Great ice-breakers and energisers

Main points: 

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Every now and then, there is a query on Any Answers about icebreakers and energisers. Here are a few of the best ideas that have been shared by members over recent years.

 

Topics for treats

Prepare a bowl of sweets/fun-size chocolate bars. For each type/colour of sweet/chocolate write up a list on the flip chart. For example:

  • Green – Favourite movie and why
  • Yellow – Last book you read and what you thought of it
  • Orange – The place in the world you would most like to visit and why
  • Purple – Something about where you grew up

(The topics can be adapted to absolutely anything – depending on how well the group know each other, and whether you want to make the exercise directly related to the content of the session or not)

Hide the flip chart and pass round the bowl, just asking each delegate to choose what they fancy. (You could ask them to take more than one depending on what you want them to talk about).
Reveal the flip chart and ask them to talk about their ‘chosen’ topic.
It could also be used for non-edible giveaways too.
With thanks to Lucy Sleigh
 
Names on the chart
 
Here's an energiser/icebreaker that works really well with a group of people from different departments in the same large organisation: Give each person an organisation chart. Then allow them five to 10 minutes to meet as many people as possible and write their names in the correct places on the chart. Play some cocktail party music while they are doing this. You can give prizes for those who get the most names in the right places in the time available.
With thanks to Jane Smith

Paired sharing

 
This works best for groups of 10 or more people who don't know much about each other but will be working together for the duration of the course.
Break the group into pairs.
Each pair will have two minutes' discussion time during which they need to learn something about their partner that no-one else in the group knows. Have some topics of discussion prepared on PowerPoint to help spark conversation: eg their current role, what they like most about their job, family life, hobbies, etc.
After the two minutes is up, ask the participants to find a new partner from the group who they don’t know much about. Repeat the same scenario (two minutes discussion time.)
Repeat this step a few times until most people have learned something new about their fellow participants.
Reassemble the group and nominate someone who will now be introduced to the group by each participant in turn. Throw a ball around the room and have each person who catches it say something they learnt about the nominated person.
Repeat the step until everyone in the group has been introduced.
With thanks to Antoinette Elaro
 
This or that?
 
Get the group to stand up towards the back of the room in a relatively clear space.
Then ask the group to align themselves with a series of statements along the lines of Are you more 'this' (eg rock & roll) or 'that' (eg classical)?
If they're more 'this' they move to one side of the room and if they're more 'that' they move to the other side (or they stay in the middle if they're neither or can't decide!)
Other examples of this or that we have used include:
Ferrari / Rolls Royce
Sun / moon
Beach / castle
etc, etc.
As well as re-energising the group and getting people moving, it also gets people to consider similarities and differences within the group.
With thanks to Colin Hamilton
 
Two truths, one lie
 
A really simple idea and an old favourite is to ask all the delegates to write two truths and one lie on a piece of A4 paper (it's best if they all have the same pen colour), then fold the paper four times and drop it into a box, bucket or bin.
Each delegate then pulls out a piece of paper and reads the two truths and one lie written on it.
The rest of the group then have to guess who wrote it, and which is the lie.
I tend to ask the group to write down information that no-one else knows about them, something unusual, out of the ordinary.
It's great fun, easy to run, no prep and great for getting people to think a little more creatively!
With thanks to Buffy Sparks
 
Totem pole
Create your very own totem pole using the key events that have happened to your participants throughout their life. Ask participants "what’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you in your life" or "what’s your best memory". They should be able to think of something straight away. They then draw their experience or memory on paper and include their name and the date it happened. Once the memories are recorded, get each participant to talk about what they have drawn, then display the drawings in chronological order on a wall somewhere.
With thanks to Charlotte Walton 
 
Personality cards
 
This is a bit of work, but one of the best intros I have ever come across...though it only really works with eight or more people (and ideally no more than 16).
Produce a set of cards, each with a unique 'personality trait' written on it. You’ll need about 12 cards per person.
Hand the cards out in any random order. The first task for the students is to read the cards and sort them out into two piles: those that are true for them for most of the time and those that are not true or less true. (This usually takes about three minutes).
The second task is for participants to get rid of all the cards that are NOT true for them. The catch is that they can only get rid of a card by giving it to someone for whom it IS true.
The aim is for each person to end up with at least five or six cards that are wholly true for them.
At first things move a little slowly, but within a few minutes the energy levels come right up as participants move around the room and really get to break the ice. This part can take between five and 10 minutes depending on the number of people.
You will need to create more cards than you need for the participants so that they can ‘swap with the bank’.
Once everyone has a set of cards that describes them, you have a number of options. Here are some suggestions…
• In open forum, get each person to reveal what is on their cards
• Split people into groups and ask them to introduce themselves to each other using the cards
• Get people to self select into groups, so that they gather with those who are ‘like them’
With thanks to Paul Hollands
 
The golden nugget

A warm up exercise: go around the room and ask each delegate to introduce themselves. They should say who they are, where they come from etc... and then add one fact that nobody else will know about them.

