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Networking Icebreakers for Large Groups

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:

M&Ms * Skittles * Gummy Bears

  • Assign a fun question to each color like, “If you were on a desert island what one thing would you bring?” or “What’s a secret place near where you live?” You could put them into groups as they wonder in and give them a bag of candy. Then as they draw a piece (without looking into the bag), they answer the question and eat the candy. And it goes around the circle that way. To help with the mingling, you could have them change groups from time to time. ~ Catherine Branner
  • Give each person a bag of multicolor gummy bears as they arrive (if you want 6 groups in the end, then each bag has 6 colors). Instruct them to find people and trade for one specific color so that they end up with all gummy bears of one color. Its great because some will start to collect red, but then get stuck and have to switch to blue. You can order the single colors on this site: ~ Pam Malloy


  • For discussion:  Have some thought-provoking quotes written up and stuck around the walls. Search for Deming, Churchill, Ghandi, Buffet, Jobs, Branson – look for something that’s profound and insightful. Upon entry, have a sign that invites people to read the quotes and think about the message, then discuss the quotation with others in the room. There’s no pressure to participate with a game, there’s encouragement to speak to others.  ~ Dave Smith
  • Unscramble the quote: For each quote you select, write each word separately on a sheet of paper (preferably different coloured sheets); scrumple each into a box or bag. Ask each participant to take one of these scrumpled up sheets. If for example a sentence contains 14words-you will have on ground these 14 participants-instructed to open up their paper, read and say the word out and then network around to try to match their words with other participants; Each word is to be laid on the floor (please not taking anything for granted-hoping the meeting room is well carpeted or decent flooring ) forming a “Paper Sentence Scrabble” which will read a quote or a definition or…as you the Trainer designed. ~ Caroly Solanke

Community Puzzle

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.

Jigsaw Puzzle

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

Name Tag Fun

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

Postcard connections

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

 I won a million dollars

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

Paper Airplanes

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

5 minute handshakes

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

Happy Families

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

Real time Survey

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


  • Thumball can be another great Icebreaker. [There are lots of different balls with different discussion prompts. For a large group, you could have a whole bunch of different balls being thrown around the room.] ~Naresh Sen
  • We had a volleyball that had general “tell me something about yourself” questions on it. We would throw it to one of our participants and on whatever question their hand landed on, they would share that with the rest of the group if they were comfortable doing so. This was for a ‘beach themed’ training during the summer and it worked really well for us. ~ Elizabeth Bennet
  • I use a Fire or Ice icebreaker. It is a series of opposites of sorts. One person asks the other and the other person chooses one of the words and explains why. Then the pair exchanges roles. Opposites include Fire or Ice, Sun or Moon, Winter or Summer, 0 or 100, letters or numbers, student or teacher… ~ Meghan Freeman

Crayon Craze

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

Birth order

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

Find a match

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

Chain Reaction

  • This one requires smaller teams of 20 each and ask them to form longest connected chain using all the resources available with them but nothing external. Ask them to share with each other one thing they like most. Each person has to repeat what the earlier participants said by speaking in the sequence their name and what they like most, then adding their own. This activity brings out the importance of listening attentively as part of effective communications. in the first round prompting is permitted. ~ Vijay Batra
  • Have people standing near each other to create a chain of commonalities or connections. After they put themselves in “order” have them link to another group. In the end, everyone will be linked to everyone else. ~ Susan D.

Community Mural

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

Networking is hard!

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.

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