Most people recognize that heart-sinking feeling when you are waiting to start a training session and the organiser says, “Right, we'll start with an icebreaker! Everyone pair up and find out five things about the other person.”
Icebreakers are often associated with activities that many people – particularly introverts – find cringeworthy and embarrassing.
The good news is that icebreakers can actually be fun and engaging.
Don't believe it? Read on to discover ten icebreaker games that will make meetings and workshops more productive and enjoyable for all concerned.
What Is an Icebreaker?
An icebreaker is a short activity introduced by the trainer at the start of a course, training session or any other type of group activity where it is expected that the majority of people don't know each other well.
The aim of an icebreaker is to warm up the room prior to starting a meeting, by giving participants time to have a little fun and get to know each other. When participants feel comfortable and relaxed, they will have more productive discussions.
Icebreakers can be used to:
- Encourage collaboration – when people feel relaxed, they will be more able to interact comfortably with each other and the facilitator.
- Inject some energy – Get participants involved from the very start and they will feel engaged and motivated to get the best out of the session.
- Encourage team building – developing relationships between groups of people so that they work together more productively.
Top 10 Icebreakers
These ten team-building icebreakers for meetings all have the following things in common – they are quick, easy and inexpensive. Perfect for building confidence, fostering a sense of togetherness and impressing your boss.
Tip: don't be tempted to make them too long – keep them snappy and quick; just long enough to 'break the ice'.
1. The M&M Game
This is a simple and fun way to get people to introduce themselves. Most foks love chocolate and this icebreaker has a relaxed vibe, so is a great way to encourage shyer people to get involved. The game can also be easily adapted depending on what you want to find out about your team.
Basically, each color M&M is assigned a question or a characteristic. A red candy, for example, could be your favorite film, the green one could be your greatest fear.
Get creative and use your imagination to decide what the M&M’s will signify. This game also works with Skittles or any other type of different colored candy.
How to play:
Everyone grabs a small handful of M&M’s from the central bowl. The facilitator will then call out a color and everyone with candies of that color has to answer the question assigned to that color. If they have two blue candies they have to answer two questions. After they have answered, candidates get to eat their candy.
2. Childhood Achievements
This one is good for a small group of under twenty people. Simply ask everyone around the table to share something they achieved when they were under the age of eighteen.
If you want to keep it light, start things off by thinking of something silly, such as the fact that you learned how to tie your shoelaces at the ripe old age of fifteen.
Getting people to talk about themselves can help the group bond and allow the quieter people a chance to speak.
3. Circle and Hoops
If you have access to a large open space, this is well worth a whirl, as it's near-impossible to do without laughing.
Get everyone to form a large circle and hold hands. Take a normal-sized hula hoop and place it on the arm of one person in the circle, getting them to rejoin their hands.
The aim is to see if they can find a way of getting the hoop to travel around the circle without anyone breaking hands.
This is an excellent problem-solving and team-building activity, and is great for getting everyone relaxed and loosened up.
4. The Chicken and Fox Brain Teaser
This old riddle is a fun icebreaker to encourage creative thinking. It works best if you split up the group into smaller teams of three or four.
You have a chicken, a fox and a bag of grain, and have to take all of them across the river without anyone being eaten. You can only take one in the boat at a time.
This is a classic puzzle but there is a good chance that your team won't have heard of it before, especially if they are young.
5. Three Stellar Moments
If you are looking for team-building icebreakers for meetings, this activity is ideal for creating an energized yet appropriately serious vibe.
Ask all participants to think of three moments when they exceeded all expectations during their career and share with the group. Allow about ten minutes for everyone to think of their best memories.
It allows everyone a moment to reflect on their personal successes and to hear and learn about the achievements of their colleagues. Hopefully it will create an atmosphere that quickly becomes mutually supportive and empowering, an ideal warm-up for a course with difficult or challenging content.
Is it fun? Well, yes – after all, most people love the opportunity to talk about their finest moments.
6. Stranded on a Desert Island
Get everyone into small groups of between three to six and tell them the scenario, providing paper and pens.
In five minutes they are going to be stranded on a desert island and must think of three things to take with them. Ask them to decide on three things and the reasons why.
Each group must decide on a leader who will share the three things with the wider group.
This activity is a great icebreaker as it allows people who don't like talking in front of unfamiliar people to participate without feeling under pressure.
7. Picture This
Hand out pencils, Sharpies and plain paper, and ask everyone to draw a picture that expresses who they are as a person. Allow about ten minutes for this part of the activity.
Get everyone to share their picture with the person sitting to their right. Take this to the next level by asking them to share their partner's picture and its meaning to the wider group.
This activity encourages positive communication and will allow you to see who has good listening and communication skills. Some people will love this activity, while others will find it more of a challenge and will worry about being made a fool of – every group is different.
If you find that this activity is met with moans and groans when you announce it, have a backup activity ready (eg one of these other 10 fun icebreaker games).
8. Tell a Joke
Set some ground rules (nothing offensive or not safe for work) and challenge your group to tell the worst joke they can think of.
Research using smartphones is absolutely permitted and laughter is obligatory. You will find that the lamest grade-school jokes always get the biggest laughs.
Here's one to get you started:
"What did the rug say to the floor? Don't move, I've got you covered."
This is a quick icebreaker activity that will instantly create a relaxed and fun atmosphere.
9. Office Charades
Exactly the same as the traditional parlor game with one exception: you are only allowed to describe objects commonly found in the office (this is harder than it sounds).
Ask for a volunteer to start things off. They are only allowed to use silent gestures to describe the object. Any words that are spoken aloud mean instant disqualification.
This activity is not strictly a game but in today's high-pressure work environment, the opportunity to take a few minutes to be a little zen should not be sniffed at.
Start the meeting with a calming few minutes where everyone can meditate. Play some calming music and turn off any bright lights.
Ask everyone to listen and identify any sounds that they can hear, and to remain in the present moment.
You could also ask everyone to write down three things that they are currently stressed about. When the meditation is over, ask everyone to tear their piece of paper up and place it in a bowl in the center of the table.
This is an effective way of getting everyone to leave their stress and worries to one side before the start of the main event.
If chosen well, team-building icebreakers for meetings can result in more productive and memorable sessions.
Icebreakers can be cliched, sure, but if they are carefully considered and led by a thoughtful facilitator, they can set the tone of the meeting and enable everyone to gain more than they might have done otherwise.
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