As a meeting planner, it is important to ensure that the meeting gets off to a good start. A so-called 'ice breaker' can help you to do this. Among other things, an ice breaker can lighten the mood, create a sense of community and introduce the key theme of your meeting or event.
Before starting an ice breaker exercise it is important to consider what kind of 'ice' needs breaking and what the exercise is meant to promote and achieve. Perhaps its aim is to introduce the delegates to each other and to create a positive mood from the beginning?
Here are three examples of ice breaker exercises for various purposes, which can be easily performed before the start of the meeting, either inside or outside the meeting room:
ICE BREAKER: My morning
Purpose: To introduce the delegates and create a positive mood
Time: Approx. 5 - 7 minutes
Number of people: +2
How to proceed:
- Ask the delegates to find a partner at random
- The partner explains what his/her morning has involved (from waking up to the present moment). When did you wake up? What did you eat? How did you travel here? What happened on the way, and who was involved?
- Repeat the exercise several times with new partners, if time and mood permit.
The newly renovated Radisson Blu Hotel in Tromsø has plenty of space for ice breaker exercises, either in or outside the meeting room.
ICE BREAKER: Dialogue cards
Purpose: To create a positive mood, introduce the delegates and do a short, 'light' preparation of the subject of the meeting
Time: Approx. 5 - 15 minutes
Number of people: 20-200
Materials: Cards with short texts formulated as questions – which may be a mixture of personal and professional questions. For example: What excites your curiosity? What would make you become a customer of X? From whom can we learn?
Approximately 30 different dialogue cards should be prepared, depending on the number of delegates. The same text may be repeated so that 3-4 versions of the same card may be used.
How to proceed:
- Give one card to each delegate
- Ask the delegates to find a random partner – and introduce themselves
- Ask the delegates to pose the question on the card to their partner, and vice versa
- Exchange cards with your partner
- Find a new partner and ask him/her the question on the card, which you answered in the previous round
- Repeat the exercise 4-5 times in new pairs, if time and mood permit
ICE BREAKER: The wish list
Time: Approx. 10 - 20 minutes
Number of people: 6-100
Materials: pen and paper for all delegates
How to proceed:
- Ask everyone to write down the three things they most want to take away from the day
- After 2-3 minutes, ask everyone to stand up and find a partner. They should now introduce themselves and share their wish lists. After 3-4 minutes, ask everyone to find a new partner and repeat the exercise.
- Ask everyone to return to their seats. Ask people to form groups of 2-6 people (or a number that suits the seating arrangement) and discuss the wish lists. Give them five minutes to ascertain which are the three wishes that recur most often.
- Ask 3-4 groups what their findings were.
This article was written in collaboration with Ann Hansen, a meeting designer, facilitator and consultant, concept+competence.