No word instills more fear and discomfort in a business person’s soul than “icebreaker”. We’ve all endured awkward games and forced discussions during conferences and meetings that were not at all helpful in forging connections. Networking is both an art and a science. As such, it takes both strategic thinking and creative design to use icebreakers well.
As the name suggests, icebreakers should be deployed when guests who do not usually work together or know each other meet for a common purpose such as a conference or annual meeting. They also can be used when new teams are formed or a new idea is introduced to a group. Basically, something is new. This is the “ice” that needs to be broken.
The key to success is to make sure that the activity you plan is specifically focused on your event objectives and is appropriate for your attendees. The goal could be just getting to know each other, or to reach consensus on a decision, or to solve a problem, or a combination of many things. Make sure that the activity of breaking the ice will help drive that narrative. And try to add a little creativity to the session for fun.
Five Fun “Get to Know You” Icebreaker Ideas
One Interesting Fact: Ask participants to introduce themselves and share one interesting fact about themselves. It’s always illuminating and a little humanizing to hear what others think is special about themselves.
One Word: Ask guests to introduce themselves and share one word that describes their mood. You learn a lot about a person who says their mood is “green” or “rocket”.
Swag Swap: Ask attendees to introduce themselves and offer to swap a promotional item they picked up at the conference. Let the haggling begin!
Online Poll: Use an online live poll to ask your guests a random question or two. Example questions could be: “What was your favorite television show growing up?” or “What city would you like to visit?” Polls have a way of stimulating conversation.
Speed Networking: Seat guests at tables for two. Announce that they will be spending the next 5 minutes networking with the person at their table. After 5 minutes, one person from each table moves to the table on the right. Go through enough rounds so that each person talks to at least 5 different people.
Five Problem Solving Icebreaker Ideas
Stranded: Divide your group into teams. Tell each team that they have been stranded in an office. The doors are locked, and knocking down the doors or breaking the windows is not an option. They have 30 minutes to decide on 10 items found in a typical office that they think they need for survival and rank them in order of importance. The goal of the activity is to have everyone agree on the 10 items and their ranking in 30 minutes and then explain and defend their decision to the larger audience.
What Would Z Do?: Ask each participant to pretend they are a famous person. Present a problem that needs to be solved to the group. Ask each person to consider the problem as if they were the famous person they chose. What solutions would they consider? How would they handle the problem? Discuss the options each person comes up with.
Tower Building: This is a popular game during office parties but can be effectively used to build trust and collaboration during networking meetings. Divide the group into teams with an equal number. Provide each team with an equal amount of building materials such as cardboard, paperclips, tape, post-its, and other office supplies. Set a timer for 10 minutes and challenge each team to work together to build a tower. The team with the highest tower wins
Personalized Crossword: Divide the group into teams of 8 to 10. Give each team a flip chart and markers. Ask each team to list the first and last names of their group members on the flip chart and challenge them to create a crossword puzzle with the names. Create clues composed of visual hints about each person. For example, if one team member is wearing red, the two clues for her first and last name could be, “Red,” and “Bright pants.” When each team is finished with their puzzles, trade puzzles so that every team has a different one. Provide a list of names for the teams to use as they solve the puzzles.
Create Your Own: Divide participants into teams and tell them they have the opportunity to create a new problem-solving team building activity. The activity must not be one that they have already participated in or heard of. After a set amount of time, ask each team to present their new activity to the group and explain how it will benefit each guest.
Icebreakers do not have to be groan-inducing. By thinking strategically about the goals and objectives for your meeting and then planning activities that support them, icebreaking can be a positive experience that fosters your event story and builds ROI.