A room full of strangers can be a little daunting. For participants, it’s difficult to kickstart conversations and fully settle into the groove of a workshop without knowing the everyone’s names, backgrounds or interests to form commonalities.
Icebreakers are a fun and exciting way to start a session. These warm-up activities create a relaxed environment that not only fosters quick and easy interactions but builds a smooth transition to the remainder of the workshop. They are essential for all workshops but particularly for those that are remote as team building becomes much harder when individuals are unable to form organic personal interactions.
A well-crafted icebreaker gently eases a group into an overall purpose of the workshop. The more the individuals relax and interact, the more willing they are to engage and contribute throughout the session.
In a nutshell, a great icebreaker kicks off a great session.
Having said that, crafting and executing a well-designed icebreaker is tricky. Everyone has a story about icebreakers that have gone wrong – they were either boring, cliché, or awkward. It’s a sure-fire way for participants to become disengaged or disinterested in the workshop.
For a facilitator, the secret to a successful icebreaker session lies in the preparation. This is where Remotings steps in.
At Remotings, we are experts on remote working! We recommend using our online whiteboard platform to host your workshops on. Our aim is to help you make remote workshops fun and easy. Open a board here to try Remotings out, no card or sign up required!
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when designing an icebreaker session. Let’s get into it with some of Remoting’s tried and tested icebreakers!
1. Think about your objectives?
A crucial step in preparing an icebreaker is figuring out the clear objectives for the session. For example, if you aim to improve teamwork, then the objective could resemble something along the lines of:
- To create a relaxed working environment that supports high engagement/participation in small groups.
With clear objectives, the fun part can begin – designing the session
Tip: Ask yourself some questions about how you’ll meet the objective
- How can you create a common sense of purpose?
- How will people become comfortable with contributing?
- How can you tie your icebreaker to the topic of the workshop?
These questions can be used as a checklist once the session has been designed.
2.Why do you need an icebreaker?
The answer to this sounds a little self-explanatory, it's typically to encourage a rapport between participants and have a great start to the session.
An easy mistake to make is to take a 'one size fits all' approach to picking an icebreaker. To ensure your icebreaker is appropriate and relevant, you must first establish the ‘ice’ that needs breaking.
For example, if you are bringing new individuals together, you will require a different icebreaker than if you were facilitating a session with teams that have worked together previously.
Let’s break down some ‘ice’
1. New team members (Getting to know each other)
A room full of strangers can be a little daunting. For participants, it’s difficult to kickstart conversations and fully settle into the groove of a workshop without knowing everyone’s names, backgrounds, or interests to form commonalities. Facilitating this introduction is key to creating a better work environment, work results, and hopefully interpersonal relationships.
- Whose story is it?: Begin this icebreaker by writing your weirdest true story on a piece of paper. The facilitator randomly reads every story and the group must guess who the writer is.
Tip: This icebreaker is perfect for new teams as well as familiarised teams that have worked together for a while.
- Just one lie: This is an adaptation of the well-known ‘2 truths and a lie’. Participants are encouraged to interact with each other noting down answers to questions on a post-it. Everyone must include a lie among the facts they tell each other. The result is a board full of interesting facts about the participants and the guesswork can begin to find out which is the lie.
Tip: This is a great icebreaker that works perfectly whether in person or remotely. It can also be completed at the beginning of the workshop or intermittently throughout the workshop.
2. Team building
Bringing individuals together for a common goal is not an easy task. The right icebreaker prompts participants to work together before the session begins. The participants become accustomed to each other and share ideas which minimise the opportunity for awkwardness or friction when teamwork is a main feature of the session.
In essence, it is a pilot of your session.
- These are a few of my favourite things: This is a great collaborative exercise wherein participants are encouraged to list their favourite thing about a particular topic. Participants can upload pictures of their favourite thing including a short description to the group.
Tip: To relate the icebreaker to the rest of the workshop, the facilitator can pick a topic that is aligned with the goal of the meeting.
Dragons Den: As the title suggests, this activity is based on the popular show dragons’ den. Participants are encouraged to get into groups and come up with new ideas, features or products for their companies. They can then present their ideas to the whole team, with the best idea winning a prize.
3. New topics or projects
If you are introducing a new topic or new project, it is crucial to gauge how familiar your team is with the subject. This particularly beneficial for facilitators as they can decide how to set the pace and difficulty level of the session.
- Word Association: Pick a word that is central to the purpose of the workshop. Have participants write down words that they associate with it, creating a word cloud of their thoughts and ideas. This activity allows the team to then share expectations and fears.
- Trivia game: This is a tried and tested but fun way to test the general knowledge of the team about the main topic of the workshop.
Tip: It’s worth mirroring the same activity at the end of the session so know if the session has been successful.
3. What are your specific needs?
Once you figure out your objectives, and why you need an icebreaker, the key to executing it successfully, is not to forget about the extraneous variables that are specific to your session.
Let's take a quick look at a few of them!
The size of the group (small): The group size is important when designing an icebreaker. Activities that are perfect for a group that has less than 10 participants will not be appropriate for a workshop that has over 50 participants.
- Interviews: Participants can break off into groups of two to talk about themselves. This can last for 2mins and then each individual can present information about the other to the group. Interviews are perfect for small groups.
Time: The amount of time allocated for a session is a practical concern to have when thinking about an icebreaker. If facilitators have an abundance of time, they can pick activities that encourage deep interactions and conversations. This however is not always the case and it is important to remain aware of this planning a session. If you have less than 10mins for an icebreaker, it narrows your choices to options that suit your objectives and reasons for an icebreaker.
- If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?: This is perfect for virtual teams. The facilitator could put an image of the world on the whiteboard and each participant can put their name on the part of the world they would rather be. It’s a quick, visual, and fun way to kick off a session.
Group dynamics: When choosing your icebreaker, be conscious of your group dynamic. Your activity mustn't make anyone feel uncomfortable. Participants must not feel forced to reveal extremely personal information or participate in a stressful environment. Additionally, the activity chosen will differ if the group consists of individuals that are all on the same middle management level compared to a group mixed with both middle management and upper-level management.
- Little known fact: Participants are asked to share their name, department, and role in an organization as well as a little-known fact about themselves. This little-known fact forms a commonality between participants that breaks down differences such as status or hierarchy in future interactions.
A well-designed icebreaker should be fun, relevant, and personal. They develop personal interactions which are key to building positive work relationships. Perfecting icebreakers can be tricky but with Remotings tips and examples you’re well on your way to designing the ‘perfect’ icebreaker.