Honestly, I always thought it was silly and a waste of time. It may be okay for a very small group to get better acquainted. However, in settings of more than a few it is probably a failure. How are introductions managed in your meetings?
Does the meeting host or leader, “Go around the room?”
Why do some trainers or meeting facilitators do this? Why do they waste valuable time passing the baton from person to person?
The answer is often easy. They haven’t prepared and it is a great way to spend some time (wasting time) putting the burden on the participants.
About eight years ago I was delivering a workshop at a university. The participants were all employees. Certainly not everyone knew everyone.
After about 45-minutes of the seminar I opened for some questions. A faculty member quickly jumped in and said, “I don’t know everyone here. Can we spend a few minutes and go around the room?”
I had another more recent case. In this case I was working for a university (on behalf of) and on a break my university contact asked me, “Who is in the room?”
I replied with, “I’m not sure, who signed up?” Keeping in mind that there were more than thirty participants in this session.
The next question was, “You didn’t go around the room with introductions?”
And so, it continues. It isn’t just in academia, it happens in other sectors too.
What’s the Failure?
One of the biggest fails is the idea that most meeting hosts do this in-part to fill a scheduled time-slot. The pressure is off them to deliver while everyone is going around the room.
Another failure is, who is really listening? As the baton gets closer to you, you are planning what you’ll say. Depending on seating you may not be able to clearly see everyone, so you just hear a voice, or people rubbernecking around the room. Awkward.
Some better ideas? Prepare in advance. Publish a list with biographical sketches, use name tags, or tents. Insist on networking. Point out a few honorable mentions. If you want them to share something tell them you’ll be pointing them out in advance.
Want to know the quickest way to waste twenty-five minutes? Ask a group of thirty plus participants to, “Go around the room.” It may be more productive to give an extra fifteen-minute break and suggest more networking.
If you’re the facilitator, prepare, and use your time wisely. Deliver value, not a silly exercise that stalls the real work to be done.
AFTER THOUGHTS: I’ve received some push back on this post. I knew it would be controversial before I hit the Publish button. Yes, there may be an appropriate time and setting to go around the room for introductions. I have done it in certain circumstances or situations. Largely though, as a professional in the field, my opinion is that this more ineffective rather than effective. If a goal is to have people get to know each other, an activity specifically geared towards accomplishing that would be better. And yes, knowing your audience is very important but to the extent possible that should be known in advance, not in the moment. The reason for my writing this post is that I see this too often being used as a crutch by the unprepared. It takes the professional out of professionalism. Then, all that remains is an ism.
Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.
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