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Hosting The Ultimate Icebreaker

The icebreaker. Mandatory in every training course I've ever been on. Usually, it's a way to fill the first twenty minutes or so. Usually, you're too focussed on what your answer is going to be to actually listen to other people. Let alone, try to remember their names.

You turn up to someone's event and you get asked something along the lines of ...

"Introduce yourself and describe what sort of animal you would be".

Brain: **Hmmmm.... what should I pick****Ducks are pretty cool. Though I do like horses**

Joanne: "Hi. I'm Joanne. I'm the operations manager for the South West. If I could be any animal I would be an eagle"

Brain: **An Eagle. I wonder why.....*

Joanne: "So I could have an even better birds eye view over everything my team is doing".

Clap. Clap. Clap.

Brain #panic: **Uh oh. I'm next. I was going to say "horse", just because I like them. She has upped the stakes. What do I say now..... Oh god. **

You: "Hi, I'm James. I'm the marketing manager for the North East. If I could be any animal I'd be a horse. Because....... *Brain wave*...... Because, as a stallion, this would mean I can outrun all the competition."

Clap. Clap. Clap.

Brain: **PHEW**

Now let's say it's your turn to host a training event.

What are you going to do?

Follow the same tedious example of those set before you or break out for success? First of all, what do ice breakers try to accomplish.

1) Make people feel comfortable to talk (hence, breaking the ice).

Rule #1: Keep it personal.

Don't allow people to relate personal questions back to work. Otherwise everyone will try to better each other and put barriers up. Instead, if you can get one person to open up (that can be you), everyone else will follow and those barriers will go down.

2) Introductions to people and their names.

Rule #2: Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.

How often do you remember ten people's names upon hearing their name once? As a facilitator, you should use people's names. "Who's next? John. Great, thanks John, you're up!" Encourage people to repeat in the icebreaker too! You could make the next person summarise what the person before said, for instance. "Hi I'm James. Joanne said she wanted to be an eagle. Well, I want to be a horse......"

3) Engage people.

Rule #3: Make it fun.

Humour is one of the best ways to break the ice as is a simple smile. So, keep it fun. Have people stand up and throw a ball around. Ask them what the worst gift they've ever received is. Do something new and interesting. Just don't send people to sleep before the day has even started!

My favourite Icebreakers

Personal song introductions - This takes some preparation. Contact everyone who is coming and ask them for their personal song and a reason why they chose it. Then play a twenty second clip on the day and people guess whose it is or you just welcome them to the stage. Make the first one a good one to hook people in. The first time I was at an event with this, the first person had a Spice Girls song. Turned out, this muscular man heard Spice Girls playing whilst he was in the delivery room with his wife giving birth to their first child. That really broke the ice!

The M&M game - Take a m&m out of the bowl and whatever colour you get means you draw a question from that coloured pile. You have no time to prepare an answer, so you're really concentrating every time someone stands up and answers theirs.

Wacky Dancers - Everyone gets in a circle and as you go round you introduce yourself and share your wacky dance move which everyone copies for a few seconds. One way to reduce barriers and keep energy high for sure.

Agree / Disagree? What's your favourite success / disaster stories?

Top Posts

  1. LinkedIn: Retail's Not THAT Bad (20+ Comments)
  2. LinkedIn: Welcoming Woman at the Workplace
  3. The Ultimate Ice Breakers

James Markey

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