Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Who's That? Self-Introductions At Meetings

I went to two different bar association related events this week. One before work and the other at lunchtime. They both had 20 or so lawyers present. One was a collaborative meeting of various bar groups on diversity issues. The other had a speaker. At the start of the diversity meeting everyone was asked to introduce themselves to the group. When people came in later, they were asked to introduce themselves.

The speaker lunch program started without self-introductions. I know the reason was related to time - - that it would take time away from the hour available for the program for everyone to introduce themselves to the group. However, the difference in the effect on the subsequent discussions was palpable.

Introductions help people connect and relate to each other better. Even when you can't remember the person's name or position, it still helps that you heard it. You know that someone down at the other end of the table does some kind of municipal finance work. Or you've listened and perhaps realized someone else is the person you've been wanting to meet. You've listened and perhaps realized this is the person you've exchanged emails with or read about in the paper. Now you can put a face to a name.

Introductions at this sized event can take as little as 7-8 minutes total with as much as 20 seconds per person. Yet the effect on the membership present can be huge. People will start to get to know more people. A community feeling will develop more quickly. Using greeters or hosts ensures that new members will feel welcome and acknowledged. Then they'll be more likely to return, get active, bring other potential members, etc.

These suggestions aren't new and the benefits aren't limited to association type events. A few years ago self-introductions were used for the first time to start a meeting of partners from multiple offices who were all in the same good sized practice group in a firm. Not surprisingly, this new twist loosened everyone up and set a good tone for an open discussion of strategies for the group. It took a few minutes and perhaps seemed unnecessary to some, but it definitely made a difference to those people who didn't know everyone.