Ice breakers are activities that foster conversations among a group of individuals. They warm up the discussions among participants who have gotten together for a meeting, team-building session, or any other social activity requiring group participation.
A well-planned ice-breaking session can pave the way for a successful event. On the other hand, if poorly planned, the session can become a likely cause for the event’s event’s failure.
This article will discuss what Ice breakers are, how you develop objectives for your session, the various types of Ice breakers you can use, and how to design your Ice breakers to launch your event with a great start.
Note: If you want to learn about Ice breakers that are specifically geared toward remote work, see our article on Virtual Icebreakers.
What is an Icebreaker
Ice breakers is defined as pivotal for events that require collective participation and communication among attendees. They help build interest and ensure that every participant is equally involved in the agenda behind the activity.
These activities can break down the workspace barriers by bringing together everyone throughout your organization’s departments and hierarchy. They are an excellent way to build that initial level of comfort among participants and get them talking and laughing. This is especially useful if the participants work in different departments or at different levels in the organization.
Furthermore, an effective session will help,
- Get the conversation going
- Reinforce the session’s topic
- Ensure that participants have a productive interaction and enjoy the session.
When to use Ice Breakers
As the name implies, these sessions are planned to “break the ice” at an event. These sessions are mainly used when people who do not normally work together, or who do not know one other at all, get together for a specific, shared objective.
The following are situations when you should consider using Ice breakers:
- Participants come from a variety of backgrounds.
- People must instantly form bonds in order to collaborate toward a common objective.
- Your team is still in its early stages.
- Many of the people involved are unfamiliar with the issues you are discussing.
- As a facilitator, you must get to know your participants and have them get to know you better.
Learn more: The Best Icebreaker Templates for Your Teams
The Different Agendas Behind Ice Breakers
While planning your icebreaker session, it’s important to consider the “ice” that you’re trying to break. For example, If the activity involves participants that are:
- Like-minded people: Then the ‘ice’ is simply that those people haven’t met before.
- People from different levels in your organization: If the activity brings people from across your company’s hierarchy together, the “ice” may be the difference in status among the participants.
- People from different backgrounds: If you are bringing together individuals from various backgrounds, ethnicities, and perspectives for work in your community, the “ice” may arise from people’s perceptions of one another.
In order to make your ice-breaking session successful, you’ll need to be sensitive to these differences. You should only concentrate on what is essential to your event. (Remember, your goal is only to break some ice for your event).
When you go on to designing and facilitating the event, it’s always ideal to emphasize commonalities rather than the differences, such as a common interest in the event’s result.
Types of Ice Breakers
The following are the various different types of Ice breakers you can use for different scenarios:
1. Introductory Ice Breakers
Introductory Ice Breakers help participants get to know each other better by facilitating conversations. Here are some examples of introductory Ice Breakers:
- The Little Known Fact: Ask participants to share their names, departments or roles within the organization, duration of service, and one little-known fact about them. This “little-known fact” becomes a humanizing feature that can assist in breaking down disparities such as grade/status in future interactions.
- Two Truths and a Lie: Ask your participants to introduce themselves and state two truths and one lie about themselves. Then, ask the remainder of the group to vote on which fact is a lie. This practice helps initiate group interaction and get to know each other as individuals.
- Interviews: Ask participants to make pairs. Then, each person in the team interviews their partner for a set time. When the group reconvenes, each person introduces the interviewee to the larger group based on what they’ve learned about them.
- Problem Solvers: Request that participants work in small groups. Make a basic problem scenario for them to work on in a limited amount of time. After the group has evaluated the problem and prepared its feedback, each group offers its analysis and solutions to the larger group.
For this Icebreaker, choose a basic situation so that everyone can easily contribute. The goal is not to solve an actual problem but to “warm-up” the group for subsequent involvement or problem-solving. The group will also learn about each other’s problem-solving and interpersonal approaches.
