How to Use Ice Breakers

As the name implies, ice breakers are interactive activities which are meant to ‘break the ice’ during meetings or events. Such activities come in handy especially when dealing with people who don’t know each other very well. They are every useful especially when starting a team building or training session. Having an ice breaking session before the main proceedings helps people to relax and get to know each other. However, when poorly facilitated, such sessions can end up being embarrassing and a waste of time. For an ice breaking session to be successful, it needs to have a specific goal. In addition, it should be comfortable and appropriate for all the people involved.

You could consider using ice breakers when:

  • Interacting with new team members
  • Discussing unfamiliar or new topics
  • Dealing with people from varied backgrounds

The following are some categories of ice breakers, each designed to meet different goals:

Introductory ice breakers

These are ideal when you want participants to introduce themselves. Here are some examples:

  • Interviews – Divide the participants into twos and then ask each of them to find out some things about their partner. This could be their name, nickname, birthday and occupation. After a few minutes, reconvene the group and ask each one to introduce their partner to the group
  • Little known fact – Request participants to say their name and position in the company, and then share a little known fact about themselves
  • Adjective – When introducing themselves, ask participants to add an adjective that describes them in front of their name. ‘Dazzling Damaris’, ‘Flamboyant Frank’ and ‘Charming Charles’ are a few examples

Problem solving ice breakers

Such ice breakers come in very handy when you are at the initial stages of building a team. They help people develop trust and begin making progress towards common goals.

  • Charades – This is an activity which focuses on how people can communicate effectively and solve problems. Divide the participants into teams of 5-7 members. Get one representative from each team and give them the name of a person, place or object. Ask them to use actions to get their team members to guess what the word is. The first team to get the answer wins.
  • Treasure hunt – This activity works best outdoors. Divide participants into groups and ask them to find several objects hidden at different locations. Give them some clues to assist them in their treasure hunt

Topic exploration ice breakers

These can be very useful for engaging participants when discussing specific topics.

  • Word association – This enables people to have an in-depth understanding of the topic in question. Share with participants a word related to your topic. For instance, in a technology workshop, ask participants what comes to mind when they hear the word ‘innovation’. They might mention ‘creativity’, ‘invention’ or ‘idea’. Take note of all these suggestions and incorporate them in your discussion.
  • Q & A – Question and answer sessions give participants the opportunity to ask for clarification where something was not clear. You can use this as a chance to discuss issues in greater detail. In addition, such questions can be used to improve your presentation in future

There are numerous other ways of breaking ice. The key is to ensure that the activity selected is one which everyone can participate in.


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