Icebreakers are training games that will build trust and provide a contextual learning opportunity in your training while generating lots of fun.

Icebreakers are training games

Icebreaking

that trainers play to :

  • Make introductions in trainings interesting.
  • Help participants to remember each other well.
  • Provide forgetful participants a variety of ways to remember the names of their colleagues
  • Enhance the fun factor in learning the names of colleagues.
  • Make diffident people - the endangered species in an organisation - comfortable and confident to interact with others. (Do you remember any such incident when the trainer made you feel comfortable? Share you story with us in the form at the end of this page).
  • Provides opportunity to particpants to gain and hone their listening skills. A very important skill in an organisation. Effective listening makes for excellent interpersonal skills which inturn increases productivity.
  • Provides participants the opportunity to learn to communicate effectively both verbally and non-verbally. Once again a very important set of skills to become an effective communicator.
  • Creates an atmosphere for collaborative learning.

Refer to the Training Games page for some basic rules on facilitation

Refer to Introductions Icebreaker for a brand new Icebreaker

Let's now look at the first of the icebreakers on this page.

Icebreaker 1: Card game: NEW

1. Have the participants stand in a circle around a table. On the table put down cards - photographs or old greeting cards or picture cards.

2. Each participant has to pick up a card and identify the theme or the emotion in the picture and introduce themselves keeping that particular theme or emotion in mind.

3. For example if the picture shows a happy scene and the participant identifies the theme as 'happiness', the introduction would be something like this: 'The theme is happiness. I am .... I am a happy person. I find it difficult to stay serious for long hours at a time'

4. This way everyone takes time to introduce themselves.

Icebreaker 2: Adjective game:

1. Everybody is going to take turns - go round robin - in saying their names preceded by adjectives for themselves. The condition is that the adjectives will begin with the same letter as their first names. For instance if I am a participant, when it is my turn to introduce myself, I would say 'lovely Leena'.

2. Add a twist to the game. From the second person onwards, the introduction will be preceded by the repeating the introduction of the first person. For instance if the person before me introduced herself as 'Pretty Pia', I will introduce myself as 'pretty Pia', 'lovely Leena'. Clarifying further, if there were four people ahead of me, I would introduce myself after I have repeated their introductions of themselves. This might look like 'beautiful Betty', 'gorgeous Gina', 'pretty Pia' 'lovely Leena'.

3. Complicate the game further. The introductions will take place while all participants are clapping. The clapping continues till all participants have introduced themselves. This forces participants to listen carefully while enjoying themselves.

Let's look at the third of the icebreakers

Icebreaker 3: Find a person who...:

This is played with a questionnaire.

When participants are not familiar with each other a questionnaire with a list of 10 questions is given to each participant. The participant is expected to find as many participants as possible who fit the descriptions in the list.

As they find people who fit the bill they have to write their names against the question. One name cannot be repeated across questions. Each participant has to go around asking these question from as many participants as possible. Participants cannot loudly volunteer information. Answers have to be furnished in one-to-one mode.

Sample questions for this training game.

Find a Person Who…another training game.

1. Has the same zodiac sign as yours.
2. Participated in a TV show.
3. Plays a musical instrument.
4. Has drawn water from a well.
5. Writes / has written articles for magazines
6. Loves to sing
7. Has an insect for a pet.
8. Has been to a foreign country.
9. Has reading as a hobby.
10. Has called up for participation in a game show.

Let's look at the fourth of the Icebreakers.

Icebreaker 4: Spider web

This game is played with a ball of wool. The first person keeps one end of the wool in her hand introduces herself and gives one piece of information about herself that she believes is unusual.She then throws the ball of wool to any other person in the circle. The second person in turn holds the string does a similatr self-introduction and throws the ball again.

Finally a spider web is formed with the wool. After every one has finished, the web is unraveled by backtracking. The person who throws the ball of wool back recalls the name of the person to whom the ball of wool is thrown back.

Let's look at the fifth of the Icebreakers.

Icebreaker 5: 'Pop the question'

As participants walk in they are asked to deposit two-three personal but common knick-knacks like rings (not wedding rings), pens, watches etc. into a tray, with the assurance that they will get it back within an hour's time.

When the session starts the participants are asked to go to the tray and pick up three knick-knacks that do not belong to them. Having done that they have to go around and find the three people to whom the knick-knacks belong.

In the process they have to find the name of the person they are talking to before popping the question of whether the knick-knack belongs to the person or not. This way participants will get to know at least four or five people.

Let's look at the sixth of the Icebreakers.

Icebreaker 6: 'Grounding'

Grounding is a special kind of an icebreaker, which allows for easy introductions, as well as provides adequate information to the facilitator about the nature of the group and their training needs.

Grounding is ideally done in circle formation, where all members, the facilitator as well as any officials are seated in a circle. Nobody has a desk in front of them. The circle by its very nature does not have a 'head', as such the power is equalized.

This activity and this arrangement is especially suitable if the group is resolving a conflict or if you are aware of some rifts in the group.

The facilitator begins the process by providing an overview of activities of the group throughout the session. This is followed by stating the questions that all members of the group are expected to answer in their turn.

The questions usually are:

1. What's your name?

2. What's your role in the organisation?

3. How do you feel? (right then in the group)

4. What are your expectations of the day's session? / What hot spots would you like to see addressed by the end of the day?

The facilitator answers these same questions briefly, thus providing a model to the rest of the group about the length of the answers and their specificity. Any member should not spend more than a minute to answer these questions.

