Making introductions in business meetings is meant to make the delegates and speakers feel at ease.
Introductions should make everyone feel comfortable speaking to each other – a crucial factor when you consider the key to a successful meeting is communication.
It may seem a small factor to take into account, but research has shown that getting off on the wrong foot, with inappropriate introductions, doesn’t bode well for the rest of the meeting, in many cases. For some people, the first minutes of a meeting are nerve-wracking.
First impressions count
How the organiser handles the opening moments is important, as this is the key to the way the conversations flow afterwards. First impressions count – so get off to a flying start through introducing delegates to the guest speakers and to each other in the correct manner.
In a survey of businesspeople, speaking at a large meeting was found to make some feel pretty nervous, especially the less experienced speaker.
Imagine arriving at the venue, feeling a sense of trepidation, only to be presented to a room of complete strangers and urged, “Go around the group and tell everyone a bit about yourself.”
What should you tell them? You may have your speech prepared and you’re ready for a question and answer session, but to be put on the spot in front of a room full of sometimes dour-looking strangers is tough! It could feel like being at a job interview.
The answer, in this case, would simply be for the speaker to state their name and their place of work, to which the delegates would respond accordingly, but the poor introduction led to unnecessary anxiety, simply because the chair of the meeting hadn’t made it clear what was expected.
There are some simple ground rules on introductions at business meetings that should help everything to run more smoothly. These tips can go a long way towards avoiding any embarrassment or anxious moments.
Make sure everyone at the meeting knows who they are talking to. This isn’t feasible if you’re hosting a conference with hundreds of delegates, of course, but within reason, make sure everyone knows who else is there. Don’t forget to introduce every person (even latecomers), as everyone should be treated with equal importance.
Knowing who your colleagues are will provide a critical context for the discussions ahead. Everyone will have a sense of the range of experience in the room and the different perspectives of the delegates.
Make sure the speakers know what you want them to share with the gathering. Rather than throwing them in at the deep end with a vague instruction, set an example by introducing yourself first and saying a few words.
It’s a big mistake leaving people floundering, with no idea what’s expected of them. For new and inexperienced attendees, you may as well just be saying, “Go for it,” as your lack of direction will provide no guidance whatsoever.
If you’re going along the road of asking people to share a few facts about themselves by way of introduction, keep to safe topics. Never expect them to share potentially sensitive information about the company in a meeting and stay clear of extremely personal topics.
Not everyone will have happy family memories or a favourite hobby or band. If you’re planning to delve deeper into someone’s personal life, at least wait until the team-building exercises later.
Basic introductory questions
For all business meetings, there are some standard questions that should be included in the introductions. The obvious one is knowing each person’s first and last names and their business context – meaning the department or company they represent.
On a more personal note, if people have come from different locations, finding out where they are from and their particular interests and concerns, in relation to the workplace, is also creating context.
The reason why they are at the meeting provides more context. Without sounding blunt, as you don’t want it to come across as if you’re questioning their right to be there, you can ask, “What do you want to get out of the meeting today?” or, “What do you hope to learn today?”
You could ask people, “What interests you most about our work?” – and then once you’ve broken the ice with the initial introductions, go one step further and ask, “What skills can you contribute to the team today?” to encourage them to reveal a little more about their role at the company.
All of these questions lead people into the meeting gently and provide a much more effective result than simply telling a newcomer, “Tell everyone about yourself.”
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