2. Team Building Ice Breakers
Team building Ice Breakers aim to bring individuals together in the early stages of team building. These activities can help people work together more effectively and cooperate towards shared goals and objectives. The following are some examples of team building Ice Breakers:
- The Human Web: This activity focuses on how members of the group interact with and rely on one another.
The facilitator gets started with a ball of yarn. Passes the ball to one of the participants and then asks them to explain themselves and their role in the organization. After the individual has introduced themselves, they transfer the ball of yarn to another group member. The individual giving over the ball must define their relationship (or how they anticipate relating) to the other person. Repeat this process until everyone introduces themself.
- Ball Challenge: This activity gives the team a basic, timed task to help them focus on common goals and urge them to involve others.
The facilitator forms a ring with the participants and instructs them to toss the ball across the ring, first stating their name and then the person’s name to whom they are throwing the ball.
When everyone in the group has tossed the ball at least once, it’s time to set the challenge: pass the ball around as rapidly as possible to all group members.
After you’ve timed the process, challenge the group to beat it. The team will improve their technique as the task advances, for example, by standing closer together. As a result, the group will learn how to operate together.
- Hope, Fears, and Expectations: Form groups of two or three people and invite them to discuss their expectations for the event or task ahead, including their hopes and fears. Collect the group’s reaction by compiling three to four hopes, worries, and expectations. This activity is best for when participants already have a clear knowledge of the challenge presented to their team.
3. Topic Exploration
These Ice Breakers explore conversation topics at the start of the event or even throughout the event to keep things moving and re-energize participants. Following are some of the best topic exploration activities:
- Word association: Make a list of relevant terms to the event or training topic. This practice allows participants to understand the issue at hand better. For example, in a session on sustainable development, ask participants what words or phrases come to mind when they hear the word “sustainable.” They may suggest “Eco-friendly,” “organic,” “handcrafted,” “quality,” etc. Write down all of these words on a whiteboard. You can use this time to introduce critical phrases and outline the scope of your training or event.
- Burning questions: This activity allows each participant to ask critical questions they want to address throughout the event or training. Please keep track of the questions and return to them as the event proceeds. You might take this time to go through the essential terms and scope.
- Brainstorm: Finally, you may use brainstorming to break the ice or re-energize an event. For example, if individuals become too absorbed in the details of a problem while trying to solve it, running a quick brainstorming session is an easy way to shift the pace.
If you’re seeking solutions to customer service issues, consider exploring ways to create rather than fix them. This helps slow down the pace encourages individuals to think more imaginatively, and gives the group a lift when energy levels are low.
Learn more: The Six Best Icebreakers for Teams
Designing the Ice Breaker
Ice breakers can be an excellent way to kick-start a team-building event or a training session. As interactive sessions often start before the main event, they help people get to know each other and buy into the objective of the event.
If such a session is well-planned and well-facilitated, it may really get things started on the right foot. By getting to know each other, and the facilitators, and learning about the event’s objectives, people can become more involved in the proceedings and contribute more effectively to a good end.
The key to success is to ensure that the activity is both tailored to your goals and appropriate for the group of individuals engaged. After you’ve figured out the agenda( Ice ) behind the icebreaker session, the consequent step is to clearly articulate the objectives for the event.
For instance, if the session is intended for a meeting to solve work-related problems, your objectives may be to:
To create a constructive working atmosphere for today’s event with active engagement from all participants, regardless of their level or job function within the business.
Once your objectives are clear, you have to figure out a few key things about how you plan to meet those objectives. For example, ask yourself:
- Will you be able to provide a fair playing field for people of all levels and jobs?
- How will you foster a shared sense of purpose?
- How will people gain confidence in their ability to contribute?
As an additional check, consider how each participant is likely to react to the session. Will the participants be at ease? Will they consider the session to be relevant and worthwhile?
Learn more: What is tactical Planning?
Ice Breakers can be a very effective technique to foster a spirit of trust and cooperation among a group of people. If you want to learn more about Ice Breaker questions, and templates, check out IdeaScale Whiteboard.