How To Use Training Icebreakers That Work

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Have you ever had that waking dream where you’re standing in a training room in front of a group of delegates, and you are just not sure what icebreaker you should be using?

You’re being looked at with great intent, standing perplexed and virtually naked in lack of choices, and you’ve run out of icebreakers that you can depend on.

In fact, you haven’t a clue which one will work to achieve your goal, or at all, and as the delegates look up at your lack of options, you realize that you haven’t done the preparation that you should have.

Plus your career is linked to this moment.

Scary stuff

But, don’t worry … I am here to help.

Let me introduce you to … a complete guide on how to use training icebreakers.

Feel free to blog, tweet, email, and pass this post to others … but please do let people know where you read this guide. Thanks!

Chapter 1: What Are Training Icebreakers

Chapter 2: How To Select Icebreakers For Your Training Courses

Chapter 3: Getting To Know People (6 Step-By-Step Examples)

Chapter 4: Icebreakers Games (11 Step-By-Step Examples)

Chapter 5: Sources Of Training Games And Icebreakers Online

Chapter 6: Online Tools You Can Use Let’s dive right in.

What Are Training Icebreakers

Your icebreakers are a major part of any training session.

So, from a learning and development perspective, selecting and using great icebreakers is a critical part of any training course.

Let’s explore some interesting statistics by SkillsConverged.

  • On average, 54.4% of trainers reported using icebreakers always or almost always, but only 19.4% stated that they only use them occasionally.
  • 97.1% of respondents agreed that it was a good idea to use energisers for adult training. 77.7% reported using between 2-3 icebreakers during a day-long course.
  • 48.5% report that the typical icebreaker takes less than 10 minutes to deliver.

These statistics demonstrate the power of your icebreakers within a training setting and why trainers depend on the effectiveness of the entire piece.

As we will explore later, every use of an icebreaker is to serve a particular purpose, e.g., to energise a group, to build awareness etc.

As a result, it’s clear that if people managers and training professionals use icebreakers effectively within training settings, they will deliver results.

The more carefully selected your icebreaker, the more likely you will achieve what you want in your training session.

This post will provide clear guidance that’ll have you using icebreakers in your session in no time.

Let’s get started.

What Makes A Good Training Icebreaker?

Training icebreakers are an essential way of introducing participants to each other and reinforcing aspects of a training course or meeting. Icebreakers will ensure participants get to know each other.

Experienced professionals all know the need for icebreakers.

Want to use great icebreakers and deliver better training courses?

Start with a clear idea of the subject matter first.

Then, decide what you want an icebreaker to achieve (e.g., awareness building) and select the icebreaker you would like to use.

Why?

Your icebreaker is a tool to achieve the desired intent. Its role is to encourage your delegates to interact or learn from the content you want to deliver.

The only challenge is knowing what icebreaker to use. And, when to use them.

If you can master icebreakers, your course delivery becomes easier.

Icebreakers are extremely important in sessions to:

  • Facilitate Introductions.
  • Assist Group Formation.
  • Introduce Topics, Concepts, Or Themes.
  • Prepare Participants For Learning.
  • Energize The Group.

Just picture the role of a people manager or training professional within a training session.

They stand or sit with a primary purpose to share their knowledge and skills, nudge and direct where necessary, and deploy icebreakers to help delegates wherever possible.

Well, that’s a plan. And the role of icebreakers is crucial. In fact, we have barely touched on the value added by icebreakers within training settings.

Only when a people manager or training professional has grasped a true understanding of the impact of icebreakers can they take fully unleash their power.

The idea behind the last statement is obvious.

If you don’t understand why an icebreaker works, you’ll never really be able to use it effectively.

In this post, we’ll explore tried and tested icebreakers that you can easily apply in your training settings.

I’ll show how and why these icebreakers work.

And, how they can be used in your training settings.

How To Select Icebreakers For Your Training Courses

Icebreakers are generally employed at the start of a session or at stages where new material or sessions are beginning (e.g., after a break or to energize a group before a new topic is covered).

Typically, it’s often quite challenging to pick the right icebreaker for your session.

The learning and development industry tells us that icebreakers are an important feature of a successful training course.

How else will you facilitate introductions, build awareness, and get people to work together?

But we can’t forget that we haven’t learned enough about each type of training icebreaker.

Plus, you’ve got the inexperienced trainers, who may believe that all this talk of games and icebreakers is just plain silly.

So, what’s the real value to be obtained from introductions and jumping around a room as if your delegates are doing some sort of dance party?

Well, icebreakers really do matter, but not always for the reasons that people might think. Icebreakers are in fact quite amazing.

