Introduction Excercise for Business Meeting
June 6, 2008 8:14 AM   Subscribe

What's a good introduction activity for a group of 30 people?

I've got a department meeting coming up, and I've been tasked with creating an activity for the people involved to introduce themselves/one another.

1. There will be about 30 people. 20 of these people work together everyday and know each other well, and the other 10 work in different locations. As such, my fallback activity for things like this, where everybody introduces somebody else, might not work so well.

2. Everything after this activity will be very business-meetingy, so I want to make sure these introductions don't clash too badly with the comparatively dry content of the meeting. Most stuff I've found online has been a little too much on the team-building, trust exercise side of things.

3. That said, I want it to be engaging and successful. I tend to be a little curmudgeonly about these sorts of things, so if it can win over the cynic in me, it'll likely work out well.
posted by SpiffyRob to Work & Money (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My department is much like yours, we have ~30 people who work together at headquarters, and ~15 others from various locations in the US and globally. At our last all-hands meeting, everyone was asked to send a baby/childhood picture and 2 interesting facts about themselves ahead of time, and these were posted anonomously on numbered posters hung around the room. We had some free time before getting started to examine them, and everyone had a list to match up each person to their number. Depending on how the people looked, and how tricky their facts were, it ranged from obvious to extremely difficult. And it also got people working together, networking and comparing answers.
posted by LolaGeek at 8:23 AM on June 6, 2008

i like that lola.. i just wanted to add i went to conference and we were told to stand up, introduce ourselfs, what we use the product for, our company blah blah blah and then our personal first it was golf, golf, coffee but then a fat guy said food and people started loosening up! it turned out being quite funny and i quickly clicked with a of few the people. . . not with the bearded guy who was addicted to dressing up as a blonde girl though!
posted by 0.0.0 at 8:28 AM on June 6, 2008

Yeah, the baby picture thing works. What works even better is the early teen photo. Because EVERYONE is dorky as an early teen. I went to a party once that was for the 12th anniversary of a company so everyone had to bring photos of themselves from somewhere around 12 years old. Which, it turns out, was the exact age people took the most humiliating photos of their entire lives, the ones they didn't want to show anyone. But they brought them in and everyone was in hysterics. It kind of bonded people, being forced to realize that we were ALL dorky, plus wondering if any of the kids in the photos would've hung out together. So and so being so much cooler than so and so. You could really sense the social cliques people were in from their photos so it gave interesting insight into that person that you didn't have before.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:35 AM on June 6, 2008

if you got everyones highschool yearbook photos that would be awesome! lol i'm sure a few people wouldn't cough em up though...
posted by 0.0.0 at 8:37 AM on June 6, 2008

Depends on how useful you want the opening activity to be, but one quick-to-set-up stirrer/icebreaker thing I've done is this:

1. Everyone gets a big sticky note. They write their favorite movie/TV/whatever character on the note, plus the film/show/whatever the character is from. Then they attach the sticky note to their chest, like a name badge.

2. Everyone mingles for a set amount of time, like ten/fifteen minutes, as if they are the character. So Larry from Accounts becomes "Jaws" from "Jaws", and talks over the hors d'oeuvre table with Janine from IT (who is "Sam" from "Casablanca") about how hungry he always is and how he's always getting splinters in his teeth from eating too many boats. Sam sympathizes, and says that while life in wartime Casablanca isn't exactly a party, he's happy he doesn't have to spend his whole life swimming around. (Or something.)

3. People sit down with the last person they were talking to at the end of the activity and introduce the other person's character to the rest of the group.

4. At the first break, everyone has to find two people they thought represented their character well and find out why the real person behind the sticky note chose the character they did - did they think they knew enough about them to represent them, or did they choose someone they hoped was so obscure no one would call them on it? A childhood favorite, someone very similar or very different from them, or just something cool, like the reclusive guy from the mailroom who no one really knows choosing someone like Rambo just to be noticed more?
posted by mdonley at 8:52 AM on June 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

This is something that seemed to work well at a small conference I went to (about 20 people), where some attendees knew some others, and a few knew no one. It had an actual name - I want to say "[Something] Bingo", but whatever.

Prior to the conference, the moderators created a bingo-like worksheet for everyone. Each square in the grid contained some fact about an attendee. Then we had some amount of time to mingle, and try to find a person who matched up with each square on the grid. After the mingling, whoever had found the most matches received some token prize.

The moderators used generic "facts" that could apply to someone in almost any group, such as "has a dog", "Such and Such fan", "attended So and So college", etc. I think it would work better if you could collect somewhat obscure but real facts ahead of time from the attendees, like "has a degree in Underwater Basketweaving" or "has met Mick Jagger" or whatever.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:20 AM on June 6, 2008

Oh, oh, there's also this awesome interconnectedness story map I saw on Flickr - perhaps attendees can create their own, based on positive things in their working relationships? For example: Bill is connected to Ted because Bill totally helped Ted with that thing from Sales; Ted is connected to Francois because Francois and Ted worked together on getting the Belgian account which doubled the company's annual income and gave everyone huge bonuses.
posted by mdonley at 9:25 AM on June 6, 2008

Best answer: SuperSquirrel, that'll be Human Bingo you've got there.

