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Ice Breakers: Getting Everyone to Contribute at the Start of a Successful Event

Ice Breakers: Getting Everyone to Contribute at the Start of a Successful Event

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Word association

This helps people explore the breadth of the area under discussion. 

Generate a list of words related to the topic of your event or training. 

You can use this opportunity to introduce essential terms and discuss the scope (what's in and what's out) of your training or event.

Designing Your Ice Breaker

  • Make sure that the activity is specifically focused on meeting your objectives and appropriate to the group of people involved.
  • Clarify the specific objectives for your session.
  • Ask yourself questions about how you will meet your objectives
  • These questions can be used as a checklist once you have designed the session
  • As a further check, ask yourself how each person is likely to react to the session.

Introductory Ice Breakers

  • The Little Known Fact: ask participants to share their name, department or role in the organization, length of service, and one little known fact about themselves.
  • True or False: ask your participants to introduce themselves and make three or four statements about themselves, one of which is false. Now get the rest of the group to vote on which fact is false.
  • Interviews: ask participants to get into twos. Each person then interviews his or her partner for a set time while paired up. When the group reconvenes, each person introduces their interviewee to the rest of the group.
  • Problem Solvers: ask participants to work in small groups. Create a simple problem scenario for them to work on in a short time. Once the group has analyzed the problem and prepared their feedback, ask each group, in turn, to present their analysis and solutions to the wider group.

The "ice" that needs to be broken

When designing your ice breaker, think about the "ice" that needs to be broken.

  • If you are bringing together like-minded people, the "ice" may simply reflect the fact that people have not yet met.
  • If you are bringing together people of different backgrounds, cultures, and outlooks for work within your community, then the "ice" may come from people's perceptions of each other.

Brainstorm

Used to break the ice or as a re-energizer during an event.

If people are getting bogged down in the detail during problem-solving, for example, you can change pace easily by running a quick-fire brainstorming session. 

When to Use Icebreakers

When to Use Icebreakers

Consider using an ice breaker when:

  • Participants come from different backgrounds.
  • People need to bond quickly so as to work towards a common goal.
  • Your team is newly formed.
  • The topics you are discussing are new or unfamiliar to many people involved.
  • As a facilitator, you need to get to know participants and have them know you better.

Ball Challenge

The facilitator arranges the group in a circle and asks each person to throw the ball across the circle, first announcing her own name, and then announcing the name of the person to whom they are throwing the ball. Time the process, then ask the group to beat that timing. As the challenge progresses, the team will improve its process, for example by standing closer together. 

Burning questions

This gives each person the opportunity to ask key questions they hope to cover in the event or training.

Hope, Fears, and Expectations

Group people into twos or threes, and ask people to discuss their expectations for the event or work ahead, including their fears and their hopes. Gather the group's response by collating three to four hopes, fears, and expectations from each pairing or threesome.

The Human Web Ice Breaker

The facilitator begins with a ball of yarn. Keeping one end, pass the ball to one of the participants, and the person to introduce himself and his role in the organization. 
Once this person has made their introduction, ask him to pass the ball of yarn on to another person in the group. The person handing over the ball must describe how he relates (or expects to relate) to the other person. The process continues until everyone is introduced.

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