Ice Breakers

by Speaking Tips | October 30, 2003

Ice breakers are a great way to begin a meeting. They can help to relax participants, increase their receptiveness to your message and encourage contribution. An ice breaker can also help to foster a team atmosphere and generate enthusiasm among the group.

Ice breakers can be fun, amusing, humorous, thoughtful, surprising or just plain silly. The most popular ice breakers are games that have participants reveal something personal about themselves, or which encourage participants to get to know each other in other ways. The idea is that more than just having fun, the ice breaker will truly help to create group cohesion based on mutual trust and understanding.

In important consideration when deciding on an ice breaker activity is your available time. If an activity is too long the serious work of the meeting may not be given enough time. If, on the other hand, it is too short then the participants may feel that it was merely a perfunctory exercise. The time you allow for an ice breaker activity also depends on the size of the group, the overall length of the eventand its purpose.

Here are a few ideas for ice breaker games, activities and lead-ins. Be creative and try and come up with some of your own!

Ice Breaker Ideas

The following represent some ideas for games which can be used to help break the ice. Depending on the audience dynamics, such games can sometimes be enhanced by introducing a competitive aspect such as by awarding prizes to the individual or group which performs the best.

  1. Ask participants to state one or two "burning questions" they hope will be answered in this session.
  2. Have each participant say three things about themselves - two of which should be the truth and the other a lie. Ask the other participants to guess which statement was untrue and have them give their reasons.
  3. Have everyone write on a piece of paper their answers to these questions or other similar questions: What is your favorite ice cream flavor, book, TV show, color, animal, etc.? Each participant should sign their name and be told to keep their answers private. Once you are done, collect the responses and then read the answers to the whole group. Have the participants try to guess to whom each set of answers belong.
  4. Give each participant a list of five to ten traits that they must find in common with the people around them. Sample items could be: "Find someone that was born in the same month", "..someone who lives in your state", or "..drives the same model of car". Try to think of twenty or so questions and give a slightly different set of questions to each person.
  5. Write the words "agree," "disagree," "strongly agree" and "strongly disagree" on separate pieces of paper and post them on four different walls of the room. Then make a statement such as "our organization can change the world" and have everybody move to the part of the room that matches their opinion. At the end of the activity, have the group discuss why they chose their response.
  6. With everyone in a circle, have someone come up with a short story that they whisper to the person next to them. Have that person relate the story to the next person and so on. When the story has reached the last person, have them recount the story out loud.
  7. Have participants describe one strategy or resource they have used successfully. Make sure that you specify that the resource or strategy must be relevant to the topic you will be presenting on.

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