They’re simple to use and can do so much to help delegates and the training session as a whole.

Most icebreakers should last around ten to fifteen minutes – although there is a range of issues that may influence what icebreaker you will employ.

It is important to make sure that all participants are comfortable with the icebreaker – even though sometimes the exercise may challenge them.

What Factors Should You Consider When Selecting A Training Icebreaker?

Before training icebreakers, there were a few ways to facilitate introductions or energise a group attending a training session.

Of course, you could ask questions, but anyone familiar with training sessions will know how things can quickly get out of hand.

Any learning and development professional, or people manager, worth their salt will report that if you don’t select the right training icebreaker, you can limit the success of a training session. It can result in reduced participation, lower energy levels, and lower awareness levels among delegates.

On top of this, better icebreakers bring greater success within training sessions. That’s why training professionals use 2 – 3 icebreakers during a day-long course.

When you’re just starting out, the selection of icebreakers may simply come from the icebreakers that you are familiar with or the ones that you have available to you.

As your experience evolves, you may shift to mix-matching icebreakers based on the need of the situation at hand (introductions, awareness building, or preparing delegates for learning). Or you may continue to just stick to the ones that you are used to, as they have worked for you in the past.

Typically, you’ll have a collection of icebreakers that you can deploy to help others. We’ll be exploring several icebreakers in this post that you can easily start using in your sessions.

Icebreakers matter because when you deploy them successfully, you generate more participation and contributions from your delegates.

Icebreakers are an Oak Innovation favorite and for a good reason — “icebreakers” help you facilitate introductions, energize a group, and in large part, set the scene for all learning interactions.

What may be new to some people managers and training professionals is that these icebreakers can be used in other settings like meetings, facilitation settings and anywhere people come together towards defined purposes.

A carefully selected icebreaker will go a long way to achieving desired goals.

There are many issues that need to be considered when choosing an icebreaker for your event.

With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at some “issues” with icebreakers that need to be considered when you’re looking to deploy icebreakers with your groups.

To illustrate:

Rationale/Goals: It is always essential that the icebreaker chosen reflects the rationale and goals of the training event.

Experience: It is also crucial that it has been tried and tested on others. And, that you are familiar with all aspects of the activity.

Audience:

  • Consider who the audience is.
  • Are they there as a group or as individuals?
  • What are the participant’s ability levels?
  • Have they completed the icebreaker before?

Remember individuals also like to be challenged.

Connection To The Event: You must also ensure that the icebreaker ‘connects’ to a point in the event. To illustrate, an energizer activity is best used after a break period than before the break!

Structure of the Activity

When considering the structure of the activity to be used you will need to be aware of:

  • The number of participants involved.
  • Time required – do you have enough time to complete the task?
  • Place – where the activity will take place?
  • Permission – participants should be allowed to choose not to participate
  • Tone – What tone does the activity set with the group?
  • Opportunity to include learning points for the training event.
  • Opportunity to ask questions.


Getting To Know People

These may be the most famous “practical training icebreakers” in training sessions.

In particular, people managers and training professionals revert to these icebreakers at the start of sessions. Plus, they work by themselves, regardless of the theme of the training or facilitation session.

The basic structure and intention behind the icebreaker are also powerful. You’ve got clarity right away, just as you say, “Getting To Know People.”

Simple and effective, right?

Explicitly so.

There is a defined link between the objective and the method adopted within the icebreaker. So by understanding the objectives, the method naturally flows and is easy for anyone to deliver. In other words, it is the method that creates opportunities for the objectives to be achieved with your delegates.

The discussion questions are also part of what makes these icebreakers so powerful. And why getting to know icebreakers carries great favour amongst people managers and training professionals.

When you’re looking to help people to get to know each other and build relationships, these icebreakers are the way to go.

Simply put, these “getting to know people icebreakers” do their job, and they do it well.

The more you focus on the objective of “getting to know people” icebreakers, the more delegates you’ll have will participate in the session.

And, by connecting with your delegates on a personal level, you’re laying the foundation for learning to take place.

Let’s look at some well-known icebreakers.

1. Just For You

Objectives
To get participants to share their opinions, encourage listening, and promote better discussion in the group.

Method
Divide the group into pairs.

Ask the pairs to describe what gift they would give each other.

Once they have completed this brings the group back together. Then each member must describe in detail their exercise partner’s gift from you, and why they chose it. And, what does it say about their partner?

This exercise also encourages questioning and listening skills within the group.

Discussion Questions
Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? If so, why?
How can we use this exercise for the rest of the training event?

Appropriate Time Required

Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes.