This usually end up in laughter and is a good starting point when building rapport between people.
With thanks to Richard Gillett 
 
Buzz bingo
 
Everyone gets a bingo card, and crosses off their squares by finding someone who fits the description in the square -  eg 'Has twins in the family' 'Has been to China' etc. There are prizes for the first to complete a line and the first to complete their entire card. You can get a full descriptions from www.dickbarton.co.uk (click 'free downloads'). This game creates a great buzz and people find out about each other.
With thanks to Dick Barton 
 
The rename game
 
Have a laugh by getting everyone to rename themselves: their first name becomes the name of their pet, or family pet if they don't have one (most families have had a pet at some time), and their second name comes from the name of their house or street. I'd be Hanky Lothian. Well it's a bit different.
This really helps delegates to get to know where everyone came from.  
With thanks to Elizabeth Holden
 
Just for fun
 
If there's room, stand in a big circle (you included) and throw a tennis ball to the person in front of you, who then does the same to someone new. Once everyone has caught and thrown the ball, the cycle is complete. Then ask everyone to remember what they did and do it again - quicker. Then feed extra balls in for fun, and see how many people can keep going.
I find this gets everyone giggling and interacting, but above all doing something physical. Don't try to justify the exercise. Just say its to 'wake us all up'.
With thanks to Rick Martin
 
More ideas
 
Below are some online sources of free icebreakers & energisers, also recommended by members:
 
About.com: Icebreakers
Business Balls: Team-building games, ice-breakers and energisers
Dick Barton: Free downloads
Group Games: Icebreaker games
International HIV/AIDS Alliance: 100 ways to energise groups
Icebreakers.ws: Icebreakers, games and group activities
I-tech: Icebreaker activities
Reproline: Icebreakers & introductions
Results Through Training: Activities and exercises
Susan Boyd: 10 ways to break the ice
The Thaigi Group: Training games
TrainerBase: Icebreakers, warm ups and warm downs
Trainer Bubble: Energisers, icebreakers & games
Venture Up: Indoor energisers
Workshop exercises: Team building exercises
 
Got a great ice-breaker or energiser that we've missed? Or a great source of free exercises to share with other members? Then please post a comment below and let us know. The theme on site throughout the whole of July is 'tips, tools and free resources' - or we could have simply called it 'sharing' !
 

 

Comments

djlard's picture

great article - i have a few up my sleeve - will post them soon

Lee Jackson
http://www.cuttothechase.co.uk

Here's an ice breaker that's great for people who don't know each other and work in different organisations. Get the first person to arrive to draw a map (on flipchart) of the region/UK as appropriate, and locate either where they live or where they work, on it, and sign it. (you might need to help with this initially) They then get the next person to do likewise till everyone arrives. It could even replace the traditional signing in sheet! You will gets lots of geographical "arguments" about where certain towns are!
For in house courses its still valuable if people don't know where they each live.
If they all work in a large factory for example, try getting them to sign in on a plan of the factory.

David Newsum
www.davidnewsum.com

JimMcNeill's picture

Hi
Do visit http://www.slideshare.net/group/powerpoint-slide-resources-for-trainers where I've posted a number of icebreaker slideshows for all to download.
Why not join and post your own additions?
Regards,
Jim

RemyB66's picture

Improvisation based training offers many such ressources. Browse a large collection of games, some with video, there: http://www.imprology.com/games/viewallgames.html

Found this item very useful, some great ideas.

This one is also along the lines of a 'bingo' theme, and I've found it useful at the start of an accredited programme where participants need to complete registration details and will be together for several sessions, but don't already know each other. At the end of the registration form, I ask them to write down one unusual thing about themselves that they don't mind sharing with others - it could be to do with a hobby, experience, someone they've met and so on. I then give out a sheet of paper printed with a grid pattern, with enough boxes for the number of the programme. Then, and this bit can be slow, I read out a summary of the 'unusual thing' and ask the group to write each in a separate box on their sheet. I then ask the group to circulate, chatting to each other, to find out who's name belongs in each box. An extension of this, if you're covering communication for example, is to have a discussion with the group about what strategies for gathering information were the most successful. This activity provides some good starting points for breaktime conversations (particularly for less confident members of the group), putting together groups etc as well as helping people to get to know each other.
Lesley-Anne Bealey

chealey's picture

This ice-breaker does double duty on a course where it's useful for the learners to work with (or network with) someone from a similar organisation or role.
Prepare (on A3 paper is best) a grid with headings that are meaningful for your group: e.g., who are your organisation's service users, volunteer profile, organisation size and so on. Fill in most of the boxes yourself with the obvious categories (older people, children under 14, substance users, etc) and leave a couple blank at the bottom of each column for categories you haven't thought of.
Get the learners to 'star' the boxes in each column that apply to them and then go round the whole group adding names to the relevant boxes. They should be able to identify 'twins' (people with all the same categories as themselves) and 'buddies' (people with a lot in common). If there's time to complete the whole exercise, everyone should end up with the same names in the same boxes - but you can get them to share partially completed forms over break.
The trainer can ask people to get into 'buddy' groups or into groups with people from different categories for particular exercises.

nparryp's picture

I find Teampedia a useful site to browse when I'm stuck for an idea for an icebreaker or team working activity.

Pam_Tr61's picture

Some great ideas here - Thanks!
I have also used the Two Truths and a Lie and find this works really well.

Another good energizer, with a message, I have used successfully is Paper Planes. Everone gets two pieces of A4 paper and the trainer instructs them each to make a Paper Plane from the first piece. Whilst they are doing this the Trainer prepares the flipchart by drawing a large target on it (out of sight of the delegates).
When everyone has completed their paper plane the trainer reveals the target and gets everyone on their feet in a line ready to throw their paper planes at the target. Everyone throws from the same spot which should be a simillar distance to throwing darts onto a dart board. Trainer should be upbeat, encouraging delegates to cheer each other on - there will be plenty of ooo's and ah's!
The group then agree whose Plane produced the best result and the trainer asks that person to 'teach' all the others how he made the plane. The other delegates follow step by step making a second plane with the remaining piece of paper and the exercise is repeated. This time most of the planes will land much closer to the target with several probably hitting it.
Again delegates are asked to decide on whose plane was the best.
As a final question Trainer should ask the delegates 'Whats the message in this game?'
They can then facilitate a brief discussion on the merits of sharing best practice.

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