Many years ago, Diane Schabath posted a question on LinkedIN, asking for icebreaker suggestions to use at a company-wide meeting. “The challenge,” she said, is that it needs to be something that people complete as they arrive; we want people to mix and meet each other but not wait until all 90 team members arrive. Folks wrote in with tons of suggestions. Here are some highlights:
Distribute a blank puzzle piece to every participant. Have them decorate their piece however they wish, perhaps including their name, interests, illustrations, etc. Have them explain the meaning of their design to a few fellow participants. Then assemble the puzzle into a colorful mosaic that they can all enjoy and explore over the course of the training session. You could also distribute a piece before the session and have them bring it with them. The possibilities are endless. For instance, you might ask them to write or illustrate a learning they hope to gain. It’s also a great debrief at the end of the session — to review what they hoped to learn and see if those expectations were met.
Since there would be about 90 participants, buy a few jigsaw puzzle packs with not more than 10 pieces each. Let’s assume, you will have 9 packs in hand with 90 pieces altogether. Mix them all. Put individual pieces in small envelopes with simple instructions to find other individuals in the group, and complete the picture. This will help you overcome all your limitations you currently face, and also kick in some fin and excitement without making it too complicated. ~ Prabhaker N Thakur
Have people’s name tags set out. Again, depending on the group they may be blank or they may have the name on. I have instructions nearby asking them to take their name tag and using coloured pens, if they wish, to then draw three symbols representing who they are. The symbols can be generic or related to the topic. I offer suggestions and leave it completely open. The instruction sheet then asks them to find two or three people who they do not know and share their stories about the symbols. I find it can be a good way to mix and to start work on the reason they are present at the training event. Some people relish the creative aspect, others do it quickly and move on, it allows for variety and involvement from the beginning. ~ Chris Harkess
Have a 100 small items and or postcards or ask participants to bring something. They will need to choose something that relates or means something to them.
Let them partner up with someone or a small group of say 5 as they come in randomly. Ask each person to describe the item or picture, then discuss: Why I choose this; What it means to me; One word to describe how it relates to my personality / thinking. ~ Sharon Wint-Gordon
Ask people to share what they would do with the money if they won the lottery. BUT, instead of saying “I would do this or that,” have them phrase it as if they’d already done it: ” I bought my mother a brand new 4 bedroom house with a view of a golf course, a pool and a tennis court!” or “I am driving my Charcoal grey, outside and wine colored leather seated new convertible with the top down, MB right out of the lot today!” or I set up the ST. Jude’s Hospital with an endowment of $1,000,000 that grows every year to help their research.” It’s also a great lesson for teaching GOALS and VISION. ~ Judy McKee
Have on hand old newspapers/magazines and black marker pens. Ask participants to make paper planes using the materials, then ask them to write their name and one thing they can be identified by… ( color of clothing, height, accessory, etc…). Then ask them to randomly shoot the paper plane into the group. Each participant must then pick up a random paper plane that lands by them and go in search of the person who launched it. This forms a human network as each participant who finds the person on paper plane also gets introduced to those already in the network ~ Carmel Ellis
As they arrive ask people to mingle and talk to someone for 5 mins and find 3 things they have in common with them and three things that they are different on. Tell them to write the answers on the back of the other person’s business card and keep it. Ring a bell or buzzer every 5 minutes to get people to move around. Also in the debrief or before you move on start the meeting, if you ask people which was easiest they will probably say finding things in common. It leads into the power of asking questions and listening as well as finding common ground and being interested in other people which are all communication and influencing skills. Have some blank cards for those who don’t have business cards. ~ Teresa Cook
As people arrive, give each one a playing card from a set of “Happy Families” cards. Then ask them to go and find the rest of their family (7 in each family) – during registration/welcome coffee. Once they had found each other, they were all asked to converse and find two things their family had in common (things that were not obvious like being bald and wearing glasses!). We gave them 15 minutes to find family and agree on two items. Then we entered the main conference room and to get started and really break the ice we asked each family to come up and tell us their two things (10 families, 1 minute each) Total icebreaker time including welcome coffee /breakfast 40 minutes. Can be done in 30 if people are punctual. Excellent for people who do not know each other and for seminar event. ~ Sally Ann Moore
If you have internet access and a good projection system, try an online survey. As people file in they complete the online survey. As the results are tallied, the results change (are updated) on the screen. This creates ideas about what participants would like to gain from the program. It also generates discussion. If you can run two screens up front (or a split screen), have one side show the survey and the second side how comments on the survey. It will not only grab their attention, it creates the feeling of community. ~ Debra Brown
People select a crayon when they enter the room or they have crayons at their table. Then at various points during a workshop they find others who have similar colors or opposite colors. It’s a great way to create partnerships or small groups. ~ Debra Brown
I split the room into zones and put up signs; the eldest, the middle one, the youngest, the only one and ask people discuss what life lessons they learned from the position they held in their family. ~ Wendy Garcarz
I have used beer mats as an energizer. Cut beer mats in half in a random way. Make a hole in the rounded part of each half beer mat and put some string or ribbon through. Everyone puts their half beer mat round their neck and goes round introducing themselves to everyone trying to match up their mats. Gets everyone talking while they are look for their ‘other half’~ Gail Page
Prepare 10 blank posters on the wall and supply ample pastels/crayons. Distribute participants evenly among them as they come in. Tell them to fill the poster according to the theme identified at the top, “Happy Moments” “Fondest Dreams” or even… My Dream Company. Ask every member to contribute to every poster, so that the whole paper becomes filled. ~ Jalini Alias
Those of us who are extraverts think of icebreakers as a wonderful way to facilitate networking. Those of us who are introverts look at those same events with a mixture of trepidation and dread. Jim Barker’s Monday Cartoon, captures the essence well.