Practical ideas for facilitating workshops & people development

Posts tagged ‘introductions’


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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Workshop Introductions with Wow

One of my pet hates is going along to a workshop where we are not given the opportunity to introduce ourselves to the others in room. Yes, you can argue it takes up valuable time especially in a short workshop, however, one of the key drivers for people to attend events is to network and meet like minded people.

A short introduction

  • provides safety, we all get a sense of who else is in the room and are more likely to share our experiences
  • gives an opportunity for the networkers in the room to identify whom they would like to talk to in the breaks
  • allows the introverts speaking time. If an introvert doesn’t speak early in the session they can often sit through the workshop and not have the confidence to share their ideas.
  • sets the scene for the workshop and builds the group or team

Robyn asked a question about timing with workshops especially with introductions. The way I like to handle this is by giving a time frame and clear instructions for the introductions. I will put this up on the whiteboard so it is understood by everyone.

For example

Introductions (in one minute)

  • name
  • location 
  • What attracted you to attend this session?

I find that if everyone is clear about the timeframe and the instructions they tend to stick to the guidelines and not ramble on. If they do ramble on, the pre-set timeframe gives the facilitator permission to politely close them down and move onto the next person.

Another tip is to ask everyone to write down their introductions, give them a minute or two to write down what they are going to say to the group. This gives the introverts thinking time keeps the extroverts quiet for a minute. It also means people have clarified their thinking and will listen to what the person speaking is saying rather than preparing their own introduction in their head.

Rather than working your way around the room ask for a volunteer to start and then move randomly around the room. I like to use a ball to throw around rather than creeping from person to person. The ball provides some fun and lightness to the process.

There are lots of great tools for introductions and icebreakers to build the group which I will cover in future blogs.

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