Typically when people come together for an activity such as a meeting or a workshop, they are a bit anxious. They are filled with questions. What’s going to happen here today? What will I need to do? Will I be able to perform adequately? Will people like me?
Not only are they anxious, they are also preoccupied. They’re thinking about children at day care, work projects, or errands that will be run after work. If you are looking for some creativity from the group, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any.
Icebreakers cut through both of these distractions. They help people forget about their anxiousness and preoccupations, allowing them to focus on the task at hand.
Icebreakers come in many flavors. Some are focused on helping people quickly and easily become acquainted with one another. Others present the participants with a challenging activity that requires their full attention. Still others are just plain fun, giving people a chance to laugh and smile.
Here’s a simple icebreaker for your next meeting. It’s perfect for a group that knows each other by name, but knows little else. Give everybody a 3×5-index card. Ask each person to write down his or her favorite animal, color, food, and foreign country. Collect the cards, mix them, and then read them aloud to the group. After each card is read, ask people to write down their guess about the person that wrote the card. To add a little spark of fun, you might award a prize to the person who correctly identifies the most card authors.
People sometimes skip icebreakers because they want to immediately “get down to business.” A 5-10 minute icebreaker “investment” is rarely a waste of time. It’s a great first step on the road to a productive and creative session.
Image credit: lin padgham