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Energize Mini-Trainings at Work

On a recent LinkedIN Conversation in the Effective and Fun Training Techniques group, Jason Hughes asked for some recommended icebreakers, energizers, tips or tools for the face-to-face training of his small team, who generally already know each other. Often, he trains just a couple people at a time. Below is a synthesis of the conversation and recommendations.

Make it worthwhile!

As usual, whenever the topic of icebreakers is raised, a debate ensues about the utility or futility of such activities. The consensus seems to be that it should always have a purpose and be tied to your content. Here are a couple of reasons that might make it worth the time (you can read more on this topic here):

  1. Allow participants to express their expectations
  2. Introduce participants to one another
  3. Build a sense of community
  4. Introduce the content
  5. Set the tone for the session
  6. Help get conversations going
  7. Help people remember names
  8. Get people on their feet and get the blood flowing
  9. Engage participants in the learning process and set the tone for participation
  10. Give participants a sense of ownership over the learning
  11. Break down barriers between the trainer and the participants
  12. Encourage participants to think differently
  13. Understand the knowledge and experience of participants
  14. Enable participants to network with each other so they can use one another as a resource after the training has ended

Bearing in mind that having a purpose is important, some of the most-liked tips include:

6 Thinking Hats- ask the group if they have workplace issues they want to address

This team activity focuses on problem solving. I divide the group into teams and provide each team with a dice that has a colored hat on each side (representing De Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats). Team members roll the dice and have to approach the problem I give them from whatever color turns up on the dice. The next person then has to address the previous person’s comment as well as make their own comment based on the color that they roll.  Info about 6 Thinking Hats can be found at Mind Tools. Mary Grace

Dear Jane…

Have partners write a letter, out loud/verbally, one word at a time. They each add a word and punctuation to build complete thoughts. It begins with “Dear, Name” and ends with “Sincerely, Name.” This shared activity connects the two to each other and can be catered to any topic. Regarding customer service, have partners role play a customer and a provider. Give them 2minutes, then 1minute, then 30 seconds, then 15 seconds, then 5 seconds to provide service. Compare and contrast how time affects their relationship with each other. ROI … Richard O Improv

2 Truths and a Lie

The first person in the group says 3 things about him/herself, one of which is a lie. The first person to guess which is the lie is the next to say 3 things. Work around the group until everyone has gone. David Weimer

Photographic metaphors

Find pictures representing a metaphor of the content to be delivered (e.g. a road in construction for continuous development, a nice, clean and ordered park for teams applying procedures etc.) and ask people what do they see and how do they think the picture is connected to the content. That way you will know also how do they feel about the topic and what are their thoughts. Stefania Luca

Exaggerated Role Play

Ask each participant to exaggerate the worst experience they’ve had with the topic at hand in any place not necessarily relevant to the work situation. e.g. poor service: what they felt, how they reacted, what impression did it leave? Then walk them back by asking why it didn’t work and what options would work better; why they would and how to apply those solutions to the topic at hand. Zolia Rumble

Who was I When?

For groups who know each other pretty well, I like to use the Shaped by Our Past Thumball. The prompts get people to think back to the experiences who shaped them. Then, for an added twist, ask how that experience affects how they approach the training topic at hand.

Share a Best Practice

Task the participants with seeking out and sharing a “Best Practice.” Have them bring to every new session an example of something operational that links to the subject you’re running – a good and bad example and what they did / how they’d like help to deal with it. Stephen J. Whitton

Paper Cut (or  Geometric Draw)

Give each person an identical piece of paper and tell them to close their eyes. Then, give a series of instructions to fold and tear the paper as you direct. When you instruct them to open their eyes, have each person unfold their paper and share it with the group. You will see how each person interpreted the instructions differently! This quickly shows that everyone has their own way of processing the training and it usually gets me off on the right foot each time.  Maryanne Muigai

A variation on the Paper Cut activity is to get pairs to sit back to back.  Give one person a geometric design to describe while the other person attempts to draw it, so many aspects of effective communication in a fun exercise. Oonagh Cullen

Pick a Positive Word

I get the team to choose one positive word each and explain to the rest why they choose this positive and link it to the topic. I have experienced this sets a positive mood for the day. More interesting, later I will also use some of the participants’ explanation during the session. This creates some kind of happiness in the participants as their contribution is being valued in the session. Muniandy Pachiappan

2 extra hours…

For a time management course, I start by asking if I could give you an extra 2 hours per week what would you do with it. Then I ask them not to tell me but to draw it and set a time limit of 1 minute. Josie Tata

Complete the Sentence

One activity I used is “Complete the sentence.” It draws out their existing views on the respective subject. e.g. “Time Mgmt is …”, “Customers are …”, “My nightmare on letter writing is …” Koh Thong Joo

Celebrity Spot

Ask your participants to write down on a piece of paper the name of the celebrity that looks like them or inspires them, and hand over the papers to you. Then, call each celebrity names and ask the group if they can spot who’s who. It works better in a small group of less than 20. Palesa Kubu

Ask or Brainstorm:  What would you like to learn?

When I have small groups, and not much time, I’ll often start by asking them what they would like to learn or what their biggest struggles are with the topic. I’ll make a list on a whiteboard as they share. Then I use the time to work through their list. They always have ideas for each other too! Everyone gets something out of the session. Kelly Hammontree – Floyd

Start with a Story

Have a participant roll the Story Cube dice (which you can buy or make), and whatever picture (or word) it lands on, they have to tell the group about a story related to them (or the topic at hand).  Rebecca Jones 

Pick the Perfect Hat

Maybe a bit of an ‘off the wall’ answer but a while back I went into a charity shop and bought a load of hats. For one session, I threw them out and got participants to choose a hat that fits their personality! Bernard Genge

Personal Infographic (drawing skills not needed!)

While your group may know each other, they don’t always know light or funny things about each other. Have your group do an Introductory infographic about themselves. Give out colored construction paper, markers and colored pencils and give them 10 mins to draw 6 to 8 images, pictures, or shapes to describe the things most important to them. Then have them share their work and explain the meaning of each shape. It’s Fun, Empowering, Informative Dina Bell Nance

Beachball or Thumball

Inflate a beach ball and use a sharpie and print different questions all over the ball. As the ball is thrown from player to player, the person who catches the ball has to say their name and answer the question that their left thumb lands on. Tamasin Artru M.Ed

If folks want to save a bit of time, the Silver Series Thumballs by Trainers Warehouse are ready to go with pre-printed content that can be used for Session Openers, Icebreakers, Getting to Know You, Leadership, Stress Management, Safety, Team Dynamics, Diversity, Communication, etc. Susan Landay

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