Ice breakers usually take 15-30 minutes. A facilitator introduces
the activity, everyone participates and then the facilitator provides
a quick debriefing by bridging the activity into the next task.
can be pure fantasy or they can relate to the purpose of the meeting.
Some happen at the beginning of the meeting: As people are introducing
themselves and explaining their roles or interests for being there,
they also answer an invented question the facilitator poses. Other
ice breakers require writing or talking one-on-one to other participants.
But whether used at the beginning of a meeting in introductions,
after a break to help everyone refocus or as a way to introduce
a new technique to a group, ideally these activities can help people
learn to communicate more effectively with each other. A facilitator
needs to be sensitive to different people’s feelings in order for
everyone to have a positive experience. Thus some points to keep
- Some people
perceive ice breakers as a silly waste of time.
- Some people
are uncomfortable sharing personal information.
- Some people
take longer than others to think of responses.
answers the question: "What words would be on your bumper sticker
to let the world know how your week has gone (or your philosophy
of life reflected by this week)?" This technique provides humor
and insight, as well as a sensitization to particular needs and
feelings that should be taken into account while doing the task
at hand. This exercise is especially useful at evening meetings
when people may be tired or tenses. The facilitator should pull
it all together into a quick summary of group philosophy and provide
a directive for the rest of the evening.
finishes this statement: "If I could wake up tomorrow with a new
skill or talent it would be…" Responses help participants identify
common interests and hobbies and discover talents that people may
have but dream of spending more time on (which can potentially be
encouraged and used in completing a project). This can especially
help if the group is relatively new and may feel its members have
little to relate to with each other. Some more lead-ins:
- If I win
the lottery, the first thing I would do is…
- If I won
an all-expenses-paid trip to anywhere, I would go to ___ and would
take ______ (a person and/or thing).
At a strategic
planning or visioning session, have each participant write down
two action verbs, two adjectives and two nouns, each on its own
piece of paper. Have 3 boxes, one labeled verbs, one for adjectives
and one for nouns, and put the paper in the appropriate box. Drawing
one paper from each box, create short phrases of action items to
consider during the planning session. While this is a whimsical
exercise, it is interesting to note those phrases that really do
make sense for the group’s work. It also helps the group to think
in short, concrete, action-oriented terms for simplicity in communication.
One note of caution, without talking-down to any of the participants,
it may be a good idea to review the parts of speech and give examples
requires people to approach and make requests of each other. as
people arrive to the meeting, each gets a number that they must
wear in a conspicuous place on their clothes. Ahead of time, prepare
lots on instructions on little slips of paper, such as borrow something
from 1, introduce 2 to 7, have 6 get you a glass of water, find
out 12’s pet’s name. Put all of the instructions in a box for the
meeting. Everyone takes a slip of paper with an instruction on it.
When they have completed their instructions, they come back and
get a new one. At the end of the time limit (five minutes or so),
whoever has completed the most instructions wins. The prize could
be something simple pertaining to the resources being protected
like a flower or a special stone. The person with the least number
of completed tasks could be required to shake everyone’s hand. An
extension would be for the facilitator to have everyone line themselves
up in order of the least to the most instructions completed. The
facilitator has everyone to look to see each person’s location.
Discuss together any general conclusions about differences in personality,
leadership styles, playfulness, competitiveness and just plain luck
(or even timeliness if the person with the least number of tasks
was late to the meeting!). Consider ways that these qualities might
impact the development of networks, partnerships and friendships.
Focus on the value of diversity. As the group works together, humorous
references can be made to people’s styles. Some individuals may
even work to change the group’s perception of their style.
Johnny…and Carol and…
For an especially
tough small group with participants who may be resistant to more
creative "what if" scenarios have people introduce their neighbors
to the rest of the group. While slightly more staid than other activities,
it does give two people a chance to speak one-on-one and learn about
why each of them are involved in the project or attending the meeting.
Another idea for anti-whimsical ice breaker types is for each person
to write down three strong skills. These can be on one sheet of
paper, on separate pieces or even on paper cut in shapes of tools
(e.g., a hammer, a screw driver, etc.). Then either each person
shares his or her skills or the facilitator reads them all aloud.
This can help a new group get a sense of the wealth of abilities
they have to draw upon to accomplish their tasks.