2. The Interview Game – Odd or Even

Objectives
To get participants to share their opinions, encourage listening, and promote discussion in the group.

Method
Divide the group into threes and assign numbers 1, 2, and 3 to each member.

Ask the odd members to be interviewers for a job as a bank manager (or a job title of your choice). And, the even number to be the candidate at the interview.

Ask the group to role-play this situation for 10 minutes.

Once they have completed this brings the group back together. Then ask a few groups to role-play this interview situation for the larger group. Use these simulations to guide your discussions.

This exercise also encourages questioning and listening skills within the group.

Discussion Questions
Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? If so, why?
How can we use this exercise for the rest of the training event?

Appropriate Time Required
Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes.


3. My Favorite Place

Objectives
To get participants to share their opinions, encourage listening, and promote better discussion in the group.

Method
Divide the group into pairs. Ask the pairs to describe to each other their favorite place.

Once they have completed this brings the group back together. Then each member must describe in detail their partner’s favorite place and be able to answer questions on the group in these places.

This exercise also encourages questioning and listening skills within the group.

Discussion Questions
Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? If so, why?
How can this exercise help us during today’s training event?

Appropriate Time Required

Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes


4. Something For The Weekend

Objectives
To allow people to get to know each other’s names and share some basic information about each other.

Method
Ask each person to state their name and to share what they are doing for the weekend. If they are not planning anything for the weekend then ask them to talk about the last weekend they did something. And so on …

Appropriate Time Required
Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 10 minutes.


5. What Does It Mean To Me?

Objectives
To get participants to offer their opinions on the meaning of words and to promote greater discussion in the group.

Method

Place the following list of words on a flip chart and ask each participant to choose one word. And, to then discuss what it means to them.

Note: You can substitute other words to suit the purpose of your training event.

Teams’ Success Work-Life Balance
Change Happiness Vision
Leadership Friendship Freedom
Trust Faith Hope

Encourage participants to discuss the meanings of the words. And, explore how we all can hold different meanings for the same word.

Appropriate Time Required

Flexible, dependent on group size.


6. Telling Me – Telling You

Objectives

To encourage participants to share their opinions, encourage listening, and promote greater discussion in the group.

Method

Divide the training group into pairs.

Ask the pairs to describe to each other their favorite things.

Once they have completed this task, bring the group back together. Then ask each member to describe in detail their exercise’s partner favorite things.

This exercise also encourages questioning and listening skills within the group.

Discussion Questions

Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? Is so, why?
How can this exercise help us during today’s training event?

Appropriate Time Required

Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes.


Icebreaker Games

The initial idea that sets the next icebreaker games apart from getting to know people icebreakers and making these icebreakers the most popular in training sessions is quite innovative.

Rather than simply getting to know people in the session, these icebreaker games are focused on ensuring expectations are set and/or encouraging participants to offer their opinions, encourage listening, and promote greater discussion in the group.

The objectives of icebreaker games are set to serve the session in a way that best generates learning for the delegates involved.

It’s easier than you might think to deliver these icebreaker games.

Often, you can simply follow the “how to…” guides that follow and, where necessary, amend the content to meet the needs of your delegates. Don’t be afraid to experiment while keeping in mind the objectives of the individual icebreakers.

Let’s look at some famous icebreakers.

7. What I Expect?

Objectives
Ensure that all expectations are set at the start of the training event.

Method
Draw a simple matrix on a flip chart. Some sample answers are provided as examples – these will help you get participants started.

From The Course  

Knowledge

New Skills

 

From The Trainer  

Expertise

Experience

Direction

From Others  

Confidentiality

Honesty

From Me  

Participation

Support

 

 

Ask participants to complete their expectations of the course, of the trainer, from others, and from themselves.

Discussion Questions
1. Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? If so, why?
2. Can anyone explain why it is good for us to set expectations?
3. How can we use these expectations for the rest of the training event?

Appropriate Time Required

Flexible, dependent on group size. Max 15 minutes.


8. ‘Me – A Name I Call Myself

Objectives

To allow people to get to know each other’s names and to share some basic information about each other.

Method

There are many variations to this icebreaker.

A few will be outlined here to indicate how they work.


9. The Animal

Each person picks the name of an animal that starts with the first letter of their own name. To illustrate, ‘I am Aardvark Alan’.

Then the next person continues by stating ‘that was Aardvark Alan and I am Bettle Bob’. And so on …


10. The Name

Ask each person to state their name and to give a little more information about their name. Why are they called that name? Is there any history associated with the name? Do they have a nickname? What other name do they like? And so on …

Appropriate Time Required

Flexible, dependent on group size.

Maximum time 10 minutes.


