ask as well as help you process the data in the end.

When you write your survey for this summer, plan to use it for at least the next three to five years. This gives you comparable data from year to year that can reveal trends and can be especially telling if there is a significant change in programming or leadership. Sure, you can swap out a question or here or there if the answers you receive in previous years prove to be unhelpful; however, when staff know what kind of questions they will be asked, they may feel more at liberty to share what they really think.

Keep it short! You can’t do everything with one survey so pick out an area you want to focus on and ask in depth questions about that. Okay, you are the director that does what to do everything? Great! Ask one question pertaining to each topic (i.e. training, leadership, daily schedule, etc) and do not, under any circumstance, exceed ten questions. How many times have you been click-baited into answering a survey and found yourself losing interest partway through. That’s one reason I almost always start any evaluations with some questions the staff will know the answers to (and these don’t count towards your ten questions):

  • Your name (optional!)
  • Your position (optional)
  • Years at camp

And then I progress into some more thoughtful questions:

  • What did you see happen at camp this summer that you would want to see again OR What went well?*
  • What did you see happen at camp this summer that you would not want to see again OR What would have made your summer better?
  • What did you learn during staff training that you found to be particularly useful?
  • What do you feel like should be covered differently or more in-depth during training next year?
  • What did the leadership team do well in supporting you to be successful in your role this summer?
  • What could the leadership team have done to better support you in your role this summer?
  • Please share any notes about other staff (positive and negative) that you feel are pertinent to share.
  • What advice would you give to someone in your role next summer?
  • In a perfect world where money isn't a factor, what would be on your wish list to make your job easier in the role you were in this year? OR If you were the camp director, what would you do differently?
  • What transformation did you see in your campers this summer? (HT to Travis for that one). What transformation did you see in yourself this summer?
  • Are you interested in applying for next summer?

*When asking questions, try to put the positive ones first. If you don’t believe me, check out Dr. Chris Thurber’s discussions on Appreciative Inquiry. The research is clear that when people think about the good stuff first, they tend to have more productive criticisms to share, rather than just venting.

Survey Format

Consider how you want to administer this staff survey and also consider that some of these questions may work best in a final performance evaluation or in an exit interview rather than a written survey. Some of these questions could go into your return staff interview or application. Another reason to keep it short is that your staff may be filling their survey out on their phones or tablets with keyboards that are less than ideal for writing lengthy responses.

The sooner you send your survey out and the more convenient it is to access and fill out, the higher your return rate will likely be (another HT to Travis). With Google Forms and other online survey services, there are lots of opportunities for data gathering that can be sent via email, text, Facebook, Slack, Instagram or other social media of choice. You could even clean out some of that lost and found or camp store swag by incentivizing folks to fill out their survey by a certain date and to include their names.

And you will get some venting. As with all surveys, consider the outliers and pay the closest attention to the trends. You may be viewed as inconsistent if you change based on every little piece of feedback ever received.

Most of all, remember that there are not many industries that really ask for and value the opinions of their frontline staff so take pride in the opinions that are shared and feel proud that you created a staff culture where your staff cared enough to tell you how it is.

A 'HINT' for Summer Camp Staff Orientation - Joanna Warren Smith


You'll beHere next year, Right-.jpg

Reflect back to those wonderful times at camp when you see a counsellor and a young camper walking down the path.  They are laughing as they go, just enjoying the magic of being at camp and being together.

Now imagine what happens next.  The camper stops, looks fondly up at the counsellor and asks 'You'll be here next year, right?'  Without hesitation, the counsellor retorts, 'Nope, going to grad school!'.

With that response, you have likely lost that camper.

Now I am not advocating that you encourage staff to lie, but if you helpcounsellors understand the enormous impact they have on campers, they usually take their jobs more seriously and definitely deal more diplomatically with 'the moment of truth'.


  • Reserve 15 minutes during orientation.  Re-enact the scenario just described and allow staff to see the impact of the response.  Even theyoungest staff members know immediately that the camper is unlikely to return the next year.
  • Brainstorm 'honest' alternative responses.  A simple statement usually suffices.  The counsellor smiles and says 'I love camp so much, I wish I could come back every year.'  The camper is satisfied and still wants to return.
  • Practice in groups of 4.  Have two watch while each pair performs giving all counsellors a chance to see what works for them and hear suggestions on how to improve.

15 minutes is a small investment for BIG rewards.  Please give it a try.


Need an objective perspective on any aspect of camp?  Give me a call at 310-451-1876 or email

(Note from Travis:   We are so thrilled to be posting the always brilliant HINTS from camp consultant Joanna Warren Smith!  If you don't already you should sign up to receive theses HINTS in your email - in the right-hand column of Joanna's website: 

7 Photos Every Summer Camp MUST Shoot This Summer

Your Summer Camp Marketing Depends on Photos That Tell the RIGHT Story

Here's a list of great summer camp marketing photos you need to make sure happen this summer. 

