Icebreakers

5 Rules to Ensure Your Icebreakers Don’t Become Icemakers

April 27, 2017
Written by: Georgie Mann

 

It’s your first team meeting with your new colleagues and you are wanting to be seen in the best possible light, but the team leader has other ideas. Handed a toothpick and a mini doughnut, you have the unfortunate task to get up close and personal by having to pass it, without using your hands and place it on someone else’s toothpick. Sound familiar? Well maybe not that one, but we have all experienced a particularly cringe-making ‘break the ice’ scenario. Thankfully the craze for whacky ‘get to know you’ icebreakers is waning.
icebreakers

Rule 1: Don’t embarrass your employees, it will backfire.

Whether you love them or hate them, get the icebreakers right and your meetings, training or conferences will get off to a flying start. Icebreakers can quickly build camaraderie and get the group energy flowing. The best ones encourage discussion, break down barriers, and build trust among the participants.  But how to do that without causing offence, being boring or just causing excruciating embarrassment?

Of all the many types, team quizzes are often the most well received. If the facilitators are also good, they will be able to get everyone quickly relaxed and into the spirit of the game. Smiling faces, engagement and lots of laughter ensues almost immediately whenever we do these.

The mark of a good icebreaker, is one where the engagement and contribution of participants is high. Our clients’ feedback that after our team building ice breakers, peoples’ interaction is significantly higher. They are often surprised that the shyest employees become much more talkative and willing to put forward their ideas. This results in the event becoming substantially more productive.

Rule No 2: Don’t mistake party games for good business icebreakers. Professionalism is key here.

The real purpose of an icebreaker is often replaced with, ‘let’s do something fun to start off with.’ Veering towards party games at the beginning of your event can be a complete turn off. There’s nothing wrong with fun, in fact it should be positively encouraged, but it should not be the main reason as an opener. Choosing the right icebreaker at the right time, depends on understanding your employees and the goal. We find that ‘pure fun’ ones are great during meals or just after, when everyone is feeling a tad sluggish. Mixing in some fun with an entertaining quiz at this point, can really up the energy and vitality.

icebreaker - Green Hat People

Rule 3: Make sure your icebreakers are tailored around your business and core values.

Good icebreakers should also be tailored to fit the situation. While they should have the element of play and fun, if you fail to make them relevant, instead of warming the meeting up, it can cause a chilly atmosphere. Relying on experts whose business is gamification, will increase the chances of success. For instance, we tailor the activity by embedding corporate-specific missions. Designing them around your training needs and core values will make them more engaging.

Rule 4: Make your icebreakers bring ‘play back into learning’

Now for the science bit! There is a powerful reason to create icebreakers. It is part of human nature to want to play and handled well, it is motivating and creates interest. The energy it can unleash to launch into the core content of the event can really help.

‘The opposite of play is not work, but depression’ said Brian Sutton-Smith, an eminent Play Theorist.  It is a fact that play is everyone’s first language. Dr Stuart Brown, Founder and President of the National Institute for Play was interviewed by Be Well, Stanford University.

‘Play lights up your brain, improves your mood and connects you to the world. Taking time off to play, does not mean you shirk your responsibilities, or that you aren’t a good parent or a good productive citizen. In fact, it’s just the opposite: your level of agitation drops when you get playful, which tends to increase perseverance and mastery. Play has a real payoff.’

For a real fun icebreaker, maybe over dinner, a music challenge is a real winner. In ours, the key to winning is good group work and as all the major music genres are covered, it ensures everyone in a diverse team can contribute.

Rule 5: Let the Experts Design and Run your Icebreaker sessions

Well we would say that wouldn’t we? While it may seem easy to google ‘team building icebreakers’ and have a go at running your own, do consider this. We often hear of how misjudged icebreakers, especially at the start, soured the whole event. How many times have you attended a meeting and rolled your eyes at the mention of an icebreaker? Using experts with a proven track record, can help maximise the impact of the whole event.

You don’t need to let well-meaning team leaders continue to use uncomfortable icebreakers. In business, it’s difficult to walk the line between getting people to engage, whilst keeping it professional. Here is one example that on the face of it looks fairly benign, it’s called the ‘I like me because…’ game.

Everyone pairs up, with each person taking a turn. For two minutes, each person states the reasons why they like themselves. Meanwhile, the listener is not allowed to say anything.

Discomfort is practically guaranteed, as the 2 minutes seem to go on forever. Many people are uneasy when they’re asked to talk about themselves. For others, two minutes isn’t long enough to explain why they’re so great. For one it’s torture; for the other it’s a chance to let loose their rather large egos. Whoever the listener is, they must either put up with painful silences or boring self-praise.

Green Hat People can run your perfect icebreakers from anywhere and we can incorporate your own questions. You can rely on our staff to take care of everything, using our pre-programmed computer tablets on site. We help you create great memories and powerful team work. We have many clients who have said that our icebreakers were the highlight of their event. Book a free online demonstration here.

Share your best and worst icebreaker moments in the comments below.

Possible Ice Melting Resources and Sources: 

10-minute icebreaker based on finding 10 things you have in common with other employees in your group by Susan Heathfield

Be Well, Neuroscience Stanford University article

Govloop’s ‘Your Guide to Icebreakers for Meetings

For those interested in icebreakers for meeting strangers – The TED talk speaker and TED book  author Davy Rothbart  for 100 of his top icebreaking questions ‘How did you end up here?’

Or his TED interview

100 icebreakers for talks with strangers: A Q&A with TED Book author Davy Rothbart