DIY Icebreakers: Use Your Meeting’s Content

Inventing your own ice-breakers is easy once you know where to look.  Perhaps this situation will sound familiar to you:  In a day-long meeting between people who have never worked together, there is a crying need for an icebreaker, but not a minute to spare in the agenda.   It’s a dilemma alright, and one facilitators face all the time.

Here are two ways to fit in an icebreaker:

Turn breakfast into a mixer. Here’s how:  Most all day meetings have name tags or table tents.  You can use these to seat people in random groups, then give them something to talk about either at their table or with the person sitting next to them over breakfast.  Just write the table number on the back of the name tag or tent, label the tables and put a topic for discussion at each table.  The topic can be anything from “where did you go to school?” or “how did you get your first name”to “what’s your favorite thing about your work?

Use the content of the meeting as an icebreaker. This is as simple as making the exercise “rank order the organization’s 5 goals (list provided)” in an annual goals planning meeting.   Or, “list as many activities as you can for each goal.”   When you incorporate the content of the meeting, you’ve used an icebreaker to give participants a jumpstart.  You can do this at the start of an agenda item, not just at the start of the meeting.

One thing that distinguishes an icebreaker from “real” work is that every answer is the right answer and people are expected to have fun.  With that in mind, start looking to the content of your meeting to design your own icebreakers.  To liven up any icebreaker, set an impossible time frame, like 30 seconds, or have participant’s work through drawings only – no talking.   Then let everyone know it’s a competition and give a goofy prize for the most original, or the worst answer.

Those are some of my ideas for shoe-horning an icebreaker into a full agenda.   What do you do?

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