Probing Questions for Icebreakers & Goal Setting
Many trainers like to start with a stimulating question to break the ice, foster introductions, help participants get to know each other, and reduce tension. Trainers from around the world contributed to this excellent list of opening icebreaker questions.
Icebreaker Questions about you
- What are you most proud of in your life?
- Who has been your best coach in their past and why?
- What would you do if you won the lottery? (I often offer my answer first to engender trust. I learn what motivates each person as well. Where they know each other, and I do not know them.
- Tell us something your colleagues do not know about you.
- What would your mother say about you?
- How would your biggest competitor describe you?
- Share a memorable moment of your life.
- What was a dream you had as a child? (great for a visioning/goal-setting workshop).
- What was your favorite hobby or pastime as a child?
- Introduce yourself simply with your name and an adjective that describes you. The adjective must start with the same letter as your first name!
- When you introduce yourself, tell us the best part of your job, the most difficult part of your job (if there is one), and what topic you are interested in learning more about after reviewing the table of contents.
- What does family mean to you?
- What’s your claim to fame?
- What one day in your life would you like to live over?
- What is one of the most creative things you’ve ever done? …one of the most silly things?
- If you could invent or discover one new thing, what would it be?
- When do you feel most lonely? …happiest?
- What’s the biggest lesson you have learned from your past relationships?
- What’s one of your worst habits?
- If you could change one thing about your physical appearance what would it be and why?
Probing Questions about workshop goals
- Tell me why you are here (even if it’s because your boss told you to) and what your objectives are. I write it down on an easel pad, post it for the day, and review it with the group as we go.
- Have small groups work on one of these questions:
- What are your biggest challenges related to________ in 2011?
- What are the key things you wish to do better related to__________?
- What drives you crazy related to________________?
- Using Peter Block’s “Four Powerful Questions” (Flawless Consulting Skills, 2nd Edition, pages 283-286) ask: “On a scale of 1-7, with 7 as the high, answer:
- How valuable do you plan this workshop to be?
- How participative do you plan to be?
- How much risk do you plan to take?
- To what extent do you plan to be invested in the learning and well-being of the whole group? [NOTE: ask about their plans (action word) and NOT their expectations (a prediction), to shift accountability and ownership to everyone present.]
- Try this TRIO of questions
- What specifically do you want to take away from this workshop?
- How will you achieve this?
- How will you know when you have achieved this?
Sharing and debriefing participant objectives
If you ask questions about goals and objectives, be sure to give the group time to consider their answer before calling on them to share. After you’ve gotten a pulse of the room (from all or a handful of participants), identify the top 2 or 3 responses. Before voting, ask if there are other objectives that should be added to the favorites list. Then, ask for a show of hands to see which of those objectives is most popular. Explain to the group that you will use this as a tool to tailor the content to the class, focusing more time and energy on the objectives people really want.