How to Use an Effective Ice Breaker

Icebreakers can be a great way to start a meeting, training session, or group discussion, as they help to set the tone for the presentation.  They can help in relaxing the participants, which then makes them more receptive to listening and participating.  Ice breakers can also be a fun and interactive way to help participants meet one another and buy into the purpose of the presentation.  When an ice breaker is well-planned and well-facilitated, it can really help get your presentation off to a great start.  Here are a few important tips and tricks for making sure your ice breaker is effective.

Decide What “Ice” Needs to be Broken

When designing your ice breaker, it is important to think about what “ice” you are breaking, or what you are trying to achieve.  Are you simply trying to bring people together who haven’t met?  Are you bringing together people from different levels within the organization to find a commonality?  Are you bringing together people from different cultural backgrounds and trying to help them gain a new perspective?  Once you have defined the “ice,” the key to a successful ice breaker is focusing on an activity that will meet your objective. 

Make Sure it Relates to Your Presentation

A good ice breaker reinforces the content that will be addressed during the presentation.   For example, if you are presenting at a team-building activity your ice breaker should somehow incorporate teamwork and demonstrate the importance of working cohesively.  Likewise, if you are presenting on the importance of communication in the workplace, your ice breaker should require participants to communicate effectively with one another.  An ice breaker will be most effective when it can be tied to the presentation itself.  This helps to reinforce the point that you will be making during the presentation.

Keep it Simple

Simplicity is everything when it comes to designing an effective ice breaker.  The activity needs to be easy to explain, understand, and do.  It also needs to be relatively short.  An activity that is too lengthy will lose its luster and can also detract from your presentation.

Have a Little Fun

Don’t be afraid to get creative and have a little fun with your ice breaker activity.  After all, meetings and presentations are often boring and stagnant, so your participants will appreciate the lighthearted spirit that it brings. You might even consider using props, as this can really help to inspire creativity and make your presentation more memorable.

Examples of Effective Ice Breakers

The Little Known Fact: For this activity participants will share their name, department or role in the company, length of service, and one unique or little known fact about themselves.  This interesting fact becomes humanizing and helps make them relatable to other participants. 

Problem Solvers: Break the participants into small groups.  Give them a problem scenario and a short amount of time to come up with a solution.  Once they have prepared their answer, have them present it to the rest of the group.

Q&A:  Break the participants into small groups andask a question such as “What characteristic do you value most in a coworker?” Give the groups a few minutes to share amongst each other and then share some of the answers with the entire group.

The Marshmallow Challenge:  For this activity, participants will need to be broken up into groups of about 4-5.  Each group should be given 20 sticks of spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, 1 yard of string, and one marshmallow.  Ask them to build the tallest freestanding structure they can.  Just sit back and see what happens.  This is a great team-building activity and is also a great example of how to incorporate props.

Just One Word: This simple ice breaker couldn’t get any easier.  Simply break your participants into small groups and ask them a very simple question such as “What one word best describes you?”  Give them a few minutes to come up with their answers and share them among their group.  You could easily modify the question to fit with the theme of your presentation. 

Beyond fun, ice breakers are an effective tool for engaging audience members and breaking down any barriers that might exist between them.  They are a great way to kick off a meeting or presentation and can even serve as a way to help employees better communicate with one another.  When used effectively, ice breakers can be just the thing to take your presentation to the next level.