First: There are Photo's that don't sell camp

1. It's important to remember that new-to-our-camp families don't have an emotional  connection to the "place" of camp. 

Showing your beautiful lodge at sunset inspires a strong response from alumni and current campers and staff.  They've had some very impactful moments in that place and just seeing it in a certain light will make them smile, or cry, or even swear they can almost smell that place you're showing. 

New families ask themselves "Do they want to sell me real estate?!?"

2. Photos that look like could come from anywhere (even a stock photo site). 

90% of the camp websites I look at have some version of this photo: 3 kids in lifejackets, each of a different ethnic background, hugging and smiling at the camera. 

I get it. I do. (but so do all the other Camp Pros who are showing the same thing)

Show pictures that are uniquely yours. 

Collect 2 or 3 varieties of each of these following photos and you will have all the tools you need to sell camp for next season

1. Professional Headshots of ALL of your year-round staff (not just the director).  These should be taken in the shade, with the subject standing , not sitting.   Don't forget to "turtle" - see this Peter Hurley video below.

1.5 If your year-round staff is at camp with their family - get pro photos of them together at camp.    It's easier for parents to trust an organization that is run by people who know what their life is like (i.e. parents).   Let's show them that. 

2. "Pictures of happy customers using your product". Donald Miller from says that, at it's heart, this is all you need to show.   I think he's quite right.   Joanna Warren Smith as talked, on this blog about these two photos - the best she's ever seen: "Sammy's pride of accomplishment and Jenna's total engagement. " 

3. Kids and camp counsellors interacting. Smiles are important here but not essential.  Just focus on the moments when staff are paying attention to one child.  We know from interviewing camp parents that one of their big concerns about summer camp is that their child will "disappear" in to the crowd.   These pictures will help show that each kid has a special place at your camp. 

4. The Beginning of the Day Whether you are at a day camp or an overnight camp, the start of the day has lots of great little moments - kids being greeted getting off the bus, going do to the lake for Polar Dip, singing as they come up for breakfast.   Plus: your light will be SOOOOO much better than in the middle of the day.

5. The End of the Day I call these the "shoulders" of the day. They are times when things become emotionally stronger (singing together around a fire, crying because you don't want to get in the car and go home) at summer camp.   I really feel that this is where camp goes from mundane to extraordinary.    The end of the day can include quiet times in the cabin or a day camp's flag ceremony. 

6. Campers and Staff Shots for Marketing I'm sure you've seen these pictures (if not you'll start to notice them now!): a person, probably a client, maybe a representative of the organization is photographed on the edge of a picture looking "into" the frame.    These shots are WONDERFUL for marketing because they take advantage of an interesting piece of human psychology - we always follow the eyes.  If someone is looking to the right, we want to look there, too. 

One of my favourite examples is this picture of (Camp Arowhon alumn) Seth Godin - he and his team use it all the time and it never fails to get me to look where he's looking. 

Some things to remember: 

  • make sure the background is simple - it doesn't have to be studio-white like Seth's but it should be be plain, with no strong lines (from tree trunks, docks, edges of buildings, etc.) 
  • do what you need to to make them happy - one of the most intriguing things about Godin's photo is that little grin.   It makes us stop and wonder "what's going on there?"

Here's a couple of photos that I took for some CampHacker marketing projects so you can see what I'm thinking of.   All of these pictures include the kids pointing but I think you should concentrate on just looking to the left, right and up. 

The fourth image Does Not work because of the distracting lines in the back ground.

7. Mom's Love Maslow Make sure that you have many great examples (hopefully with camper-staff interactions) around the basics: food - fresh, homemade and full of colour; accommodation -  clean and full of light; safety - sunscreen, hats, proper shoes and life jackets. 

If you're looking for a detailed list of photos you can use to delegate to your camp photographer please check out the Summer Camp Photo Checklist - it's an Excel sheet you can download and use to give her or him so direction this summer 

Travis Allison - Presentations and Keynote Speeches

Summer Camp Speaker / Presenter

Tell Your Story - Keynote (30 min - 2 hours)

Going from "camp"  to "Oh, Wow, THAT CAMP!"

Some summer camps are still practitioners of the old campfire tradition: telling great stories.
I find that that skill set is diminishing. When I go to visit camps in the summer I rarely see that awesome moment of kids leaning forward in anticipation while a leader holds them in wrap attention with tales of adventure or of heroes overcoming great odds.
We're missing something very important. 
That storytelling skill will be the one thing that we can do to fight the malaise of our industry: camp is dying.
In this keynote address, I will be talking about ways to tell the amazing stories of the transformation power of camp and showing some cool examples from the world of summer camp (and beyond!)
Together we can save camp! 

