Starting a meeting or workshop with new people will almost certainly commence with introductions. Usually I will ask participants to say not only who they are and what department they are from, but also why they think they are at the meeting. If someone is not sure, or says “because my boss told me to attend” there might be an issue.
Last week I attended a workshop run by a couple of our developers from China. Because paired programming is a fundamental practice to what we do, they asked the participants to do paired introductions. Participants paired, were offered a minute to talk to each other and then introduce their colleague. Because the team already knew each other, they didn’t need the minute to prepare. As each participant introduced his colleague, he emphasised the persons strengths and good points. At the end of the introductions there was a tremendously positive vibe in the room which set the meeting up for success. It might have taken a little longer than just doing the straight introductions, but the value was clear; get people to introduce their colleagues – it breaks the ice, promotes the positive (and as a facilitator gives you another hook by which to remember people).