Practical ideas for facilitating workshops & people development

Icebreakers

Love them or hate them icebreakers are a good way to build trust and used well create a positive group group atmosphere. There are lots of activities to use as icebreakers and if you google “Icebreakers” you will find lots of ideas available on the internet.

Why use them:

  • to help people relax and share their ideas
  • to break down social barriers and perceptions
  • to energise and motivate the participants
  • to help people think creatively
  • so participants get to know something about the others in the room
  • to get the introverts involved

Some tips

  • Make the icebreaker relevant to the workshop topic. For example in a leadership workshop I will often ask the participants to think of someone they admire as a leader and share some of the characteristics they observe in that person.
  • Picture cards are useful tools. St Lukes Innovative Resources in Bendigo Victoria have a great range of cards available. In our recent resilience workshop we asked the participants to choose a card that represented resilience to them and explain this to the group as part of their introduction. I have a great set of goddess cards which are fun to use with women’s groups.
  • In technical workshops make the icebreaker relevant to the topic of discussion. “What do you find exciting/challenging about X?” or  “What previous experience have you had with X?”
  • With groups of people who work together on a regular basis I ask them to share something the other members of the group wouldn’t know about them. This often leads to great discussion in the breaks and deepening of relationships through new connections.
  • When working with a group of farmers a simple question (if appropriate) might be …How much rain has everyone had in the last week?
  • If you are asking something that requires a bit of thinking time – provide the thinking time.
  • Some facilitators ask the group members to talk in pairs and then introduce each other. This can work well, my advice is to check in with the person being introduced to make sure what is said is accurate and if there is anything they would like to add. It can be embarrassing to be wrongly represented as a result of someone else’s perception.

What other fun icebreakers do people use in their workshops? Anyone game to share in the comments?

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Comments on: "Icebreakers" (1)

  1. Donna Lucas said:

    A variation on Jeanette’s icebreaker for people who know each other (or most know each other): ask each participant to introduce themselves and share with the group what they were doing ten years ago. When explaining their instructions, make it clear that thier response doesn’t necessarily need to be work related, e.g. they may have been surfing in Queensland or cruising the Greek Islands. This brings the whole person and their experiences to the table, not only their current role – it is amazing what people have done, and the experiences they bring to the group.

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