11. Three Is A Lucky Number!

Objectives
To encourage participants to offer their opinions, encourage listening, and to promote greater discussion in the group.

Method
Divide the group into pairs.

Ask the pairs to debate (1 for and 1 against) the proposition that ‘3 is a lucky number.

Ask the group to role-play this situation for 10 minutes.

Once they have completed this brings the group back together. Then ask a few groups to role-play this debate with the larger group. Use these simulations to guide your discussions.

This exercise also encourages questioning and listening skills within the group.

Discussion Questions
Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? If so, why?
How can we use this exercise for the rest of the training event?

Appropriate Time Required
Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes.


12. Circle Of Friends

Objectives
To get participants to offer their opinions, encourage listening, and promote better discussion in the group.

Method
Divide the group into fours.
Ask one member of the group to be the main character and that the others are their friends.

The friends have to tell the main character about themselves and the main character will later have to introduce their friends to the larger group.

You can rotate the main character a few times to give everyone experience of this position.

This exercise also encourages questioning and listening skills within the group.

Discussion Questions
Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? If so, why?
How can we use this exercise for the rest of the training event?

Appropriate Time Required
Flexible, dependent on group size.

Maximum time 15 minutes.


13. Paris, Rome, or New York

Objectives
To get participants to share their opinions, encourage listening, and promote better discussion in the group.

Method
This is a very simple exercise that participants can also have some fun with.

Ask participants of the training event to imagine themselves in each of the cities above. And, what they would like to do there? What would they work at? Would their life be different? If so, in what ways?

Once each person has described who they would like to get the group in a circle to discuss the exercise.

This exercise also encourages questioning and listening skills within the group and individuals’ perceptions of different things.

Discussion Questions
Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? If so, why?
How can this exercise help us during today’s training event?
Of all the places presented does anyone want to change? If so why or why not?

Appropriate Time Required
Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes


14. Opposites – Reverse

Objectives
To get participants to share their opinions, encourage listening, and promote greater discussion in the group.

Method
This is a very simple exercise that participants can have some fun with also.

Ask participants of the training event to describe a character that would be the exact opposite of themselves.

Once each person has described their exact opposite get the group in a circle to discuss the exercise. Then ask the group to reverse the descriptions and describe each other.

This exercise also encourages listening skills within the group and individuals’ perceptions of themselves and each other.

Discussion Questions
1. Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? If so, why?
2. How can this exercise help us during today’s training event?
3. Has anyone changed their perception of their opposite or themselves? If so, how or why?

Appropriate Time Required
Flexible, dependent on group size.

Maximum time 15 minutes.


15. I Like Toys

Objectives

To get participants to share their opinions, encourage listening, and promote discussion in the group.

Method

Divide the group into pairs.

Ask the pairs to describe to each other their favorite toy when they were young.

Once they have completed this brings the group back together. Then each member must describe in detail their exercise partner’s favorite toy and be able to answer questions on the group on this toy.

This exercise also encourages questioning and listening skills within the group.

Discussion Questions

Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? If so, why?
How can this exercise help us during today’s training event?
How did the toy represent you?
What toy would represent you now?

Appropriate Time Required

Flexible, dependent on group size. Maximum time 15 minutes.


16. Desert Island Choices

Objectives
To get participants to share their opinions, encourage listening, and promote greater discussion in the group.

Method

This is a variation of the desert island discs program where participants choose what records they would bring with them onto a desert island.

Ask participants of the training event to pick three things that they would bring with them if they were going to be marooned on a desert island.

You can give examples or specific areas if you like. To illustrate:

Books (great escapes may help)
Tools (Boatbuilding!)
CD’s (don’t forget the CD player)
People

Discussion Questions
How can this exercise help us during today’s training event?
What do your choices tell you about yourself? Please explain your answer.
What do other choices tell you about them? Please explain your answer.
Having heard what others would bring, is there anything else that you would not bring with you

Appropriate Time Required
Flexible, dependent on group size.


17. If I Wasn’t Me

Objectives
To get participants to share their opinions, encourage listening, and promote discussion in the group.

Method
This is a very simple exercise that participants can have some fun with also.

Ask participants of the training event to think about who they would like to be if they weren’t themselves. Each person will need to describe this person to the group.

Once each person has described who they would like to get the group in a circle to discuss the exercise.

This exercise also encourages questioning and listening skills within the group.

Discussion Questions

Did anyone feel uncomfortable doing this exercise? If so, why?
How can this exercise help us during today’s training event?
What does the person you chose to tell you about yourself? Please explain your answer.

Of all the characters presented does anyone want to change? If so why or why not?

Appropriate Time Required
Flexible, dependent on group size.


