Imagine you're at the  airport and you bump into a  client you've done business with in the past. He offers a warm smile and greets you by name, but you freeze like a deer in the headlights.

Is it Brian? Ryan? He's from Seattle, right? No, but it's somewhere on the west coast....

Has this ever happened to you? Does it seem like others are blessed with amazing memory skills while you're always scrambling to recall basic facts?

The truth is that superior memory skills aren't necessarily associated with superior cognitive ability or brain anatomy. Just like lifting weights helps you build muscle, mnemonic strategies help to train your brain and improve your memory.

Best of all, anyone can use them. Once you understand these techniques, you can easily memorize names, numbers, lectures, or any other facts you need to recall.

The most popular technique to improve memory is the method of loci, also known as the mind palace (or memory palace). This ancient Greco-Roman technique can help you improve your memory in ways you never thought possible.

How the mind palace works

Greek and Roman orators memorized lengthy speeches by building structures (such as a palace) inside their imagination. They would then strategically place each word or idea they needed to remember in a specific location inside their mind palace. They could then later mentally retrace their steps and recall the details when they needed them.

If you've ever watched the BBC show Sherlock, you've already seen this technique in action. Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes often used the method of loci (Latin for "places") to easily recall forgettable facts he needed to solve a case.

This is more than good TV; researchers have shown how effective the mind palace can really be.

A 2017 study had participants (with no mnemonic training) attempt to memorize 72 random words. They were then assigned to six weeks of training using the method of loci and retested after four months. Amazingly, the average participant could recall 62 of the 72 words, even months later.

Using MRI scans, researchers could see that mnemonic training elicited changes within the brain's network. They also saw discernable differences in connectivity patterns that weren't present in participants without training.

Harness the power of the mind palace

So, how can you train your brain and improve your memory using this ancient technique? The key lies in visualizing each point (and each piece of information you need to remember) along a specific route.

Let's go back to our opening example and that client you bumped into at the airport. During your first business meeting, you learned his name is Ryan Smith. His office is in Portland, Oregon, but he's originally from Dallas. Oh, yeah -- he's an avid golf enthusiast, too.

How can you remember all these details so you're better prepared the next time you meet him?

Start by visualizing a structure or another specific location you're familiar with. This could be your childhood home, your office at work, or even the streets in your neighborhood. Whatever setting you choose, don't forget the most important part -- you need to be able to visualize smaller components of the structure. This might include drawers in the kitchen, chairs in the office, or cul-de-sacs off the main street.

Now, close your eyes and mentally step inside your mind palace. For this example, we'll use your office.

The first thing you need to remember is your client's name. You might picture your favorite actor, Ryan Reynolds, sitting in the waiting room of your office beside another actor you like, Will Smith. ("Ryan" and "Smith" -- get it?)

Ryan's cracking jokes about his favorite TV show, Portlandia, reminding you that your client's business is in Oregon. Meanwhile, Will Smith is wearing a tan cowboy hat, making it easy to recall that he's from Dallas.

Now, take a few steps further into your mind palace. In the corner next to the water cooler, you see that there's a set of golf clubs leaning against the wall. You might even picture the two actors playing a round of mini golf down the hallway leading to your office.

The point is this: The more crazy, silly, or bizarre the mental image, the harder it will be to forget. All you need to make this technique work for you is a recognizable location and a vivid image that sparks your imagination.

As science journalist Joshua Foer explains, the more deeply engaged you are with a piece of information, the more likely you are to remember it. The vibrant imagery that comes with the mind palace technique gives context to those pesky names, numbers, and other details that are easy to forget. And, as many scientific studies have found, it really works.

In fact, maybe that's why Ryan Smith was able to remember your name. Maybe he's already practiced this technique and is using it to his advantage.

But don't worry, with a little bit of practice, you too can use the ancient method of loci to train your brain and drastically improve your memory. And while you may not be solving complex cases like Sherlock, you will be able to remember those important details that give you and your business a special edge.