By Jeffry Farman, past Global President, International Association of Conference Centres.
In the almost 30 years we have been in the conference business we have seen first-hand the importance of using icebreakers to great effect. So why are they important and why are they so effective in getting things off to a good start?
Understanding the conference (or meeting) environment will tell you that people coming together for an event do not always know each other. Often attendees are from different departments, states or even countries. There may be a hesitancy, a reticence, an awkwardness that we need to help to overcome. What we want is to have attendees feel comfortable with each other right from the get-go. We want to remove the awkwardness. We want to build confidence. We want our participants to relax, enjoy themselves and have some fun. The way an event starts often sets the tone for the whole event.
Often a simple icebreaker can be employed make a good event into a GREAT event.
How do they work?
Here’s what a well-chosen icebreaker can achieve:
- Help people to know each other –You always learn something about your colleagues that you did not know before. Useful.
- Encourage people to interact – understanding a person on a personal basis strengthens the connection. An individual is more likely to talk to someone they know.
- Energise the group – an energy boost is a nice way to get things going.
- Have fun – (say no more.)
How do we make icebreakers work?
Here’s a few thoughts to get you going.
Focus on fun. You can’t go wrong. This should be an enjoyable meeting.
Avoid awkward silences. Remember that the start of a meeting when attendees are getting to know one another can be quite uncomfortable for some people
Consider music. Playing music in the background will set a mood. Also fills in awkward silences.
Promote activity. Try to get all participants chatting.
How do we avoid pitfalls?
Here’s a few thoughts on what to avoid.
It seems that some people dislike icebreakers. You want to avoid any kind of resistance. So, take care to exclude the term icebreaker . . . call it something else like a “warm-up activity.”
Other things to avoid:
Discomfort. If the game is too hard or if the answers don’t come readily there will be resistance. If it causes any kind of humiliation it will not serve your purposes. You will not want people to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable.
Being boring. Know your group. What they like and what they don’t like. This is supposed to be fun.
Same, same. If you plan to play games on multiple occasions, it is a good idea to mix the teams up. Don’t allow people to form the same group each time., We don’t want participants to feel loyal to only one grouping.
Exclusion. We don’t want people to feel left out. Everyone should be able to participate in an activity.
Consider all kinds of Icebreakers.
There are many kinds of activities. Here are a few.
- Active games. Often used to re-energise a group that has been sitting around for long periods.
- Non-active games. Activities such as guessing games and quizzes are right for groups that don’t like to run around a lot.
- Q&A. A good way to allow people to know each other better is the question and answer activities.
- Personal discovery. Games that elicit information about individuals that help the group to know participants at a deeper level. Ideal for smaller groups such as managers or boards.
There are many more ideas that will provide a great start to your event. They are all in our Guide to Icebreakers.
At CountryPlace we appreciate that all events are unique. And we are here to help. This Icebreaker Guide will help you understand the many options for getting your event off to a great start and the many activities that are available.
For further assistance please reach out to the CountryPlace team. Call 9728 7070