Ice Breakers- How and Why to Use Them!

Everyone has had anxiety over teaching a new class or delivering a new workshop. All those new faces and all these people you have never met before; will they open up with one another and you? Or will they sit there, staring at you with that dazed look in their eyes, causing you to worry or doubt every word that comes out of your mouth?

Wow! That’s a lot of pressure and stress. You don’t need to worry. You can easily integrate an icebreaker to help with those concerns. Ice breakers can be anything from a simple getting to know you or a more complex exercise that helps people learn right from the beginning of your class or workshop.

Ice breakers help participants relax, and generally set the tone for the presentation.  They will soon be more receptive to listening and contributing. An ice breaker can also serve to motivate participants to share more with others.  Ice breakers can take various forms but those that seem the most popular and effective are those that promote interaction and sharing.

In order for an ice breaker to be effective:

  1. It must employ content appropriate to the group as well as be appropriately timed.
  2. It should not be too long otherwise it might sabotage the more serious work of the meeting.
  3. It should occur at the beginning of the meeting or speech.
Following are three samples of quick and easy ice breakers that can be used at the beginning of your presentations.
  1. True or False:  Participants say three things about themselves – two should be true and one false.  Other participants guess which is the lie.  The person who guesses correctly, goes next.
  2. Objectives: Ask everyone to identify two questions they hope to have answered during the presentation or session, allow them a few minutes to discuss in small groups. Then in the large group select “volunteers” to ask the questions or identify objectives. Track questions on board to reference throughout class. If appropriate, track questions that will not be answered in the presentation and follow-up with the individual.
  3. Take What You Need:  A roll of toilet tissue is passed around the room.  Ask everyone to take what they need.  Once everyone has their “supply,” ask the group to tell as many things about themselves as they have tissue squares. You could ask them to make the information shared center around the topic of the discussion or presentation, if applicable.
As you can see by these examples, ice breakers do not have to be difficult to be effective. Allowing participants to get to know one another and you briefly at the beginning of your presentation can enhance everyone’s learning experience.
For more information and examples of ice breakers click the following links: