Icebreakers

Icebreakers represent an important part of a trainer’s toolkit that allows the trainer to foster communication, enhance interaction and creativity, and energize group formation. By their composition, icebreakers help to Facilitate Introductions Assist Group Formation Introduce Topics, Concepts Or Themes Prepare Participants For Learning Energize The Group

Icebreakers are generally used at the start of a training session or at stages where new material or sessions are beginning (e.g., after a break or to energize a group before a new topic is covered). Most opening activity icebreakers should last around ten to fifteen minutes though there are a range of issues that influence what icebreaker that you employ. It is important that all participants are comfortable with the icebreaker even though sometimes the exercise may challenge them. Choosing Ice-Breakers For Training Events There are many issues that need to be considered when choosing an icebreaker for you training event. These include: Rationale/Goals It is always essential that the icebreaker chosen reflects the rationale and goals of the training event. Experience It is also crucial that it has been tried and tested on others and that as a trainer you are familiar with all aspects of the activity. Audience Consider who the audience is? Are they there as a group or as individuals? What are their ability levels? Remember individuals also like to be challenged. Have they completed the icebreaker before?

Connection To The Training Event The trainer must also ensure that the icebreaker ‘connects’ to a point in the training event. To illustrate, an energizer activity is best used after a break period than before the break! Structure of the Activity When considering the structure of activity to be used you will need to be aware of: - The number of participants involved - Time required: Do you have enough time to complete the task? - Place: Where the activity will take place?

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Permission: Participants should be allowed to choose not to participate Tone: What tone does the activity set with the group Opportunity to include learning points for the training event Opportunity to ask questions

The remainder of this icebreakers listed on the right provides examples of icebreakers that you can readily apply and/or adapt to your training events.

What I Expect
Objectives To ensure that all expectations are set at the beginning of the training event. Method Draw a simple matrix on a flipchart using the four areas outlined below. Some sample answers are provided as examples – they will help you get participants started though you may wish not to include them on the matrix at the beginning. From The Course Knowledge New Skills From The Trainer Expertise Experience Direction From Others Confidentiality Honesty From Me Participation Support Ask participants to complete their expectations of the course, of the trainer, from others and from themselves.

Discussion Questions 1. Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? Is so, why? 2. Can anyone explain why it is good for us to set expectations? 3. How can we use these expectations for the rest of the training event? Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes.

Icebreakers - Me, A Name I Call Myself
Objectives To allow people know each others names and some information about each other. Method There are many variations to this icebreaker. A few will be outlined here to indicate how they work. The Animal Each person picks the name of an animal name that starts with the first letter of their own name. To illustrate, ‘I am Aardvark Alan’. Then the next person continues by stating ‘that was Aardvark Alan and I am Bettle Bob’. And so on … The Name Ask each person to state their name and to give a little more information about their name. Why are they called that name? Is there any history associated with the name? Do they have a nickname? What other name do they like? And so on … Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 10 minutes.

Icebreakers - For The Weekend
Objectives To allow people know each others names and some information about each other. Method

Ask each person to state their name and to say what they are doing for the weekend. If they are not planning anything for the weekend then to talk about the last weekend they did something? And so on … Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 10 minutes.

Icebreakers - What Does It Mean?
Objectives To get participants to offer their opinions on the meaning of words and to promote discussion in the group. Method Place the following list of words a flipchart and ask each participant to chose one word and discuss what it means to them. Note: You can substitute other words to suit the purpose of your training event. Teams Success Work-Life Balance Change Happiness Vision Leadership Friendship Freedom Trust Faith Hope Encourage participants to discuss the meaning of words and how we all can have a different meaning for the same word. Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Approximate time 15 minutes though you may wish to use this exercise to introduce concepts that will be running through the training event.

Icebreakers - Telling Me, Telling You
Objectives To get participants to offer their opinions, encourage listening and to promote discussion in the group. Method

Divide the group into pairs. Ask the pairs to describe to each other their favorite things. Once they have completed this bring the group back to together. Then each member must describe in detail their exercise partner’s favorite things and be able to answer questions on the group on these things. This exercise also encourages questioning and listening skills within the group. Discussion Questions 1. Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? Is so, why? 2. How can this exercise help us during today’s training event? Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes.