The facilitator should listen to each member, i.e., meet their eyes, not look away, not get distracted by other events in the room. The facilitator is expected to make a mental note of the responses of all the participants. If you have colleague in the group, ask the colleague to make brief notes of all responses - especially the responses to the last two questions.

After the facilitator, the person next to the facilitator takes her turn to answer the same questions. Like this each person takes her turn to answer the question in a round robin fashion until everyone finishes their turn. Good modeling ensures that the process takes not more than half-an-hour to finish, with a group of 30 to 35 participants.

Once everyone has answered the questions, it's the facilitator's turn again to round this activity of by debriefing it for the group. Use the following steps to do so:

1. Why is it called grounding? Draw parallels to the concept of grounding in installing electrical fittings, which ensures the safety of appliances and users. The last two questions by their nature - that they access feelings and facts are similar to the positive and the negative of electricity, in that they access two opposite ends of the spectrum of brain activity.

2. It is whole-brained activity. The grounding questions of feelings and facts ensure that the person in the group is participating wholly and not just partly. The feelings question addresses the right side of a person's brain and the facts question addresses the left side of a person's brain.

The right-brained question forces the member to address a feeling, whether negative or positive, and understand that s/he comes to the workplace with feelings and not divorced from them. It is a myth that it is possible for one to leave feelings at home.

In fact most reactions in a workplace are not thought through responses. Rather, they are emotionally charged and are reactionary. Acceptance of emotions leads one to use them to one's advantage and not allow one to be drained of energy as it triggers emotional responses rather than intelligent ones.

The left-brained question forces the person to set expectations from the session and focus their activities to achieve these expectations throughout the session. This is an involuntary brain process, set-off by the individuals answer to this question.

3. Brings participants into the Here and the Now: The feelings question allows participants to address the reason for their feelings, take stock and put it aside, so as to focus on the task at hand. In the absence of this step, the event that triggered the feeling, plays and replays like a film in the person's mind and stops them from interacting with the current situation.

4. Address the common and the uncommon expectations of the group by reiterating the objective of the session and how it has been tailored to meet them. When uncommon expectations are not going to be met by the objective of the session, take this opportunity to highlight that mismatch. This way the members are prepared as to what they can expect from the session.

5. Creates a verbal territory: Talk about how the process of grounding allows members to create a verbal territory of their own, thus setting the stage for confident participation during the session.

Help them recall, that the general run-of-the-mill seminars or trainings have one person talking down to them, while their role is just to listen, until the Q&A session starts. Then too only a few members of the group tend to dominate.

Most people do not talk in a group setting because, they are nervous about how they will sound in a group, or about the reactions to their statements.

The grounding activity allows members to create their own verbal territory and become acquainted with their own voice and how it sounds when they speak out in a group. This facilitates them to participate and contribute in all group activities that follow.

6. Provides a norm for respectful listening. More often than not when a person has something to say in a group setting, somebody else, usually an extrovert, tends to jump in with a related thought, thus hijacking the conversation. The speaker never gets to complete his/her statement.

In grounding, each person is given uninterrupted attention and thus a unique opportunity to learn to listen presents itself. Highlighting this quality of the activity ensures that the norm of respectful listening is set well ahead of time and the group follows it throughout the remaining parts of the session.

7. Provides initial information to the facilitator on the emphasis that the group is looking for, the issues that participants could be facing, such as physical illness, frustration, or anger etc. This will give the facilitator an inkling about the quality of participation she can expect from the group. This will allow her to tweak the process to cater to these various needs.

After you have made these points you can continue with the rest of your training.

Let's look at the seventh of the Icebreakers.

Icebreaker 7: Alphabetical order + grounding

Participants usually sit in cliques. Before starting grounding, you can use the alphabetical order energizer (See the process here) to subtly break up these cliques and get them to sit in a circle in random order. Once they are in a circle, conduct the grounding activity.

Let's look at the eighth of the Icebreakers.

Icebreaker 8: Greeting Circle

1. Divide the participants into two groups and get them to stand in two concentric circles.

2. Ask the inner circle to turn around and face the outer circle.

3. Each person in the inner circle should have a partner in the outer circle facing them.

4. The tasks for people in both the circles are:

a. To greet the person facing them.

b. Carry on a conversation with them on any subject until they hear the signal (which is pre-set as a clap or a whistle, something loud enough to prompt them to do the next step in the greeting circle process).

c. On hearing the signal, the inner circle members move to their right and face the next person in the outer circle.

d. Steps a and b are repeated

5. The process goes on until each person has greeted at least four different people.

The learnings from this ice-breaker are then highlighted in the debrief.

Icebreaker 9: Frame It!

An introduction with a difference! Useful when participants already know each other. Ask the participant to frame a question aloud for the group to answer. The answer to that question should be the participant's name.

An example: If I had to frame the question and my name is Leena, then I would put the question to the group which goes like this: "It is a homophone of 'lean' and ends with the sound 'ar'. What's my name?". The answer of course is Leena.

Icebreaker 10: Frame It in Pairs!

This is a variation of the Icebreaker 9. Ask the participants to pair up and frame question for their partner. The question is put to the group and the answer to that question is their partner's name.

Both the above games are lots of fun as questions have to be as unique as the names. They are also a great exercise to practice questioning skills in language classes. Enjoy playing them! Return to Training Games

Have you had an unforgettable experience when a trainer made it easy for you to participate? Share your experience below

How were you made to feel comfortable?

Very often in workshops most people are uncomfortable and hesitate to speak up or speak out. They feel endangered. You have probably felt the same. Do you remember what the trainer or the facilitator did to make you feel comfortable? Share your experience here. This will help us design better activities to involve participants in trainings. Take this opportunity and give feedback to trainer.

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