Starting a new class, starting a new training or starting a new treatment. The content of all three of these live online meetings is different, but they all have one thing in common: getting acquainted and getting to know each other does not happen by itself! Especially in a live online setting, where informal communication is more difficult and non-verbal communication often falls away, getting to know new participants, teachers, trainers or therapists is important! But what do you look for in a live online introduction? And how do you make it surprising instead of predictable? In this blog, we share with you our favorites online introduction formats.
Why is a live online introduction so important?
A good introduction at the start of a new class, training or treatment is often considered not so essential. After all, you get to know each other naturally, and isn't the content of the sessions more important than the people with whom you attend them? We at Learning Connected disagree. On the contrary, a good introduction is essential!
In order to learn from and with each other, commitment and mutual trust are very important. These two characteristics form the basis of the shared learning process in the sessions and are explored from the very first minute that a group meets. Moust, Bouhuijs, Schmidt, and Roebertsen (2017) explain that at the start of a new group, participants ask themselves, consciously or unconsciously, who the other participants are, whether they recognize themselves in them, whether they feel safe in the group, and whether they will be accepted in the group. In the interaction during the first meeting the answers to these questions will slowly be explored and discovered and a good introduction supports this process!
Live online introduction easier said than done?
But deploying a good introduction in the first meeting can sound easier than it is. Because, what exactly do you look for? What characteristics does a good introduction have to meet? We list a few tips for you:
- Make sure the introduction fits the target group. An introduction to a group of elementary school students will look different than an introduction to a group of high school students! And a group with parents in a training on children with autism will need a different introduction than a group of HR staff on the topic of process supervision!
- Keep the objectives of the meeting in mind. If the goal of the training is for youth to increase their social skills then the introduction will need to be designed differently compared to a training where the goal is for treatment providers to learn more about effective communication.
- Make it visual. A supporting PowerPoint slide, an image or a video helps make the introduction more engaging and surprising.
- Make use of the tools available. In Webex, for example, participants can annotate, allowing them to draw or write in the image. In Microsoft Teams, on the other hand, participants have the availability of extensive chat functions. Make use of this!
- Hand over the reigns for a change. Instead of giving the next participant a turn yourself, you can let the participants do it! In this way you give them a piece of the puzzle. In Webex you can apply this literally and figuratively by passing the ball from the presenter to another participant.
Online introductory forms
To get you started a little further, we want to share with you some forms of introduction. The predictable introduction with the three W's 1) Who are you? 2) What do you do, and 3) Where do you live? we know by now, but there are even more possibilities!
Use of objects in the space
Have you ever thought about using objects in the room? Introduce the participants to each other by having them look for an object that says something about them. For example, an object they have fond memories of, something that fits their character, or an object that shows what kind of work someone does! Then, in 30-60 seconds, the participants can introduce themselves using the chosen object.
You can also use the annotate feature. Are you giving a class, training or treatment to participants scattered across the country or scattered in the same city? Share an image of the city or country and have the participants place an arrow with their name on the spot where they are. Using this, they can introduce themselves and tell something about the place they live. You can also use the annotate function to play a board game with each other. Design a board game with introductory questions, use a die, online or in real life, and roll for each participant. The number of pips rolled corresponds to the number of steps the participant may advance. Each square contains a different introductory question that the participant must then answer! Who will be the first to cross the finish line?
With children and youth, it works nicely to have them draw something using the drawing tools, for example, a self-portrait, what they did that weekend, or their favorite food. You can then use this as the start of the introductory round. You can apply this same principle in the chat by sending a smiley face or a GIF!
Camera off, camera on
An original introduction that you can apply when all participants in the group have a working camera begins by asking everyone to turn off his/her camera. Then read out questions or statements. The participants who recognize themselves in the question or statement turn on their camera and thus appear back on the screen. You can have them briefly introduce themselves before moving on to the next question or statement, until all participants are back in the picture! This introduction not only ensures that participants get to know each other, but also that they notice that they have something in common with the other participants. This will increase the feeling of trust and safety in the group.
Sharing content with each other
One last introduction we want to share with you is the use of the "share content" feature. Participants can share an image that answers a particular question or tells something about them. Participants can also share a video, for example about their favorite movie or music track. Then have each participant introduce themselves and tell why they chose this.
So you see - the ways to get to know your participants are endless! Want to learn more surprising forms of work? Then check out our workshop Live Online activating your participants. In this workshop, you'll learn to apply interactive work formats that make your online meetings more fun. Can't get enough of our favorites? In our previous blog you read about our 5 favorites digital work forms.