Icebreakers - Just For You
Objectives To get participants to offer their opinions, encourage listening and to promote discussion in the group. Method Divide the group into pairs. Ask the pairs to describe to each other what gift they would give each other. Once they have completed this bring the group back to together. Then each member must describe in detail their exercise partner’s gift from you, why they chose it? and what it says about their partner? This exercise also encourages questioning and listening skills within the group. Discussion Questions 1. Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? Is so, why? 2. How can we use this exercise for the rest of the training event? Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes.

Icebreakers - The Number Game

Objectives To get participants to offer their opinions, encourage listening and to promote discussion in the group. Method Divide the group into threes and assign numbers 1, 2, and 3 to each member. Ask the odd members to be interviewers for a job as a bank manager (or a job title of your choice) and the even number to be the candidate at the interview. Ask the group to role play this situation for 10 minutes. Once they have completed this bring the group back to together. Then ask a few groups to role play this interview situation for the larger group. Use these simulations to guide your discussions. This exercise also encourages questioning and listening skills within the group. Discussion Questions 1. Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? Is so, why? 2. How can we use this exercise for the rest of the training event? Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes.

Icebreakers - My Favorite Place
Objectives To get participants to offer their opinions, encourage listening and to promote discussion in the group. Method Divide the group into pairs. Ask the pairs to describe to each other their favorite place. Once they have completed this bring the group back to together. Then each member must describe in detail their exercise partner’s favorite place and be able to answer questions on the group on these places. This exercise also encourages questioning and listening skills within the group. Discussion Questions 1. Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? Is so, why?

2. How can this exercise help us during today’s training event? Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes

Icebreakers - If I Wasn't Me
Objectives To get participants to offer their opinions, encourage listening and to promote discussion in the group. Method This is a very simple exercise that participants can have some fun with also. Ask participants of the training event to think about who they would like to be if they weren’t themselves. Each person will need to describe this person to the group. Once each person has described who they would like to be get the group in a circle to discuss the exercise. This exercise also encourages questioning and listening skills within the group. Discussion Questions 1. 2. 3. 4. Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? Is so, why? How can this exercise help us during today’s training event? What does the person you chose to be, inform you about yourself? Please explain your answer. Of all the characters presented does anyone want to change? If so why or why not?

Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes

Icebreakers - Desert Island
Objectives To get participants to offer their opinions, encourage listening and to promote discussion in the group. Method This is a variation of the desert island discs program where participants choose what records they would bring with them onto a desert island.

Ask participants of the training event to pick three things that they would bring with them if they were going to be marooned on a desert island. You can give examples or specify areas if you like. To illustrate: Books (great escapes may help) Tools (Boat building!) CD’s (don’t forget CD player) People …

Discussion Questions 1. 2. 3. 4. How can this exercise help us during today’s training event? What do your choices tell you about yourself? Please explain your answer. What do others choices tell you about them? Please explain your answer. Having heard what others would bring, is there anything else that you would no bring with you?

Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes

Icebreakers - 3 Is A Lucky Number
Objectives To get participants to offer their opinions, encourage listening and to promote discussion in the group. Method Divide the group into pairs. Ask the pairs to debate (1 for and 1 against) the proposition that ‘3 is a lucky number’. Ask the group to role play this situation for 10 minutes. Once they have completed this bring the group back to together. Then ask a few groups to role play this debate for the larger group. Use these simulations to guide your discussions. This exercise also encourages questioning and listening skills within the group. Discussion Questions 1. Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? Is so, why? 2. How can we use this exercise for the rest of the training event? Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes.

Icebreakers - Circle Of Friends
Objectives To get participants to offer their opinions, encourage listening and to promote discussion in the group. Method Divide the group into fours. Ask one member of the group to be the main character and that the others are his friends. The friends have to tell the main character about themselves and the main character will later have to introduce themselves and their friends to the larger group. You can rotate the main character a few times to give everyone experience of this position. This exercise also encourages questioning and listening skills within the group. Discussion Questions 1. Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? Is so, why? 2. How can we use this exercise for the rest of the training event? Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes.

Icebreakers - Paris, ...
Objectives To get participants to offer their opinions, encourage listening and to promote discussion in the group. Method This is a very simple exercise that participants can have some fun with also. Ask participants of the training event to imagine themselves in each of the cities above and what they would like to do there? What would they work at if they lived there? Would their life be different? If so, in what ways? Once each person has described who they would like to be get the group in a circle to discuss the exercise. This exercise also encourages questioning and listening skills within the group and individuals perceptions of different things.

