Introductions

6th December 2007

It never ceases to amaze me how much lost opportunity there is in the introductions at the start of meetings. A few weeks ago I lead a meeting in which the meeting owner said she would lead the introductions. She said that the group knew each other and that they only needed to share their names and roles for my sake. The result was a session in which each person introduced themselves at high speed round the room. It really was a waste of time, they already knew each others names and I could not recall them well after such a quick wizz round.

It transpired later in the meeting that, although this group was a leadership team, they son’t know each other that well and we had lost an opportunity at the start of the meeting to:

  • get the group into the meeting, mentally as well as physically
  • develop trust and respect in the group

It’s a lesson I should have learnt by now, as I have come across it all too often. It’s so easy to crop the introductions at the start of a meeting to save time or because there are assumptions about how well people know each other.

I comes back to the principle of ‘Go slow to go fast’. A meeting that is set up well will work far more effectively than one in which we dive into content and then hit stumbling blocks as the group don’t work effectively. Understanding who is in the room is the first question most people have on their mind when they enter a room. By taking time to share information about the people in the room at the start you can create a great environment for getting work done together.

At it’s simplest level, just sharing names and roles can help. Although I prefer to ask people to describe what they do, rather than give job titles, it usually has more meaning. It can also be useful to get people to share one or two of the following:

  • their role in the meeting – this may be their functional expertise or length of service
  • what they hope the meeting achieves
  • what they have left in the office – to help them leave it behind and to allow others to understand the possible pressures they are under
  • what brought them to the meeting

If you want to take more time to create personal connections you can ask:

  • what people are doing, thinking, dreaming
  • what sucks and what rocks at the moment

Or you can get start to get creative by asking people to share information that is pertinent to the purpose of the meeting content. For example I recently ran a workshop in which we were discussing how employees felt about the organisation they were working in. We started the meeting by asking people to share:

  • my name
  • my role – what I do is…
  • the best job I’ve ever done is… because…

It gave a great start because it was something everyone could join in, it shared as much or as little personal information as the individual was willing to share and it linked directly to the topic of the meeting.

So, in conclusion…
I invite you to give some thought to the way people introduce themselves at the start of your meetings. Don’t go for the ‘creeping death’ names and job titles round the table, get the group talking to each other and sharing relevant personal information.
Good luck!