We've all been in those awful situations where we have to go around the room and introduce ourselves and answer some stupid question. Or those times when someone from the stage is facilitating group activities and we have to go around and introduce ourselves to everyone. No one likes to do those things, especially given the questions we're forced to answer.
I've now spent many years facilitating groups of all ages and familiarity levels. I've led large group activities for adults who have just met, and engaged in story circles with teenagers who have been together for nearly a year.
And no matter the setting, I vehemently refuse to make people say their name and their favorite movie, what kind of candy they like, or an adjective that starts with the same letter that begins your first name.
And because I hate those crappy questions so much, I'm here to offer you an alternative for discussion starters, silence fillers, and introduction topics.
Why this question is a good one:
You either love or hate The Melting Pot (or any other fondue restaurant that takes too long to eat at). If you love it, it's because you like cooking your own food, or because it's supposedly romantic or simply because it's an alternative to the typical food offerings served up by a Chili's, Applebee's or O’Charley's (or anywhere else that ends with -'s and serves up a margarita where they use the restaurant's name and add -arita on the end).
If you're like me, you think it's overpriced and all you get is some undercooked chicken, some chocolate covered strawberries and clothes that smell like cooking oil for your more than $100 meal.
Regardless of how you feel about The Melting Pot, how often you go there, or how badly you (think) you want to go there, The Melting Pot question leads to an opinion and then to a story, which helps me know someone a lot better than the fact that they said their name was Boisterous Brian who is going to the beach with a bunny in a bobsled.
My story? I went to The Melting Pot once with the in-laws while visiting them in Texas. It was a good place to catch up after arriving in town for the Christmas holidays, but two and a half hours of dipping sticks in meat didn't really excite me. I would have rather us gathered at the coffee shop and sipped java while updating one another on recent goings on.
And, when we walked out of the restaurant and decided to gather for a family photo, a bird pooped on me.
See? A better question that elicits a good story that makes you laugh and remember me in a sea of people at a conference as the guy who doesn't care for long dinners that include bread dipped in hot cheese and who got fly-by shat on. You know me better, have a good reminder of who I am, and can connect with me deeper than if you simply know that I like Snickers bars and baseball.
Not everyone has been to The Melting Pot or a similar restaurant, so some folks may be excluded. One addendum can be to include in the question those hibachi restaurants, where the chef makes your chicken and beef in front of you and tosses shrimp tails behind his back and into his hat. And, if you think that people haven't been to either of these places, then use another question that I'll feature in the upcoming weeks.
About the series:
Better Icebreaker Questions is a series to help you have better meetings, gatherings and conversations. Use these questions during your next staff meeting, neighborhood gathering or first date. Thank my by buying something from this store.