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Interview with Anderson Cooper: Brent Sverdloff

08/07/2014, 10:00pm PDT
By Anderson Cooper

Former San Francisco FrontRunner President Brent Sverdloff has been keeping busy since his 2012 term. He works as the Executive Director of SAFE (Safety Awareness for Everyone), the SF Police Department’s non-profit partner in crime prevention and public safety. 

He still runs almost every Saturday with FrontRunners and enjoys life with Craig, his partner of 22 years. In addition to his work and social life, Brent found time to write a book: "How Could I Forget You! A Creative Way to Remember Names and Faces." We sat down over coffee in the Castro to discuss his new venture.

A.C. What made you decide to write this book?

B.S. A substitute teacher changed my life one day in the 8th grade. She taught us these memory methods, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Learning how to memorize all sorts of information—historical events and people, numbers, speeches, and more—made me a better student in high school and college. I’ve been teaching workshops on the subject for the last 10 years. As I approached my 50th birthday, I wanted to create something special, and this book was born. 

A.C. What made you focus on names and faces?

B.S. While teaching workshops, it was pretty much everyone’s favorite session. It seems to be the thing people want to get better at.

A.C. Why do we space out on people’s names when we meet them?

B.S. I’ll give you the short answer. Sometimes we simply don’t hear the name clearly and just skip over it. More often, though, the name just isn’t as vivid as other information the person shares with us—where they grew up, what kind of dog they have, where they bought the interesting shirt they’re wearing, etc. What my book teaches is how to transform a name into something that’s easy to picture. Then, using very fun, creative associations, you learn how to link it to the person. 

A.C. Rumor has it that you’re not a big fan of technology. You don’t have a Facebook page, for example.

B.S. I’m no Luddite, but I do believe that social media has unfortunately become a substitute for—instead of a supplement to—real-time, in-person engagement. Being face-to-face definitely makes an experience more memorable. Even reading a book or a newspaper as opposed to absorbing the same information through the screen on your phone helps you remember better the source of that content.   

A.C. What’s some simple advice you can offer to remember someone’s name when you meet them?

B.S. My mantra is Meet, Greet, and Repeat:

MEET: make eye contact and listen carefully. 

GREET: say the name back for reinforcement.

REPEAT: speak the name in conversation, e.g., introduce the person to someone else.

To learn more—and see & hear Brent in person—there are many options!

Brent will be selling "How Can I Forget You!" at most Saturday runs. This coming Tuesday, August 12, he'll be appearing at The Booksmith on Haight St. at 7:30pm with his illustrator Sarah Goodwin. The book is also available at Green Apple Books on Clement St. On October 9, Brent will be appearing at 3 Fish Studios in the Sunset again with his illustrator. You can buy an autographed copy online through Bookshop Santa Cruz at

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