Icebreakers Part 1

I went to a Bath & Bristol Marketing networking event, the meeting facilitator/host Rob Hook announced that the meeting would be kicked off by an icebreaker. He suggested that we sat next to someone we had never met before. At which point I thought this is going to be the boring exchange of who are you, what do you do and compressed life story. The twist was that we had to find out the most interesting thing we had done in our lives that we had in common.

My initial reaction was, so what is the most interesting thing that I have done in my life? With my brain going into shut down, the day was saved by my new unknown colleague telling me that he had been driving along in a car in Uganda when a family member threw him out of the car. Makes you want to know why….

It made me think of an incident that happened when I was a young boy. I was on a beach and was accidentally shot in the head by my father. So we both had a story of personal accident in common and had survived to tell the tale.

It also made me think that it would be a good idea to get a collection of the best icebreakers that people have experienced at meetings or conferences. This collection could help inspire others to get their meetings off to a great start. Well done Rob, just think how many meetings could be transformed. This could be part of our 2016-17 ‘Ban Boring Conferences/Events and Meetings Campaign’.

Ice breakers Part 2

(part of our Ban Boring Conferences, Events and Meetings – Campaign 2016-17)

Ice breaker to kick off a small meeting, each person introduces them-selves and lists the names of each person who had previously given their name. I have participated in this with up to 40 people, numbers 38, 39, 40 do get concerned that they will recall everyone’s names. But rather surprisingly it seemed to work well!

Icebreaker which works well as a team builder for groups of 10 – 20: This requires a supply of drinking straws and builders bricks. The task given to each group is to build the tallest structure and to also build at the same time the strongest structure that can support the maximum number of bricks. A good approach is to find out if you have any engineers in your team and ideally split the team in two, with one engineer in each group.

Icebreaker/opener for large conference/event: Ask the delegates to stand, close their eyes and rotate them-selves in a circular direction clock wise and anti-clock wise, enough times to disorientate them but not make people dizzy. Then ask the audience whilst keeping their eyes closed to stop turning round and to point their arm in the direction of north. On opening their eyes, there should be a sea of arms pointing in all the directions of the compass. It can be used as a link to thinking about the direction that the organisation is going in.

John Dalgarno – At a recent workshop I used the idea of making the paper aeroplane. Delegates wrote on the plane, their name and what they wanted to be when they were growing up. The group was divided into two and launched the planes, a friendly competition to see which one flew the best. Then people picked up someone else’s plane and read out the words on it. Worked well!

Mark Stonham – At a couple of networking meetings I’ve been to the attendees were separated into 4 personality types – DISC types. Could be any other 4 dimensions and useful if the presenter wants to address particular types – management, sales, fee earners, support staff etc. It gets people moving about and chatting. This might be good after lunch to shake things up for the afternoon session.

Elaine Brown – Here are a couple of suggestions. I’ve used ice breakers a good deal over my many years at In Any Event UK the most elaborate involved using a boxing ring to introduce members of staff. Talking whilst jumping up and down was quite a challenge for some. Produce an A4 list of things people have done. For example I ran in the London Marathon in 2003, or my first job was as an ice cream sales man. People then have to guess who the person is, give everyone a sheet they then have to go round the room and ask questions to find out whose name to put beside each item.

Airplanes – Ask everyone to write on a piece of A4 something nice they have done for someone – friend, customer etc. they write their name on the paper and then fold it into a paper airplane which they fly into the centre of the room. Each person then picks up a plane and reads it out. Pull questions out of a hat Write some of the following on pieces of paper and put into a hat. Each person has to pull one out and answer it. Things to include are: What was the first poster you put up in your bedroom? When was the last time you did something for the first time? What’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever found? What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Brett Sadler – I went to an IoD event once at Bath Uni. It was a talk on wellness, and the speaker got people to massage the shoulders of the person next to them. Not one for the faint hearted!

Katy Noakes – My particular favourite is to turn to the person next to you. You give each other two true facts and flight of fantasy about yourself. You then introduce the other person to the larger group, saying which do you think was the lie? Generally prompts lots of ‘Wow, you did WHAT?” comments!

Anne Miller – Icebreakers are great for generating energy and getting people into a much more receptive mood. Depending on numbers and space, if you can get people moving around its even more effective. Rob’s icebreaker finding out something you have in common can be repeated as many times as you can fit into a number of minutes i.e. increase the pace. Good topic, thanks for initiating!

Dave Rowan – Live Events Producer made the following suggestion: One Word Ice Breaker. Tell newly formed groups that their assignment is to think for a minute and then to share with their group the one word that describes what they think about their current culture. These can then be shared with the other groups.

Blake Mintz – Photo booths are definitely on the return and connect with all generations. The idea I liked the most and have seen used effectively was to have an idea DJ – this broke the monotony of a bland general session and added welcome humour. I believe one of the best ways to get attendees engaged and to interact is take them out of their comfort zone. Whether this means unconventional locations, the use of social mediums as part of a rally course (treasure hunt), or matching exercises. Don’t be afraid to try something different, the worst thing that can happen is you discover what doesn’t work – but it may stimulate ideas about what can work.

Andy O’Callaghan – MD of Teambuilding Solutions suggested: A great one that makes any conference start with a ‘bang’ is a balloon drop. Inside each balloon is the name and job function and a piece of information as a conversation piece (if small sessions, just 3 interesting facts from a person is sufficient. Delegates get to bat the balloons around for a minute before the countdown begins to pop the balloons! The info is then retrieved and you have to find the person whose details you have – very noisy, chaotic, but a great way to break the ice as a lot of interactions occur before you find the right person usually!

Kevin Nelson – Icebreakers At Events Perhaps you could have an employee/department scavenger hunt and have attendees seek out fellow attendees by sorting out what department they work in and what their department has done that merits praise. You can have colour coded name tags so that the departments are recognized visually as well.

David Bardell – More specific to creative brainstorms (although the problem is still making sure that everyone feels equally able to contribute without fear), I have been doing this lately: Give everyone a paper and pencil and get them to draw someone in the room; drawing skills do not matter, the worse you are the better. Then you take it in turns to hold up your drawing and everyone has to vote on who they think it is. Lots of laughs, a memory-bridge to names and gets people more willing to contribute.

So please post any others you have in comments and share them with colleagues.

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Thanks John

John Dalgarno – Creative Producer

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