Chapter 5: Free Training Games And Icebreakers Online

You can use icebreakers in several different ways. And certain types of icebreakers have demonstrated their effectiveness repeatedly.

By following the “objectives, method and discussion questions” of these icebreakers, you can expand the scope of your course and session delivery.

With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at 10 training icebreakers providers that you can also explore when you’re looking to boost the delivery of icebreakers in your sessions.

Here is a quick list of some of the free training icebreakers and training games on the internet today. We provide this list for your convenience.

Skills Converged A selection of free-to-use games and activities to enrich and add more interaction to your training.

TrainingCourseMaterial.com provide innovative training material course packages to deliver professional soft skills business and workplace skills training courses that you can instantly download and use to train others.

Super ScalingGreat guide on how to maintain productivity and efficiency by implementing virtual team-building activities to avoid miscommunication and lack of team interaction.

Business Training WorksIcebreakers, Introductions, and Hellos for Teachers, Trainers and Facilitators were written to add excitement and variety to training.

Top Hat10 essential icebreaker activities for any online course collated by Harleen Dhami. Really enjoyed the collaborative resumé icebreaker.

Trainer Bubble Free Training Games that can be used for training courses. We have one of the largest collections of free training games on the internet.

Session Labs 45 Ice Breaker Games compiled by Robert Cserti. Well worth a visit.

Symonds Research Bubble Free group ice breakers (icebreakers) for trainers and for classroom or online teaching. Ideal for meetings, and training in your lesson plans.

Snack Nation 35 ridiculously fun icebreaker ideas, games, & activities for your next meeting collated by Ashley Bell. Really fun activities.

Business Balls Here are techniques, theories, and ideas for designing and using your own team-building games, exercises, and activities, and tips for using the many free teams and group activities and ideas on this website.

Chapter 6: Online Tools You Can Use

It’s clear from experience that people managers and training professionals will select icebreakers based on their backgrounds regardless of the theme of the session being undertaken.

Technology is now also taking an increased role in the delivery of training sessions, workshops, and meetings.

With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at 16 technology providers that you can also explore when you’re looking to boost the delivery of your sessions.

Please note we are not affiliated with any of these providers and the list is provided for your convenience.

Keynote – Keynote makes it easy to create stunning and memorable presentations and comes included with most Apple devices.

Prezi Unlike screen sharing, Prezi Video lets you interact with your visuals on screen.

LinkedIn SlideShareShare what you know and love through presentations, infographics, documents, and more.

Zoho Show  – Bring your team to a secure and collaborative workspace where everything is available to everyone in real time. Create, collaborate, and get work done, securely.

FlowVella  – Blow your audience away in one interactive presentation experience.

LibreOffice Impress  – LibreOffice is a free and powerful office suite and a successor to OpenOffice.org (commonly known as OpenOffice). Its clean interface and feature-rich tools help you unleash your creativity and enhance your productivity.

Ludus – collaborative presentations for creative teams.The presentation tool that combines creativity with simplicity… and a bit of magic.

PowToon  – Powtoon is the visual communication platform that gives you the freedom to create professional and fully customized videos your audience will love.

Speaker Deck – Turning your decks into beautiful online experiences can be a pain.

Visme Create visual brand experiences for your business whether you are a seasoned designer or a total novice.

WPS Presentation – free and complete office suite.

authorSTREAM – the best way to share presentations on the web

Genially – Create presentations, infographics, and other stunning content by yourself or with your team.

Canva With thousands of professional templates, images, and quality content to choose from, get a headstart on bringing your best ideas and work to life.

Beautiful.ai It’s an expert deck designer, so you don’t have to be. Make your business look brilliant, keep your team forever on brand, and save hours on pitches you’re actually proud of.

Ahaslides – Make interactive presentations for awestruck audiences. The perfect tool for lessons, training, meetings, and quizzes.

Conclusion

That’s it for our guide on training icebreakers.

Remember you should deliver your getting-to-know people icebreakers and icebreaker games using the advice listed above.

Of course, there are certain situations where it is prudent to amend aspects of the delivery based on your experience with or knowledge of your delegates.

Let’s face it; icebreakers work very well within several different settings.

And, the real value of icebreakers comes from their simplicity in delivering the desired objectives of the individual icebreaker.

Learning how to use training icebreakers is a critical part of your success as a training professional and business manager. So make sure you explore and use this guide as often as possible.

When you deliver your next training course, ensure you introduce a new icebreaker from those provided to evaluate its effectiveness.

We would also like to know which training icebreakers from today’s guide you think could be best used in your training courses.

Please don’t forget to share this guide.

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