Should We Start with a Round of Introductions?

I wonder if anyone has ever stopped to think what we actually accomplish with a round of introductions. It is practically impossible to concentrate to the ones before you, since your mind is busy thinking what the heck you’re supposed to say. After your own turn is over the rush of relief or remorse washes over you and you forget to listen anyway.

Anyway, since we cannot avoid all situations where introductions are due, here’s a handy formula to make it slightly less painful. It is worth your while to think these through before the meeting, so when the round of introductions begins, you’ll have time to listen to others. And even if you’re off the hook and you don’t have to formally introduce yourself, these make it easier for you to communicate in the meeting.

1. Who will be there?

What’s the level and area of expertise of the participants? If they are colleagues, you can add as much jargon and use as specific vocabulary as you wish. But if others come from an entirely different field, choose simple language and avoid complex terminology.

For example if you’re attending a meeting with customers, they’re interested in learning that you’re the developer, expert of the technical side of things. But most likely it doesn’t mean a thing to them whether you’re back end, front end or full stack.

2. What’s the meaning of this meeting

If it is possible, try to figure out the agenda – whether it is public or hidden – and who’s head you’re trying to turn. Otherwise it might be your head that’s being turned. This way you can try to convince the listeners already in the introduction phase that you have the best and deepest knowledge of the subject at hand.

For example the agenda of the meeting is to decide which technology you’re going to use in the project. In this case you could add to your introduction the amount of projects you have done and list the technologies A, B and C you’re expert on. This way when it comes time to weigh the options, your opinion about the differencies between technology B and C means more than if you’re just the dude who googled the name of the technology on the way to the meeting.

3. How can you help

This is the most important part. At the end of the day people are not that interested about others. They’re more interested in how others can help. So try to switch away from “I can do this and that” and “I have done that and those”. Instead try to think beforehand what kind of problems you can solve and how much better the project can be when you’re involved.

Think about how you can help to make sure the project will succeed? How much of their money can you save? How fast can you make it happen?

4. Keep a funny detail in your back pocket

Meetings, especially with new people, are awkward and stiff at first. Humour can lighten the situation and ease the atmosphere. If you have a funny detail at hand, you may get others to smile or even laugh. That’ll break the ice.

These can be things like “I’m the one everybody runs to when the printer stops working”. The detail can also be something outside of your profession such as “these rings under my eyes are caused by my daughter who has just learned how to produce teeth” or “when nobody is watching I bake”. These make you more approachable and human. We’re influenced by people we find trustworthy and we trust people we like.

TL;DR When preparing to an introduction:

  • Take into consideration the level of knowledge of the participants. Calibrate the amount of details you should go into when introducing your expertese.
  • Check the agenda of the meeting. Assess what is most important to add to your introduction.
  • Remember to tell how can you help others or the project at hand.
  • Include a little, warm or funny detail.

All clear? Something to add? Leave a comment!

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