A good introduction is essential to foster a great group dynamic.
An introduction is crucial on any type of programme – whether you’re leading a guided tour, an educational programme, a 15 minute in-gallery conversation or an online session.
At this stage, group participants are learning what to do, how the tour or programme is going to operate, what is expected and what is acceptable.
It’s your role to give them the orientation they need.
And more than that, a good introduction is about about placing connection before content – you’re establishing trust, forming connections, and building rapport.
Today I’m talking about introductions – why they’re important and the 4 elements of a great introduction.
WHY ARE INTRODUCTIONS IMPORTANT?
A good introduction is essential to foster a great group dynamic. It’s essential on any type of programme – whether you’re leading a guided tour, an educational programme, a 15 minute in-gallery discussion or an online session.
If you take one thing away from this episode, it’s this – do not skimp on introductions. The opening minutes of any programme are crucial. Allow 5-10 minutes for your introduction.
Firstly, have you ever heard of the 5 stages of group formation? This model was invented by Bruce Tuckman in the 1960s and in this model he identified the five stages through which groups progress:
forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning
These are the stages that groups go through as they ‘gel’ and come together and get to know each other in the context you are in – whether that’s a museum or elsewhere, inside or outside, formal or informal.
The introduction is a key part of the ‘forming’ stage. The forming stage is the stage when things are just getting started. The group is coming together and everyone is just getting to know one another. Groups can be cautious in this stage as they are working out how they fit into the group. People may also be feeling positive about what’s to come.
At this stage, group members are learning what to do, how the group is going to operate, what is expected and what is acceptable.
It’s your role as facilitator, guide, docent or educator to give them orientation.
Leading a successful programme is more than about just knowledge. You are the leader of the group and are responsible for group dynamics, and for establishing a warm and enjoyable atmosphere.
You need to place CONNECTION before CONTENT
Connect people to the purpose of why they’re there (goal of the session)
Connect people to you and to each other
Create a warm and inviting space
Secondly, you need to establish trust. The Trust Equation by David Maister explains how to build trust with others. According to this equation, there are THREE things that build trust:
First of all, credibility. This is the WORDS we say and the skills and credentials we bring and the way in which others experience our expertise. Credibility is all about your content expertise and your presence.
The second is reliability – this is about the actions we take, our predictability or doing what you say you’re going to do, and keeping your promises. This is about being dependable and consistent.
Third is intimacy and this means openness, people feeling that they can confide in us, and feel safe about the agenda ahead. That they feel comfortable sharing and discussing with you.
The one thing that destroys trust is self-orientation. If people feel that you are motivated by self-interest or focused too much on ourselves, then they won’t trust us. Building trust is difficult if you’re too focused on yourself – this is about WE, not me.
So what does this have to do with why our introductions are important?
When you have a great introduction you’re building trust, forming connections and building rapport.
THE 4 ELEMENTS OF A GREAT INTRODUCTION
There are 4 elements to a great introduction:
Introduce the organisation – museum/company
Learn about & connect the participants
Introduce the programme & its goal
#1 INTRODUCTION TO YOURSELF
When most people introduce themselves, they give their job title. Sometimes they say their qualifications. Other times they say who they work for.
But these sorts of introductions don’t tell anyone who you really are. You are not just your job.
You want to use your introduction to genuinely connect with people.
You want to describe your background and interests and how these shape your approach to your work. Every educator leads a programme differently.
In my Great Groups Dynamics class (available in the library of my Membership programme) I get every participant to write their personal introduction. Because we rarely spend time on crafting our introductions and it’s such an important part of establishing trust.
I take them through an exercise which gets them to think about what they would like to be known for, what they love to do and the problems they and only they can solve. It’s an exercise in communicating your enthusiasm and passion for your job.
I really recommend you spend some time thinking about how you introduce yourself at the start of your programmes. How do you convey what is uniquely you, and how do you use that to connect with your participants? 2-3 lines is sufficient – this shouldn’t be an essay at all. It’s enough to get people curious about who you are and why you do what you do.
#2 INTRODUCTION TO THE MUSEUM
The second part of your introduction, if applicable, is to introduce the company or organisation you work for or you’re representing.
The organisation itself may have a standard way of explaining what they do and how they do it and you can incorporate this in your own words into your introduction.
Again, 2 lines is sufficient (unless your organisation stipulates otherwise).
Think about: what drew you to work for this museum in the first place? Think about why you like working at this organisation.
#3 LEARN ABOUT AND CONNECT THE PARTICIPANTS
As I said last week in episode 42 on how to read a group – Your goal at this point is to find out who’s in the room and what their relationship is to each other.
Find out everything you can about who’s who in the room in your introduction, and what distinct interest areas are important to each of those individuals.
Find out their prior knowledge and attitudes if you can. These valuable insights into their backgrounds will help you personalise and structure your programme.
Use a few closed questions to draw out precise information but not too many as you don’t want your participants to feel like they’re being put on the spot.
#4 LEARN ABOUT AND CONNECT THE PARTICIPANTS
The final part is to introduce the programme itself so that participants know what to expect in their time with you. Mention the theme or ideas for the tour and perhaps one or two highlights to build expectations.
You want to give a general idea of what participants will be seeing or exploring and how long it’s going to take. It’s all about giving your participants an idea of what to expect.
You should also add some statements about the type of programme it is going to be. State that it’s going to be an interactive experience and that you are discovering things together. This is when you set the expectations for interaction and participation with your group – at the start. Set them up for active participation not a passive experience of listening!
Depending on the type of programme, you might also want to mention any guidelines here too – behaviours that you want to encourage and discourage.
For example, ‘All questions are good ones‘ ‘We encourage you to ask questions no matter how simplistic you might think they are‘. Depending on the type of programme you might want to emphasise some behaviours more than others – for example listening respectfully and not making assumptions.
So that’s how to craft a great introduction and why it’s important. As I said at the start, an introduction is essential for every programme because it builds trust, helps form connections and rapport. It sets the expectations for the programme too so that everyone knows what to expect during their time with you.
Use all of these 4 elements as a way of getting more interaction into your programmes. First introduce yourself, then the organisation, connect the group to you and each other and share the theme of the programme and what they might be seeing/exploring. I have a great class on group dynamics and building rapport that’s available in both my membership programme if you want to dive into this subject and learn all about great group dynamics and building rapport – leading great programmes is about more than just knowing your content. It’s about building connections too.
And don’t forget our new Facebook group The Slow Looking Club created especially for podcast listeners. It’s a place for conversation and discussion about engaging with art, objects and life slowly. I’ll share resources, ideas and tips for anyone interested in looking at art – whether it’s for your personal enjoyment or your practice as a cultural educator.
And we’ll have regular slow looking moments together too!
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