Camp is Dying - Heroic Measures for a Life Saving Industry

With all my heart I believe that summer camp is running full-tilt toward a cliff.    That crisis is one that we have created ourselves - we LOVE camp but we can't SELL camp. 

In a world that no longer sees the value of summer camp we have stuck to our old messages.

In this session you will learn how to apply "business world" lessons on reaching new audiences and explaining a complicated product in simple terms.  This presentation will be a mix of lecture and facilitated discussions to that you will take home a 10 Point Plan for the finding new campers in the next 18 months.

Summer Camp: The Gilgamesh of the Modern World

To families who have no summer camp experience, what we do is INCREDIBLY WEIRD.  In some cultures sending your children away to by "raised" by others is just shameful.  To many people White Hot American Summer IS summer camp. 

As CampPros, we know in our hearts that summer camp is an experience that every child needs. 

In this session, Travis Allison will walk through a practical process of preparing to speak to new camp families – a way that will help them true understand the benefit that you have to offer their child.

We've got great stories!

The Surprising Power of Passionate Parents...Partnering Without Pain

How many times have you heard a camp director friend say "This job would be so great... if there weren't so parent's involved!" or "I spend all of my time just dealing with parents. I can't get anything done".

We think there is a way to have a great relationship with your camp's parents and still focus on developing a transformative program for their children.

Effective partnerships with parents involve: figuring out what gives them stress and communicating how camp solves that problem; looking at your current camp families and figuring out which parents have been your best allies today - then getting more of them.

Last Minute Marketing for Your Summer Camp

There are many things you can do, even in the spring of the year, that can increase the number of kids at your camp this summer.   

Although we all hope to have our summer sessions full early in the year, many families do not begin to think of summer activities for their children until the snow is off the ground.   Google records a big spike in the numbers of searches for "summer camp" starting the beginning of April. 

In this presentation Travis Allison will share some of the best ideas that he has collected for having immediate impact on your camper numbers.   Many of these have been tried and tested with his clients (non-profits, agency and private camps), some are brand new ideas that camps are trying out this year. 

Wonderful Word of Mouth

Improving The One Strategy That Is Consistently Working For You
Every camp leader knows that Word Of Mouth is a great source of new campers.  Those are the best new campers each summer: they know how camp works, they are more comfortable when they arrive and they come back year after year.
How can we get more of those campers?  By developing a referral marketing system that helps your best clients do what they are already doing - telling others what a great camp you run.
In this session you will get the foundation for a solid system that will bring you great campers.

What Lady Gaga Can Teach You About Marketing Summer Camp

Little Monsters - one thing camp people have in common with Lady Gaga. No, I'm not referring to our campers, I mean that we have affectionate nicknames for the important people in our life.
Lady Gaga is a top-selling music artist because she is amazing at building and looking after her community (whom she calls her Little Monsters).   Camp Leaders can learn a lot (and will in this session) from how Lady Gaga's treats her True Fans.

10 NEW Things Every Camp Must Do On YouTube

YouTube is an essential marketing tool for any summer camp that wants to be relevant to today's families.   Research shows us that customers are 65% of the way through their buying decision before they will pick up the phone to call a camp.    This means that you must use any tools you can to answer ALL of their questions before they make the first contact with you.
By carefully crafting your YouTube strategy using these 10 strategies you will be one of the camps that parent's will consider.

What Everybody Wants to Know About Great Alumni Relations (with Tom Holland)

Follow our simple formula reach out to your camp alumni and make them feel like their contributions mattered. By helping this pool of your biggest fans understand that they will always be remembered and always welcome, you will both benefit in countless ways. Tom and Travis' camp alumni programs have raised millions of dollars, have created a boon of eager volunteers and have helped camps powerfully expand their marketing impact.

I Just CAN'T Get Everything Done! (Hint: You Can With These Strategies)

Summer camp leaders are always challenged to do more with less.  In this session Travis will show some simple tips and tools to organize your time and your work space so that you have a greater sense of what needs to get done and how you will do it.
Result: getting more accomplished with MUCH less stress!

6 Simple Strategies You Can Use to Reach Families Who Don't Understand Camp

Explaining the value of summer camp to Parent's who don't understand.

As CampPros, we know in our hearts that summer camp is an experience that every child  NEEDS. Why then are we so terrible at telling that story? In this session, Travis Allison will walk through a practical process of preparing to speak to new camp families – a way that will help them true understand the benefit that you have to offer their child.