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12 tried-and-tested ice-breakers

By JACKIE BARRIE Published 24th Jul 2013
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Here are some tried and tested ideas that trainers can use to break the ice and set the scene for an effective training course. They may be fun, but it’s best to pick one that has some relevance to the learning.

  1. Pass the parcel
    (Needs some preparation. Particularly good at Christmas time.)

    Like the children’s party game, but with a question to be answered in each layer of the parcel to be unwrapped when the music stops. They can be business questions such as "Describe your ideal client" or social such as "Tell us about your best ever holiday". You can also put little prizes in each layer, such as sweets, with a bigger prize in the middle.
  2. Networking bingo
    (Also needs some preparation.)

    In advance, prepare a bingo sheet. Down the left hand side, list 20 characteristics of the people you expect to attend, e.g. ‘solicitor’ or ‘has blue eyes’. Leave a corresponding space down the right hand column. The categories can be as serious or silly as you wish. Print enough so there is a bingo sheet for everyone.

    On the day, tell people they have 10 minutes to collect as many signatures as they can on their bingo sheet. Take a whistle or gong to sound ‘time’. Each person can only sign once on any page, and they can't sign their own. The first person to collect 20 different signatures and shout ‘bingo’ wins the prize (or give it to the person with the most signatures when time is up).
  3. Warm fuzzies
    (A good way of breaking a big group into smaller ones.)

    Buy a selection of fuzzy balls from a craft shop. Everyone takes a fuzzy ball when they arrive – this creates a nice sense of anticipation. On your instruction, they have to find the other people in the room with the same size and colour balls (which is always good for a laugh).
  4. Key words
    (Another way to mix a big group into random small groups.)

    Put an index card on each person's chair with a keyword written on it. The key words should be in groups, such as things to do with hamburgers, superhero names or soap stars. When you say so, people have to find the others in the matching group.
  5. Animal magic
    (Yet another way to create smaller groups.)

    Write animal names on index cards. Everyone picks a card at random and then has to find their companions just by making the noise of that animal.
  6. Snowball fight
    (A favourite, whatever the weather.)

    Each person writes a fascinating fact about themselves on a blank piece of paper. They then screw the paper into a ‘snowball’ and everyone throws them to each other. When you say stop, everyone ends up with one snowball each. You open yours first and read the fact. The others have to guess who that person is. That person then opens their paper and so it goes on until all the facts are claimed.
  7. Categories
    (Works best with people who know each other slightly.)

    Ask a defining question such as “If you were an animal what would you be and why?” Go round the table and everyone has to answer in turn.
  8. Truth or lies
    (Also works for people who already know each other.)

    Invite each person to say three things about themselves. Two must be true and the other a lie. The rest have to guess the lie.
  9. Pig personality profile

    Ask each participant to draw a pig on a Post-it note. When they've finished, stick them all on the flipchart as a gallery for everyone to admire. The interpretation of the drawings is a bit of fun. You can download the PDF, here.
  10. Name game

    Ask each person to introduce themselves plus an alliterative adjective that describes them, such as Awesome Annie. You can turn this into a memory game where each person has to repeat all the names and adjectives that have gone before as well as introducing themselves.

    Or invite everyone to introduce themselves with their real name and their film star name. Your film star name comprises the name of your first pet plus the road where you live. (Don’t use mother’s maiden name for security reasons.)
  11. Fascinating facts

    Pass round a roll of toilet paper. Everyone takes as many pieces as they like - then they have to tell the group a number of facts about themselves equal to the number of sheets they took.
  12. Tangled

    The group forms a large circle. Everyone should hold hands with two other people across the circle. When there are no free hands, you break the link between two people and the group has to untangle themselves into a line - without talking.

Have you tried or experienced any of these icebreakers? Do you have other ideas for successful icebreakers? If yes, please add them in the comments. Thank you.

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