We’ve all faced being the “newbie” one time or another. New to school, new in college, new at work or even moving into a new neighborhood – or simply being a new face leading or moderating a session. Whilst we may be great talkers with our friends, introducing ourselves to new faces and basically trying to “belong” into a group can end up making most nervous.
We are afraid of saying the wrong thing and making really awful first impressions so more often than not we dither and feel awkward, especially if the group you want to have a conversation with seems tight knit. The solution: try some tested and trusted ice breakers.
When Would You need Ice Breakers?
Think of all the situations you’ve ever been in when you were the one needing to introduce yourself to a group or just some new faces. It could have been at school or college, at work or in a gym, at a conference or a training session, at a meeting or even at the PTA meeting – standing in one corner and feeling awkward never helped, did it? But a smile and a witty opening often did – and so ice breakers come in handy anytime you want people to feel comfortable with you and listen to you, or have a conversation with you.
In large groups like meetings and training sessions, ice breakers help people engage with each other and get cracking . Ice breakers are supposed to do multiple things:
- Thaw the ice: The ice is usually the fact that the people in the group (including you) haven’t met and interacted with each other.
- Turn the participants into contributors: Be it a training session or just a conversation, ice breakers are meant to draw people out of their shells and contribute their bit to the interaction.
- Create commonality and connection: Ice breakers should basically use a common factor that all the people in the group share – think of common things that could warm up the group and get them excited and involved, as a group.
15 Ice Breakers That Truly Thaw the Chill
Ice breakers can be categorized in various ways – suited to smaller groups or larger audiences, or ice breakers that are activity based, interest based, party based or simple introductory ones as well . So now that you know the basics of icebreakers, let’s list out 15 tried, trusted and tested ice breakers that many public speakers and experts often use, as and when needed.
At Work: Introductory Ice Breakers For Sessions and Training
These are used when an oddball mix of a group comes together, and most are strangers to each other. Introductory ice breakers set the ball rolling, so as to speak and help shake off that awkward “I don’t know you from Adam” feeling..
- A Little Known Fact: Suitable for groups ranging from 10 to 20. In this introductory ice breaker, you ask each group member to list out their names, departments, years or service, what they do and one little known fact about themselves – usually, this incites many a laugh since people do try and be funny about their “facts”.
- In One Word: Another way to get the ball rolling is by introducing a pertinent subject and then asking all the members of the group, to state their feelings about it in just one word, one by one. You will see a few smiles, some head shakes and plenty nods in this one.
- Try Something Fun: Ice breakers don’t always have to be relevant for the meet/session afterwards, they are just there to get some laughs out and get the attention on you, the speaker. So to make a training session (that most participants might be dreading in all honesty) fun, start with a wacky question that gets people laughing even before the question. Like which animal/vegetable/Transformer/Barbie/GoT character would you be and why, if you were one! .
- Twinkly, Shiny Work Moments: Ask each member of the group to stand up, introduce themselves and what they do, and then talk about the three best work movements they ever had. Invariably people will mention an award or achievement, a brainstorm moment they had and often, a time when everybody else pitched in to help him or her and proved that people can be friends at workplaces too.
- Five of Anything: You can use ice breakers like these to spilt large groups into more manageable groups of three to five, to get the conversation started. But remember, get the participants to switch places – maybe one of each department in each group so as to get actual interaction rather than friends sitting with friends. Then ask each member to talk about five of anything to the others, till each member has had a turn. It could be anything, best novels, worst movies, favorite flowers, the best/worst things about the workplace… Finally one volunteer from each group will take notes and then read out everything to the whole group – generating plenty of laughs along the way .
- Pass The Toilet Paper: So bathroom humor never gets old, no matter how old you get. To play this game, pass a roll of toilet paper around a group sitting in a circle telling them to take as much as they need. Everyone laughs at the amount people take, and once the roll is finished and everyone has had a go, you drop the bomb. For each piece of toilet paper taken, the person has to tell the group something about himself or herself that the others don’t know.
- If I Could: Ask people to think about a situation – something they read, they saw – and talk about it for 2 minutes, and basically share their dreams, possible or impossible, with the group.
At A Party: Ice Breakers That Double Up As Hilarious Games
Getting a group of people together at a party often means a group of varied ages, interests, backgrounds and such, so the best way to get the party started, so as to speak, is get in a few of these ice breakers .
- Groups That Draw Together: Get people to form random groups (every one wearing red, or all who love Johnny Depp) of equal numbers. Now hand each group a sheet of paper, a pencil and some colors and ask them to draw something, together. Each group can be given the same subject to draw on. Each member gets 60 seconds to draw something and then passes the same sheet to the next who continues the drawing, and so on and so forth. The group that finishes first, wins!
- Doctor, I Have A Strange Disease: This game can either be played in one group of 10-15 people, or split into groups of 4-5 if there’s more of a crowd. One person acts out, in a silly and over the top manner, as a person with an illness, and the others have to guess the illness
- My Other Half: This works well for large groups with people who don’t know much about each other. Make couple cards (think Adam & Eve, Romeo & Juliet, Bonnie & Clyde, etc) – write one name on each card with no repeats. Hand each guest one card – the game is that they have to find their other half by asking other guests yes or no questions only. The first couple to “complete themselves” wins.
- Tell Us A Story: Draw a large grid square on a sheet of paper and in the four quadrants, write four fun topics: your worst date, the worst work day, the time you were most embarrassed and a vacation gone wrong. Guests line up and toss a coin at the quadrant, and then have to recite a story about the topic they “chose”. The funnier the better.
- Do You Have? You can split a large group of guests into teams and then give each team a pre-prepared list of things to produce from their purses and pockets (think coins, $100 dollar bill, a baby picture, bifocals, a condom). Limited time and the team with everything or almost wins.
- Animal Sounds: Each guest is handed one of a pair of cards, with an animal’s name on it, and on random and in secret, another guest is handed a duplicate of the same. Guests walk around making the sounds and doing the actions of those animals till they find their partner.
- Nutty Questions, Nuttier Answers: Write zany questions on separate chits of paper – things like “Do you like potatoes?” Then on separate chits of paper, write equally zany answers like, “I have only one dream, and that’s it”. Stack the piles on each side of a table and split the group into two. One participant from the question group picks a chit and reads it, while one participant from the answer groups reads an answer – making for some really zany conversation!
- Who Am I? Simple, easy but fun to do. Write the names of cartoon character on chits of paper, fold them and put them into a bowl. Now ask people to fish out chits one by one and then try and enact that character (think Goofy, Donald Duck, Betty Boop, Spock, Captain Jack Sparrow), while the others have to guess the name. Make the characters as funny and colorful as possible for some hilarious fun.
And you don’t have to limit yourself to just these ideas. If you are the host, think of the most fun you had at a party and take inspiration from there. And if it’s in the office, well, it doesn’t have to be a boring meeting, does it?