Icebreakers That Work
Following are some good ice breaking exercises that I’ve learned from others and used myself. They work well so give one or more of them a try the next time you’re in charge of warming up a group of people.
Pass around a bag of M&M’s. Tell the participants to take as many as they want. Once everyone has M&M’s, tell them that for each M&M they took they have to say one thing about themselves. For instance, if a person took 10 M&M’s, they would have to say 10 things about themselves.
Meet ‘n Greet
To get acquainted – help discover common backgrounds and interests.
At the beginning of a meeting or class, ask people to introduce themselves to as many others as they possibly can in two minutes’ time. After those 2 minutes tell them to get into groups of three people. Tell them that their assignment for the next two minutes is to find at least three distinctive things that the three of them have in common. The only rule is that the three things cannot be job related (i.e. they work for the same organization.) Ask them to identify the three things as quickly as possible and to shout out loudly when they’ve done so. Provide a token prize for the first team to complete the task. Some examples of areas of commonality could be:
- All are from the same home state.
- All have an older brother.
- All drive a SUV.
- All have degrees in the same field, etc.
- After most have completed their assignments, call on a few groups to tell their areas of commonality.
- How did some of you complete the task so quickly?
- Did some of you have difficulty finding common backgrounds or interests?
- Did anyone discover some startling or surprising information about the others (all are twins.)
Approximate Time needed: 10-15 minutes.
Once Upon a Time
Quick ideas to get people focused in the room on each other; also ready to participate.
Go around the table (or circle) and complete one of these sentences:
- Once upon a time, I…
- My ideal vacation is…
- The riskiest thing I ever did was…
- The wildest thing I ever did (that I’ll admit to) is…
Pair people up together. Ask them to spend 2 ½ minutes each talking about themselves. Ask them if they could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be and why. Tell them that at the end of 5 minutes we will come back together as a group and you will introduce each other. Ask them to tell the persons name, their position and their dinner partner.
Note to facilitators – this is a great exercise to help you understand the personality of the class. For example you may have a lot of people who want to have dinner with political figures or movie stars it gives you a clue that politics are important to this group or they are movie goers. If you have a lot of people who want to have dinner with religious figures again it helps you understand the basic personality of the group.
Five Things in Common
Split the group up into pairs. Each pair will have 30 seconds to find 5 things they have in common. At the end of the 30 seconds, put two pairs together and give the foursome a minute to find something all 4 students have in common. Finally, each group can present the list of things they have in common. You can use this activity to form groups.
Always Better with Two
Pair people up together. Ask them to spend 2 minutes each talking about themselves. At the end of 4 minutes we will come back together as a group and you will introduce each other. Ask them to tell the persons name, their position and how many years experience they have in the industry. For example: How many years they have been in Customer Service? All participants get to hear about other participants from of a third party instead of hearing from the person themselves. Depending on the session content, it is fun to add up all the years experience in the room and close with something like “Combined, we have 100 years of customer service experience.”
Peculiarities Activity Sheet
This activity can be used at any time during a short or long session, with participants who know one another well or with complete strangers, to introduce the topic of diversity.
12 to 60, Estimated Time: 2 to 5 minutes.
What you need: Peculiarities Activity Sheet for leader; simple prizes such as candy, stickers, or pens.
- Ask participants to stand.
- Explain that the object of the activity is to discover peculiarities in the group.
- Tell participants that you will read items from a list, one at a time. Ask them to come forward to receive a prize if they have that peculiarity. As a variation pass out the list to participants and ask them to fill it out individually, and then find others in the room who have marked the same categories. Include some categories that you know apply to more than one person.
Tips: Keep this quick and fun. Add peculiarities to the list relating to organizational quirks or norms, or add specific peculiarities that you know about people in the group. Click on the title to download a usable copy of the activity sheet.
- Was born on February 29.
- Has or had a dog named Spot, Midnight, Lucky, or Shadow.
- Is wearing an article of clothing that was chosen and purchased by someone else.
- Is wearing a family heirloom.
- Drives a car more than five years old.
- Competes in sporting events such as running, skiing, etc.
- Likes pizza with anchovies.
- Volunteers for charity fund drives.
- Was born in another state.
- Was born in another country.
- Has won a prize.
- Has been to Idaho.
- Writes songs or poetry.
- Has an organized, clean desk.
- Has a twin brother or sister.
- Has a shoe size of 12 or greater.
- Has milked a cow.
- Has been to the top of the Washington Monument.
- Collects stamps or other collectibles.
- Remembers sodas for five cents.
- Has been to a concert in the last month.
- Has five or more siblings.
- Prefers winter to summer.
- Has been on a radio or TV show.
- Restores old cars or trucks.
- Has won a prize or money with a mail-in form.