We've all heard the term icebreakers and probably cringe a little bit because we've sat in the rooms where we've had to conjure up one interesting thing about ourselves and probably hated every minute of it. In the process of despising icebreakers, we lost sight of what they can do for us. I'm here to bring back icebreakers in a non-cringe way and remind us of why icebreakers can be the perfect addition to your meeting, training, keynote, or retreat, starting with a few things to remember and steer clear of.
Icebreakers set the tone for what to expect in the meeting or training. They tell the group that you're looking for their input and also can clarify the vibe of the meeting or training. If you're talking about something that could be often perceived as high stakes, like "giving feedback" for example, you might consider adding a light-hearted icebreaker to... quite literally, break the room's tension.
Icebreakers can absolutely set the tone for the room leader, but they also break the ice for the participants. If you leave individuals to their comfort level of getting to know each other, you're going to have some people that crush it and can talk about their family all day long. You're also going to have individuals that don't feel comfortable talking about themselves, their family, or their personal life. A well-presented icebreaker levels the playing field for your participants, giving them a low-stakes environment to have their voice heard, without forcing them fully outside of their comfort zone. Icebreakers create safety for everyone in the room, not just the ones that already feel safe walking in.
The National Institute of Mental Health found that 75% of people are more afraid of public speaking than death. That means, when you host an icebreaker where individuals have to speak in front of a room full of people, you're asking them to public speak. The odds of over half of the room being terrified of it is highly likely. That doesn't mean that you have to scrap the icebreaker altogether. Instead, consider having individuals turn to a partner and share their answers. That way, you're still getting the room comfortable with participating, but aren't sacrificing the comfort of over half of the room in the process.
Long gone are the days of majorly boring icebreakers. Using an icebreaker that speaks to your audience, while still giving a lightness to the experience is a great way to build safety, win over your participants, and sew in comfort. Swap out the usual "Tell me something interesting about yourself" with "If you were going to get a tattoo in 30 minutes, what tattoo would you get?".
Try out one of these, or drop your favorite icebreaker below! Cheers to paving the way for better icebreakers and stronger connections.