Icebreakers take a lot of heat. While a good icebreaker can help everyone in a meeting get focused and think creatively, they can feel like a chore to some people, especially if done poorly. Because there are so many different kinds of icebreakers, it’s important that you think about what you want yours to accomplish. Here are three different objectives that icebreakers can help you achieve, with two examples for each.
Objective 1: Help team members get to know each other.
Nothing drains momentum from a meeting like an awkward silence. Using icebreakers to help people get to know each other is a great way to prevent these situations. Everyone is more likely to feel comfortable speaking up if they feel they are among the people they know. This is obviously a great help in a meeting between people who might not know each other very well, but it can still be helpful for teams who may have worked together for a long time and take their cohesion to the next level. Consider these options:
The Coin Game
Pass a coin out to each person in the meeting. Ask them to look at the year each coin was minted, and then share what they were doing in that specific year.
Have each person write the craziest thing they’ve ever done/had happened to them on a piece of paper. Put the papers in a container, shuffle them, and draw them one by one. Have the room try and guess who each paper belongs to.
Objective 2: Help people clear their minds and get focused
Everyone is busy. Between our personal and work lives, there are countless distractions that can come to the front of our minds during a meeting. This is where an icebreaker can be really useful. Like an actor getting the giggles out before a scene, a fun icebreaker can help clear the mind and get everyone on their toes and ready to dig into the topic. Games are a great way to accomplish this, but fun personal questions can also get everyone present and participating in the moment. Here are two options:
Telephone is a classic and can bring out some unexpectedly hilarious results, especially in a meeting setting. Just in case you need a refresher, whisper a phrase or sentence as quietly as you can to the person next to you. They do the same, and once the phrase has been passed all the way around the circle, the last person says what they heard aloud, and the first person shares what the original phrase was.
Take advantage of the time of year! Seasonal questions are a great way to bring some fun into the room, and can also help people get to know each other better! Some examples of good seasonal questions could be, what is your favorite fall treat? What is your favorite Halloween costume that you’ve worn for Halloween? What is your favorite summer activity?
Objective 3: Get the discussion started and get everyone involved.
The best meetings are ones where everyone contributes something to the conversation. Icebreakers can be a really great way to kick off the discussion around a topic and get everyone participating with their heads in the game. A good trick is to take a question or game-based icebreaker and adapt it to the topic of the meeting. By incorporating an element of fun and variety, you’ll find people a lot more eager to participate.
Take an inflatable beach ball and write a question in each of the colored segments. When the ball is hit into the air, whoever catches it must answer a question that they are touching. These could be personal questions (What was your first concert?), or more work-focused (What is one area in your job where you frequently meet challenges?).
Have everyone grab a small handful of color-coded candy (skittles, m&ms, or starbursts, for example). Explain that each color represents a different topic. For instance, red could represent office culture. Each person must then contribute one idea for discussion and color/topic that they picked.
For more icebreaker ideas, check out this GovLoop post: “9 Easy & Engaging Icebreakers for Meeting.”