Have you ever had to suffer through a get-acquainted meeting that went badly? You know the kind – people are embarrassed, stage-frightened, or just plain unwilling to open up. It’s a waste of time (or worse), and an embarrassment for everyone involved. If you’re ever called upon to facilitate a get-acquainted activity, here are some proven techniques for making it useful, informative and even fun.
#1: Show and Tell
Ahead of the meeting, ask participants to choose some object that they feel represents them, and bring it along to show the group. Tell them they’ll have the opportunity to explain their choice. This gives them an opportunity to exercise some creativity, and to show their sense of humor (or how serious they are). It makes it easier to convey concepts that might be hard express with words alone, especially in a limited time frame. Finally, it lets them put some of the focus on something other than themselves, which tends to lessen embarrassment and the feeling of being all alone under the spotlight.
If you don’t have the opportunity to brief attendees in advance, you can use a slight variation of the technique. Pass out blank sheets of paper, and have each attendee draw their representative object. This isn’t quite as good, since some people are dead certain they have no drawing ability, which just adds to their embarrassment (especially if their assessment is correct).
Whether objects or drawings are used, this representation technique can reveal quite a lot about the person, on a deeper level than you’re likely to get from unsupported talk.
#2: How Could You Best Be Described?
To prepare for this one, make a long list of words that could describe or represent a person. In your meeting, display or hand out the list and ask participants to select words that describe them. You can ask them to pick any number of words, depending on available time, etc. Three or four usually works out well, but if time is limited, even just one word can be effective.
Once they’ve chosen their words, ask each person to share their choices and give a quick explanation for each, or relate an instance where they demonstrated them. For instance, Kaye chooses kind, amicable, youthful and energetic to describe herself, then tells about a time she made, wrapped and delivered cupcakes to a daycare center for the elderly, one Christmas Day – dressed as one of Santa’s elves!
#3: True and False
Ask each participant to give the group three statements about themselves – two of them true and one false. Once a person has giving their statements, ask the others present to guess which one is false. This can be a fun way to generate friendly and familiarizing interactions. To make it more of a challenge (and more informative), you can raise the number of true and/or false statements each person is to give.
#4: If You Were a…
Many people tend to “see themselves” in some other person or thing. If your participants are shy about directly revealing personal details, you can ask them, “If you were a ___, what (or who) would you be, and why?” Use your imagination to fill in that blank (ahead of time). Here are some ideas that have worked well:
- Menu item (food)
- Well-known TV or movie character
- Musical genre
#5: Map the World
Ask each person to name three places they’d like to visit (or re-visit), and tell the story behind each choice. You can add a bit of interest by putting up a big world map and having them to attach pins to their choices.
#6: Pecha Kucha
If a computer and projector set-up are available, ask your participants (in advance) to prepare 20 presentation slides about themselves. Let them run through their slides for the group, talking for only 20 seconds about each slide. This is called Pecha Kucha; we discussed it in greater depth in an earlier post on this blog.
Over to You
Have you been involved in any other get-acquainted activities that were particularly effective (or not effective)? Please share your experiences with us in the comments section below.