Use a random method to divide your group into pairs.
Invite each person to share a prescribed set of information (at a minimum) about themselves to their partner.
A few suggested conversation starters include:
– The basics, such as their name, hometown, job/profession.
– That part of the world they would describe as paradise.
– Favourite movie.
– Most vivid memory of being injured as a kid.
Allow the pairs up to 10 minutes to share.
Gather your group into a circle.
Ask one person to start by introducing their partner, after which their partner reciprocates.
This pair is then entitled to randomly nominate the next pair to continue the introductions.
Continue until everyone has been introduced.
Video Transcript for Partner Introductions
presented by Mark Collard
So at this point you have a new partner and maybe you’ve quickly introduced yourself, but now I’m going to give you a couple of minutes each to learn a little bit more about each other, and invite you to listen.
Because often when we’re involved in a conversation, particularly if it’s someone new… I don’t know about you, but I frequently meet a lot of people, and I swear, three seconds later after they’ve introduced themselves and used their name, I have forgotten it, because ordinarily I’m not really listening. I’m just waiting my turn to talk.
So I invite you to listen to the conversation that your partner is about to have with you. You can cover a lot of topics but at a minimum I’ll ask you to cover at least these three, and that is clearly their name and where they’re from, maybe just where you live or it could be the organisation you work for, I don’t mind, but give some context about where you come from. That’s the first part.
And the second part is… I love movies, and I love to know what other movies people love as well. If you happen to love a lot of movies then just pick one in a particular genre perhaps, but I’d like you to share with your partner a favourite movie, the name of it, and perhaps why.
And finally, if you could choose or travel to any place in the world that you would describe as paradise, as paradise, where would that be? You don’t have to have been there. It might be just some place you’d love to go, but you would call it paradise for whatever reason, share that with your partner.
So to recap, a quick introduction, give some context to where they come from, your favourite movie, and paradise. Where would that be for you? You’ve got a couple of minutes. Have a chitty-chat.
(people talking as part of Partner Introductions)
Okay, bunch on in folks. Come on in with your partner. Come in nice and close, not that it’s cold outside but it just feels nice to be a little close to each other. So bunch on in a little bit, folks.
Alright, so you’ve had a couple of minutes now to chitty-chat with your partner about a bit of information. I’m going to ask you a question and this is part of what I was sharing before about just making this a little more transparent in terms of this introduction.
Because what’s the standard when you join a group, particularly in a professional development environment… you know, you sit around a U-shaped table, you sit down, you see the note paper and the pens aligned perfectly and the pitcher of water and the little individually-wrapped mints…
And then the instructor races in and says “Hi, my name is Mark and this is Nate… big day, before we get started let’s just whip around the room and…”
Yeah. And that’s the standard pattern, isn’t it? And we’re going to talk about this later. But that is often referred to as the icebreaker. And more often than not it’s actually not an icebreaker, it’s an ice-maker for some really serious reasons.
So let me ask you then, what is the number one fear most of us hold as a human being? What’s the thing that we fear the most?
(Speaking in public.)
Public speaking, yes. And yet, it’s one of the first things you’re often asked to do when you arrive at an event. Note that we haven’t done that here today, and in fact we’re not going to do it now because you’re thinking oh-oh, I see it coming. I’ve just had to share it with a partner and I’m going to have to do it here.
No, because in a moment I’m going to ask your partner to introduce you. Because the thing about that partner introduction or your own introduction should I say is that you’re talking about yourself and that’s the part we feel the most vulnerable about.
I’m going to invite you to very briefly introduce your partner. Now depending on time, we may not get through everybody but I’m hoping that we can.
So now suddenly I know what’s running through your head. You’re going oh my goodness, he asked me to listen and I didn’t. I don’t remember what my partner said. So if you need just quick five seconds to check in with them, you can go ahead and do that now. Just quickly check in with your partner because in a moment I am going to invite you to share to the larger group.
So anyone need any time just to check in? Alright, come in a little bit closer then. Very good.
(people discussing their partner introductions information)
Okay, so it sounds like you’re ready.
Alright, here’s how it works. I’m going to ask for a volunteer couple. One of you will introduce your partner.
We don’t need to hear everything back that you’ve just shared. Just hit the major points, such as “Hi, this is Nate. He comes from New Hampshire, he’s a freelancer adventure programmer, his favourite movie is ‘Big Bird Comes to Town’, and his paradise is his bed…” for example, alright?
At which point Nate would then introduce me and go through that. And at that stage both of us have reciprocated and we will then choose, volunteer another person to repeat the process. So it doesn’t need to be too long, but it gives a little bit of information about them.
Who would like to go first? Fantastic.
(This is Frankie. Frankie’s here from Brooklyn, Connecticut, not Brooklyn, New York, and her favourite movie is Blazing Saddles.)
