Have you participated in more than your share of bad icebreakers? Those introductory exercises that happen when someone wants to get a group engaged. Ones where you just want it to be over fast? We have too, which is why we were determined to create something different.
What’s the purpose of an icebreaker?
Icebreakers serve a particular purpose. In their ideal form, they start getting people engaged with each other and the topic of the session. Too often, the focus is just to get people talking instead of being mindful about how the activity relates to why a person is in attendance. Many adults do not enjoy pointless activities. For many group facilitators, activities are fun. But to a lot of other types of people, they aren’t. So they need to have a reason beyond potential enjoyment to appeal to a wide range of people.
I also strongly believe icebreakers need to be designed so everyone can be successful. No right or wrong. I want my icebreakers to help people get comfortable, not to embarrass them or set off anxiety. Of course, it’s not possible to make this true for every single person because what is comfortable for one, isn’t for another. But overall, I want to the room to feel engaged and ready to embrace why we are gathered at the end of the icebreaker.
What does the group most need?
When designing the Visual Icebreaker Kit, I selected five focus areas that icebreakers serve when starting group interactions.
- Introductions: Get a sense of who is in the room
- Trust building: Help people feel comfortable talking with each other and participating
- Mini Assessment: Discover where people are relative to the topic
- Engagement: Spur on interaction with the topic
- Alignment: Orient the group to move in the same direction.
Selecting an activity
Activity selection emerges from the intersection of your goal for the overall experience and what the group needs. Once you are clear about where the group is and where you hope they can go, select a prompt that starts the group on that path. The more closely your icebreaker matches the reason people came to the session the better.
Included in our Visual Icebreaker Kit, the facilitator guide contains dozens of icebreakers covering a variety of outcomes — from building trust to conducting a mini-assessment.
Of course, these activities are designed to be used with the icebreaker images, but could be used reasonably well with the images in the Developing Great Leaders or Building Great Teams toolsets as well.