Why use an icebreaker?
Icebreakers are a great tool for launching collaborative sessions. They open the channels of communication, and help put people at ease by giving everyone a chance to contribute.
The value of icebreakers doesn’t stop there. They help set the tone for a session. They let the facilitator model collaborative behavior. They can also establish common ground between participants which helps foster spaces in which people are happy to share.
A good icebreaker should be so simple that people can respond almost instantly. They aim to get a response rather than a right answer. Icebreakers should be inclusive. They should apply to everyone in the group so they all get the chance to contribute positively.
Everything that’s said during an icebreaker can help build a connection. That’s why asking people to explain their input is giving them a chance to connect. The best thing about these new connections is that they start a conversational momentum that carries over into the session itself.
In short, icebreakers help focus and engage a group to ensure they get the most out of their collaborative session.
Our icebreaker templates to help build connections
- House Rules Create a safe conversational space where a set of agreed rules can be agreed upon.
- Photo Wall A colorful, creative collage that lets participants share a friendly fact or two about themselves by way of some conversation starter questions.
- Two Truths and One Lie A fun and creative way to have participants interact with each other while discovering a fact each is happy to share.
- Where in the World? A way for people to share a bit of where they are located or where they are from and perhaps to learn something about the area.
Tips for running effective icebreakers
What is the House Rules icebreaker?
The House Rules icebreaker is a group activity that translates each participant’s expectations into a set of rules the group agrees to follow. The rules apply specifically to that group in order for them to engage with the task at hand.
Each set of rules will differ from group to group. This is because they will reflect the expectations and preferences of the ‘House’, that is, the individuals that contributed to them.
The House Rules icebreaker doesn’t require participants to share personal details. Instead, it uses the commonality of group membership to springboard into discussion. This makes it an ideal icebreaker for more formal environments, or for groups that are wary of more creative warm-ups.
Why do a House Rules icebreaker?
The House Rules icebreaker offers two valuable outcomes from one simple activity. As well as the benefits of an icebreaker, this exercise creates a set of guidelines for the group to follow throughout the session that will follow.
The rules make clear what is expected of each participant as well as what they can expect of others. The collaborative process used to shape the rules means participants have a sense of ownership of the guidelines they are following. This increases the likelihood of the rules being followed.
Such rules are a useful reference point for a facilitator. As well as gaining insight into how the group wishes to work, the rules give the facilitator permission to politely enforce them. For example, if the rules include timeboxing conversations, the facilitator may bring discussions to a close once the time limit is reached. Such an action isn’t a reflection of a topic or an individual; it’s just a result of the agreed rules, and it’s therefore unlikely to cause offense.
House Rules icebreaker template
Who should use an icebreaker?
Anyone who wishes to get more out of their collaborative, meeting, workshop or lesson. This could be because there is a new group of people, or there is a new person to the team. It can also be used to encourage at least everyone saying something at a meeting and to help overcome any initial fears.
Icebreakers are a proven way of supporting engagement and focus. As such they should be used by:
- Workshop practitioners
In short, anyone overseeing group interaction who is looking to support that group’s effectiveness would benefit from their use.
How to run an icebreaker
An icebreaker helps to set the scene for the session that follows, so it’s important for a facilitator to begin as they wish to go on.
When it comes to online sessions, there are a variety of tools to help. Screen sharing software, video conferencing and online collaboration tools such as GroupMap allow facilitators to deliver inclusive icebreakers.
GroupMap’s icebreaker templates are deliberately simple in design. This is because most of the time spent during the icebreaker should be spent talking and getting to know each other. Besides just a simple poll that means people simply get lost in a stack of numbers, these ice breakers questions are non-threatening and allow each person to share freely without fear. There is no wrong answers.
Online Icebreakers can also be used to make sure participants know how to use the collaboration tool, add comments, images and ideas, check everyone is able to access the software.
Add input to the template.
Explain the input and why it was included.
Offer the group with a summary of what is about to happen, making it clear that the icebreaker is in addition to the collaborative session.
Make expectations clear. Outline the role played by the facilitator, then outline the input participants are invited to offer.
Assure everyone there are no right or wrong answers.
If there are no questions, participants add their responses and images into the template.
Save effort, time and money with GroupMap
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