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How Not to Start a Meeting

Whenever I go to a large meeting, there is always one part I dread: the self-introduction. This is where the Chairperson asks everyone to go around the room and introduce themselves.

Have you ever met anyone who enjoys this part in a meeting?

The idea, of course, is supposed to give everyone the opportunity to tell the group who they are and what they do. The problem is, as your turn to speak gets nearer, all you're doing is trying to think of what to say, which means you aren't listening to the other people.

I've always wondered why this became such a common way to start a meeting and I suppose it must be one of three reasons:

1. The person in charge of the meeting is inexperienced. They are not quite sure how to start the meeting and this is an easy way to get it going. It also takes some of the spotlight and pressure away from themselves.

2. This is something they have seen other people do and they are following a set routine.

3. Getting everybody to introduce themselves demonstrates that they are in charge of the meeting and affirms their position as leader.

However, just because most meetings start in this way, doesn't mean you have to do it. In fact, you should buck the trend. My suggestion will not only be a more productive way to begin the meeting, but also make the experience much more comfortable for people.

A better way to get a meeting underway is for the Chairperson to do the introductions. In this way, they can make sure the most useful details about each of the people is conveyed. The Chairperson can basically ensure the most relevant information about each person is communicated which will increase the chances of a successful meeting. This will also allow the Chairperson to control the start of the meeting, which is always the most difficult part. If you let other people introduce themselves, oftentimes, side conversations start, and it all becomes a bit messy.

If there are lots of attendees at the meeting the Chairperson can introduce people by their teams, departments or functions, rather than each individually.

Once you have finished with the introductions, you should review the agenda from top to bottom. That gives you the perfect way to get going with the main part of the meeting. All you need to do now is sit back, relax and follow the agenda.

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