Discussion Questions 1. Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? Is so, why? 2. How can this exercise help us during today’s training event? 3. Of all the places presented does anyone want to change? If so why or why not? Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes

Icebreakers - Opposites (Reverse)
Objectives To get participants to offer their opinions, encourage listening and to promote discussion in the group. Method This is a very simple exercise that participants can have some fun with also. Ask participants of the training event to describe a character that would be the exact opposite to themselves. Once each person has described their exact opposite get the group in a circle to discuss the exercise. Then ask the group to reverse the descriptions and describe each other. This exercise also encourages listening skills within the group and individuals perceptions of themselves and each other. Discussion Questions 1. Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? Is so, why? 2. How can this exercise help us during today’s training event? 3. Has anyone changed their perception of their opposite or themselves? If so, how or why? Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minute

Icebreakers - I Like Toys
Objectives To get participants to offer their opinions, encourage listening and to promote discussion in the group. Method

Divide the group into pairs. Ask the pairs to describe to each other their favorite toy when they were young. Once they have completed this bring the group back to together. Then each member must describe in detail their exercise partner’s favorite toy and be able to answer questions on the group on this toy. This exercise also encourages questioning and listening skills within the group. Discussion Questions 1. 2. 3. 4. Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? Is so, why? How can this exercise help us during today’s training event? How did the toy represent you? What toy would represent you now?

Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes

Icebreakers - I Approve
Objectives To get participants to offer their opinions, encourage listening and to promote discussion in the group. Method Divide the group into pairs. Ask the pairs to describe to each other what they approve of in terms of behavior in the workplace. To illustrate – honesty and integrity. Once they have completed this bring the group back to together and place all the responses on a flipchart Encourage participants to discuss the meaning of words and how we all can have a different meaning for the same word. Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Approximate time 15 minutes though you may wish to use this exercise to introduce concepts that will be running through the training event.

Icebreakers - Find A Way

Objectives To get participants to offer their opinions, encourage listening and to promote discussion in the group. Method Divide the group into threes. Ask the group to list one challenge that they all have difficulty with. Ask the group to come up with a solution to this challenge using their shared experience. The group must then present to the larger group and request feedback. This exercise also encourages questioning and listening skills within the group. Discussion Questions 1. Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? Is so, why? 2. How can we use this exercise for the rest of the training event? Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes

Icebreakers - HELLO
Objectives To get participants to offer their opinions, encourage listening and to promote discussion in the group.

Method Perhaps the easiest, most obvious and often overlooked icebreaker. Ask each member of the training event to introduce themselves by saying Hello – My Name Is … ! Then encourage the rest of the group to ask the trainee questions. To illustrate, Where do you live? What is your job? Where did you go to school? etc This exercise also encourages questioning and listening skills within the group.

Discussion Questions 1. Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? Is so, why? 2. How can this exercise help us during today’s training event? Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes

Icebreakers - Happy Birthday
Objectives To get participants to offer their opinions, encourage listening and to promote discussion in the group. Method Ask each participant to introduce themselves by saying Hello – My Name Is … and today is my Birthday. Then the next person says Happy Birthday ______ My Name Is … and today is also my Birthday! And so on … Discussion Questions 1. Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? Is so, why? 2. How can this exercise help us during today’s training event? Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes

Icebreakers - Mystery Gift
Objectives To get participants to offer their opinions, encourage listening and to promote discussion in the group. Method A continuation of the Happy Birthday Icebreaker. Ask each participant to introduce themselves by saying Hello – My Name Is … and today is my Birthday. Then the next person says Happy Birthday ______ My Name Is … and today is also my Birthday!

And so on … Then introduce a wrapped Birthday Present to the group. Ask each participant to describe what they would like as a present for their Birthday? Discussion Questions 1. 2. 3. 4. Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? Is so, why? How can this exercise help us during today’s training event? What does the present mean to you? Who should get the present today? Why?

Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes

Icebreakers - What Happened Next?
Objectives To increase listening skills within the group. Method This icebreaker is best suited to small groups. While sitting in a small circle, participants are asked to construct a story by each participant adding one line at a time (e.g., Bill woke up and stepped out into the snow …). This continues with each additional participant adding another line until everyone has contributed at least two lines. There are many variations to this game but it highlights the value of listening to others. Appropriate Time Required Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes.

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