There's some previous threads.
posted by Helga-woo at 9:27 AM on June 6, 2008

Ask each person to write down two true things about themselves and one lie. Initially divide people into small groups of about 5 or 6 and have each person read these out to the others. People must try to guess which one is the lie. The person in each group who is most successful in passing off their lie is the winner for that group. You can then collect together the best liars from each group to face the same judgement in front of the entire audience. Hence you can pick an overall winner. This seems to work pretty well irrespective of whether people know each other or not.
posted by rongorongo at 9:37 AM on June 6, 2008

Write names of famous people on sticky notes and place one on the back of each person without showing them the name. Individuals can then mix and ask each other questions (answerable by yes or no) to try to determine their identity. This works well because you get all the body language/chemistry interactions with people without having to concentrate on personal information.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:03 AM on June 6, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks to all! Helga-woo gets the best answer for linking to the previous threads that my searching was unable to turn up, but you've all gone beyond that with some great ideas.

If there were some sort of indication of the number of best answers a person has had, I'd mark you all to pump up your stats. As it stands, I hope a thanks will suffice.
posted by SpiffyRob at 10:18 AM on June 6, 2008

Yeah, I'd second Human Bingo. Coincidentally, my office (very similar to yours) had a retreat just yesterday, and at our previous one we used Human Bingo very successfully. (Better, I think, than the one we did yesterday :P) It was fun without being too personal, but it was still more interesting than Two truths and a Lie, which often ends up being a little lame and obvious.
posted by Madamina at 10:28 AM on June 6, 2008

My mom works for a non-profit, and she has to go to these kinds of meetings all.the.time. She was just complaining yesterday about how these games are annoying and everyone feels awkward doing them (Although these kind of party games are normally up her alley). She told me that the best one she ever did involved a group of about 20 people, and the leader just asked everyone to talk about a book they'd been reading lately and what they thought about it. My mom said that it was really nice because you got to feel like to heard something interesting and personal from each person, no one felt awkward, and you got some nice book recommendations.
posted by nuclear_soup at 8:35 AM on June 7, 2008

I'm with nuclear_soup's mom: these exercises are almost universally awful. They are infantilizing and make everyone feel ridiculous. In fact, the only way that they have ever helped to bond me with my fellow event-goers is when we bonded over how stupid it was that we spent time that otherwise could have been productive work time on such nonsense. I have never learned anything that I wanted to know about a fellow event-goer from such an exercise.

Your goal is to make it so that people who don't know one another well are chatting with one another in a way that makes them comfortable interacting professionally with one another throughout the day. You don't want anyone embarrassed, you don't want anyone resenting you, you don't want anyone bored, and you want everyone ready to work when the activity is over. Asking people to pretend to be their favorite movie character for 10 minutes accomplishes exactly none of those things.

I may be unusually jaded, but I believe that I speak for, at the very least, a large minority, and possibly even the majority of people, when I say that people can't stand these games. They would rather just work. I hate sitting in a circle and repeat all of the names of the people who came before me. I hate writing down three adjectives to describe myself, putting them on a sticker on my chest, and then finding other people who share my adjectives. And, although I'm sure the answerers in this thread have only the best intentions, I also loathe with a fiery passion Human Bingo and matching people their baby pictures. The game where you try to figure out what identity you've been assigned based on how others answer your questions? That's a plot from an episode of The Office. This does not bode well for implementing that activity in real life.

The best "activities" are not activities at all. Just go around the room and ask everyone to introduce themselves in 3-4 sentences. Or ask a specific question of the sort that you might ask a new acquaintance if you were meeting her/him one-on-one. That's why the "read any good books lately?" exercise works. Because it's a natural question for people to answer. You could ask everyone to say what their favorite movie is and why they like it, if you suspect you're not dealing with a big book crowd. But the point is to make it a natural question that you might ask a real person. You would never ask a new friend to tell you two true things and one falsehood about herself so that you could guess which one was the lie, would you? So don't ask a room full of adults to do that to one another.
posted by decathecting at 2:16 AM on June 8, 2008

Having recommended 'Two Truths and a Lie' up-thread I do find myself agreeing with decathecting about how irksome these exercises can be. As an organiser I think you might want to start by asking why you want to accelerate the process by which people find out about each other above the rate at which it would occur organically. Sometimes there is a very good reason for wanting to do this: for example I have been through this when bringing together a large yacht crew together for the first time; right from the outset, in this situation, there is a danger associated with people not knowing each other's names. More often, however, I have seen this technique used at events where a number of groups who work under the same senior manager are brought together. In cases where the different group members do not already know each other and are unlikely to need to work closely with each other in the future the process can seem to be more about gratifying the senior manager's ego.
posted by rongorongo at 8:39 AM on June 8, 2008

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