(And paradise for her is Echo Lake which is up in Maine.)
(Good morning. This is Sherry… is from Watertown, Massachusetts. There’s also Watertown, Connecticut… So Watertown, Massachusetts. Her favourite movie is ‘The Castle’… and because… there we go.)
(There we go.)
(And I’ll say it’s already gone. Anyway Italian Riviera, er try to think… Cinque Terra which is a place that Sherry would definitely like to go to.)
A little golf-clap folks. Welcome, folks. Now between the two of you, choose a new person to restart that process.
(point this way)
This is Jack and he is here today because he cannot be in the south island of New Zealand where he would find his place in paradise…
How To Play Narrative
Use a fun method to separate your group into pairs, such as those described in Getting Into Pairs.
Explain that you will shortly invite each pair to sit down and have a good chat with each other, and in particular, share a set of interesting conversation-starter topics. Here are a few suggestions:
The basics, such as their name, hometown, job/profession.
Favourite holiday destination.
A place they would regard as paradise.
A favourite movie, book or song.
Most vivid memory of being injured as a kid.
Something exciting they would like to do.
Importantly, tell everyone that their goal is to not only share this information (at a minimum), but also to remember what their partner shared.
Because, when the allocated time has expired, each person will be invited to introduce their partner when the large group re-forms. That’s right, an individual does not introduce themselves – that’s too frightening – they introduce their partners.
After five to ten minutes, gather your group, sit or stand in a circle and commence the introductions.
I always seek a volunteer to go first, upon which their partner reciprocates. Then, these two decide who goes next.
By the time all of the partner introductions have occurred, you may not have much change from an hour. But it’s worth every minute.
You may know that the number one fear most people have is speaking in front of others, right? Well, I have found that when sequenced correctly, this exercise works a treat because – as many shy people often later comment – this task is easier when people don’t have to speak about themselves. Right there – that’s the essence of this activity!
If you have a really large group, ie it would take three hours to run through all of the introductions, consider dividing your mob into smaller groups to share.
If you have an uneven number of people, either join in yourself, or form one group of three (in which case, they will work out who introduces who.)
On occasions, people will ask if they can write down or record all of the information their partner has shared, so that they don’t forget it. Typically, I deny this request, to encourage to listen more carefully to their partner. But it’s up to you. The specific needs of your program and abilities of your group may dictate a different response.
You could integrate Partner Introductions as part of a well-designed SEL program to establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
We are well aware that we communicate with more than just the words we speak. Our non-verbal gestures and cues also covey a lot of information and this is especially true when greeting and interacting with one another. To this end, the series of partner greetings that you introduce could be used to help your group read a variety of social cues and social situations. For example, the compassion expressed in one’s eyes toward another person, or the distracted looks of your partner when they are speaking with you all tell a story.
Be sure to explore the fact that one particular gesture can be interpreted in vastly different ways in different cultures. For example, the physical thumbs-up gesture can convey both a positive and negative message depending on the culture in which it is used.
It is said that public speaking is the number one thing that people fear the most, especially if you have to talk about yourself. It is for this reason, if no other, that this activity is so successful. Most people report that it is much easier (ie less stressful) to talk about their partner than it is to talk about themselves to a group of others. Therein lies a critical feature of leadership – the ability to serve. People lead best when they forget about themselves and focus on their group, their needs and their goals. In other words, to lead is to serve. Thus, you may consider introducing this exercise directly prior to a discussion that explores what leadership is.
It’s All About You: Ask the ‘introducing’ partner to stand behind their subject as they speak about them. It kind of puts their partner on centre stage, and affirms them for a few minutes.
Silent Introduction: Ask the ‘introducing’ partner to mime their introduction, featuring the three key characteristics of their partner, allowing the rest of the group to guess the answers. This is very similar to That Ain’t Me Babe.
Identify your partners in advance before allocating them to unique breakout rooms, or choose to randomly allocate people two to a room. Allow up to 10 minutes for chitty-chat and then return everyone to the main room before inviting the first person to introduce their partner.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Did you know that the number one fear most people hold is public speaking, and even worse, to speak about themselves in front of others? It’s true, and while this next exercise involves a fair dose of public speaking, it comes with a twist to make it a lot less threatening…
This next task invites us as a group to get to know one another a little better, but your focus will primarily be on your partner, not you…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this wonderful get-to-know-you exercise:
How did it feel to speak in front of the larger group?
Was it less threatening to speak about someone other than yourself? Why?
What strategies did you use to recall all of the information about your partner?
How did you feel when your partner introduced you?
What did you notice about the behaviour of the people being introduced? What might this tell us?
The inspiration for Partner Introductions and many more simple and highly interactive get-to-know-you games, was sourced from the following publication: