Episode 177: November 1, 2012
by Lisa. B. Marshall
I’ve taught hundreds of corporate workshops as well as over a dozen university classes. I know from experience that many students and corporate professionals are often quite uncomfortable introducing themselves to a group. I’ve even experienced the anxiety myself. My heart pounding, my face beet red, my mind half listening to the others and half worrying about what I was going to say, I've been there.
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So what do we need to know about introducing ourselves to that person sitting next to us? What makes a good introduction? And how do we go about it? Here are 3 tips:
Tip #1: Share Your Story
Everyone knows that when we introduce ourselves, we need to speak loudly and clearly as we share carefully chosen information about ourselves. The problem for most is, what exactly should you share?
If you’re the teacher, keep in mind the purpose of your introduction is to help the students feel comfortable and excited to be learning from a credible expert who is also likable. You’ll want to share your professional background and credentials as well as include one or two non-professional interests. Optionally you might hint at values that are important to you. Remember: your teacher’s introduction will set the tone for the rest of the class.
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For example, whenever I teach a public speaking class, I start class by delivering a 3-5 minute speech that tells my story. I explain why I have an undergraduate degree in computer systems and a masters degree in a completely different area of organizational and interpersonal communication. I explain my career choices in term of my personal and professional experiences. In essence, I tell a cohesive story that explains what I did and why I did it. In my case, it serves both as an introduction to the class and as demonstration of how to deliver a short presentation about yourself (which happens to be the first assignment for the students).
In other classes and workshops, I’ve delivered a shorter version of the same story and often people have commented on how they appreciate hearing not just what I’ve done, but why I did it. By disclosing unique information about myself, I connect with students and often motivate and inspire them to share in a similar manner.
The best classroom introductions are ones that share experiences in the form of a story. I noticed a real shift in the quality of the introductions once I started delivering my classroom introductions as a story.
Tip #2: Share Relatable Information
Although the instructor introduction is about establishing credibility and likability and building rapport, the student introduction should focus mainly on building rapport and being memorable. This means if you are the student ,it is important for you to share unique information about yourself that will help the other students (and the teacher) to remember who you are and also to feel like you’ve got something in common with them.
In an academic classroom, this usually means sharing a few of your interests. Choose one or two you think others in the class might share but also include one that is very unique to you. So for example, I might share something like, “I’m Lisa, Lisa Marshall and I’m a computer systems major. When I take a break from studying it’s to go for a swim or a bike ride, or to go rollerblading with my dog!”
Oh, and by the way, this isn’t the time to share information that is too personal. Avoid awkward conversation-stoppers like politics, a messy divorce, or your 37 cats, that make people uneasy. Stick with what draws people together rather than with what divides us.
In a corporate classroom, participant introductions should focus on the person’s role and what he or she would like to gain from the workshop. For example, let’s say you’re a project manager in a public speaking workshop. You might say something like this, “Hi, I’m Clair, Clair Hendricks and I’m responsible for TGA development and project management. For me, I’d like to hear more about how to engage the audience particularly during client kick-off meetings.”
Tip #3: Have Some Fun
A fun way to make introductions a little more comfortable is to have some fun with them.
One good idea for facilitators is to break all the participants into small groups of 2-4 people. Have them them interview and introduce each other. For example, “I would like to introduce you to Jeff Rogers. He likes to kayak, ride bikes with his young sons, and eat ice cream as often as possible.”
Another fun game is Two Truths and a Lie. Each person in the class lists three things about themselves. Two things will be true, the third will be a lie, and the group gets to guess which is which. For example, “Hi, my name is Kim Jacobs. I own an RV, have 7 adopted children, and studied for a month in Paris last year.” The great thing about this game is that everyone listens very carefully. I will not forget Kim’s name because she’s the first person I ever met with 7 adopted children! One word of caution on that game: I’ve noticed that sometimes, a few weeks later, people remember the lie as the truth!
Finally, if the group is very large, it is still possible to enjoy the benefit of introductions. In this case you can simply form groups of 4 or 5 that introduce themselves to each other only and then as the workshop progresses within that same team.
The bottom line is that introductions in the classroom are very important. Our relational society thrives on knowing that person sitting next to us. So get comfortable with introducing yourself. Be sure to pick personal facts that are unique and interesting, but not divisive or uncomfortable to others. And if you can come up with a fun, new way to introduce people to each other, then do.
This is Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker. Passionate about communication; your success is my business.
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