Icebreaker activities are used at the start of meetings or training courses where the attendees do not know each other well.
Why Use Icebreakers
There are good reasons for using icebreakers. These include:
- Making introductions fun
- Help people to remember other peoples names
- People can voice their expectations of the training session or meeting
- Warming up the brain. Especially useful if the training starts on a Monday morning
- They can be used after lunch – the ‘graveyard’ slot, to prevent snoozing!
- Icebreakers can help breakdown social barriers
- Icebreakers promote interaction
- They help people feel comfortable. To realise that they are all present for the same thing – Empathy
- They start conversations, and new conversations can be based on the icebreaker experiences
These are all reasons why it is essential to hold an icebreaker. However, not all people enjoy them.
Issues with Icebreakers
There are several reasons why people dislike icebreaker activities:
- They can feel like a waste of time
- They may ‘Put people on the Spot’ making them feel uncomfortable
- Introverts hate them – they would rather not talk
- Icebreakers may have no relation to the content of the training or meeting
- People just feel silly with post-it notes on their forehead – the icebreaker may make people feel foolish
- Some Icebreakers may unwittingly provoke sexism, ageism, or cultural issues
- Some icebreakers are unsuitable for people less able bodied
It is therefore a good idea to prepare delegates for icebreakers.
- Give notice before the event of the questions to be asked or potential activity
- Link the icebreaker to the event type
- Emphasise the reasons for using the icebreaker at the start
- Highlight the learning points at the end
It is important not to just pick any random icebreaker without some forethought.
Types of Icebreakers
There are different types of icebreakers that can be used depending on the time available and the purpose.
I have a link my web page with downloads of each type.
- Simple Icebreakers
- Virtual Icebreakers
- Construction Icebreakers
Icebreakers can go wrong if essential items are missing. Simple icebreakers may have no relevance to the course or meeting. More complex icebreakers require time to prepare. Preparation is key.
Icebreakers play a valid role at the start of meetings or training courses. Try to use an icebreaker that has some connection to the material being delivered at the session.
Ice breakers do frighten some attendees. Give them notice of the requirements and reassurance of the relevance of the task. Have a clear objective.