Break the Ice! 10 ideas for warming up the group

Getting to Know You: Icebreaker Ideas

The point of networking is to get people past the initial discomfort and to really interact. Here are 10 interesting icebreakers to start off your next meeting session…

1. Story of My Life

You have just been given a contract to write your autobiography for a major publishing company. Your agent is anxious to get to press. She has decided to help you get started with a few questions.

Take a piece of flipchart paper (or 8 ½ x 11 paper) and fold it in half and then in half again to form a book.

Choose a popular song title for your book’s name. Write that title on the front cover.

On the inside of the front cover (page two), list a table of contents.

Name of the place where you were born

Description of your first job

Number of years you have been with the organization

On page three, draw a picture of your family.

On the back cover of the book, draw a picture of what you plan to do when you retire. Where will you go? Who will you go with? Etc.

Materials Needed: Paper, Markers

Time: Allow five to ten minutes for setup, and drawing. When all books are complete, have people tell their story, using the book as a visual aid. Depending on the size of the group, you may want to debrief in smaller groups. If possible, leave the books in a central location during your training to encourage further introductions and discussions.

Variation: Change the focus of the pages of the book. For instance, most exciting moment, favorite food, most exciting vacation, etc. Be careful not to make any of the questions too personal. The idea is to open people up, not shut them down.


2. ABCs of Me

You have been hired by the Creative Classroom Company to illustrate a poster to help children learn their ABCs. By happy coincidence, you and your first name are the subject of the poster!

On flipchart paper, write your name vertically down the left side.

Next, choose a word that starts with each letter of your name. The word should describe something about you. Write those words horizontally across the paper, using the letters of your name as the first letter of each descriptive word.

After you have listed your words, draw an accompanying picture to illustrate each.

When you are finished, tape your poster to the wall.

Materials Needed: Paper, Markers, Tape

Time: Allow five to ten minutes for setup and drawing. When all posters are complete, have people introduce themselves using their name drawing.

Variation: Narrow the focus of the words. For instance, all words must be adjectives, nouns, or verbs related to work, related to foods you like, etc.


3. I Remember

Tell the group, “We are about to revisit the past and take a trip down ‘Memory Lane’.”

First, get a coin and look at the year on the coin.

Take a minute to think about what you were doing when that coin was minted. Were you in school? Were you a child? Where did you work? Were you married? Where did you live? What was going on in your life at that time? What was the music of the day? (If you were not yet born or prefer not to discuss your life during the year selected, choose another coin.)

Each person shares their thoughts about their “moments in time.”

Materials Needed: Coins, Prize

Time: Allow five minutes for setup and three minutes per person for sharing


4. Six Degrees of Separation

It happens all the time: we meet someone who knows someone we know. It’s a small world, that’s for sure. The object of this game is to see how small the world really is.

First, find a partner. Introduce yourselves and make a list of five to ten things that you have in common with each other: where you went to school, year you were born, number of years with the company, food likes, sports likes, etc.

Once you have completed your first list, you must find someone else in the room that also has one of those five to ten things in common with you. When you have found that person, repeat step one and develop a new list.

Repeat step two.

Continue until you have met five other people or time is called by the facilitator.

A prize will be given to the first person able to complete the game. When you are done, let the facilitator know that you have finished.

Materials Needed: Prize

Time: Allow 15 – 20 minutes for game. Once most people have finished, call time. Ask your winner to reveal his/her chain of separation by introducing those interviewed.


5. Scavenger Hunt

You are about to begin a scavenger hunt with several members of this training group. The object of the game is to collect all of the items listed below as quickly as possible. You may talk with anyone in the group, but can’t leave the room. You must associate each item with the person who gave it to you. You may not get more than two items from any one person. Once the facilitator has assigned groups, you may begin play. When your team is finished, your team should loudly announce the phrase “hunt over” to the rest of the group. Be prepared to say where you got each item. Award a prize to the first team to finish.

A Driver’s License

A Family Photo

A Store Receipt

A pre-1979 Penny

A Piece of Candy

A Ballpoint Pen

A Lipstick

A Calendar

A Drink

A Marker

A Piece of Candy

A Store Credit Card

A Pair of Glasses

A Magazine or Book

The list of hunt items should be reviewed by the facilitator before the game begins in order to make sure that all items are available.

Materials Needed: Several Small Prizes for the Winning Team

Time: Allow 10 – 12 minutes for the game. Once a team calls “hunt over,” have them review each of the items, where they got them, and from whom.

Variation: Instead of using actual items, list activities and facts as the items to find. For instance, “plays piano.” The object of the game is to find someone who plays the piano and associate the person’s name with that item.


6. Tattoo

You have just arrived at Tony’s Tattoo Parlor for a tattoo. Tony is competing for “Tattoo King of the Year,” a contest sponsored by Needle Knows magazine. Every design is a potential entry, and Tony wants each of his tattoos to say something about the person wearing them. From you, he needs a little inspiration and a design before he can start his work. Tony is excellent at lettering, animals, characters, band logos, maps, etc.

On your piece of paper, you are to design a rough tattoo that reveals something about yourself, your work, your hobbies, or your family, in order to help get Tony’s creative juices flowing.

You must also make a note about how big the tattoo should be and where you will have it applied.

Materials Needed: Paper, Tape, Markers

Time: Allow five to ten minutes for setup, drawing, and posting designs on the wall. Depending on the size of the group, you may want to debrief in smaller groups. If possible, leave the designs posted throughout your training to encourage further introductions and discussions.

Variation: Narrow the scope of the tattoo design: what you do at work, an animal most like you, favorite song, favorite band, adjective that best describes you, etc.


7. Storyteller

You are about to stretch your storytelling skills with the help of others in the group designated by the facilitator. You will incorporate facts about yourself into a story that could just go anywhere. First, write down the name of …

something you would see in a store.

something you would buy as a gift for your mother.

your favorite sport.

your favorite celebrity.

a crime.

your favorite restaurant.

a tourist attraction.

a profession.

the name of someone in the room.

The facilitator will begin the story with, “Once upon a time, I found the most unusual thing.” The next person is to fill in the next piece of the story. The object of the game is to incorporate as many of the items as you can from those listed above. No one can say more the two sentences at a time. Turns must be taken in order. To win, you must incorporate all of your words and then conclude the story. Everyone must get an opportunity to “write” from their imagination at least twice before the story can end.

Materials Needed: Prize

Time: Allow ten to 20 minutes for the game. If the group is large, consider breaking into smaller subgroups or reducing the number of incorporated words required to win. For instance, you must work in five words from those listed in part one.

Variation: You can easily tailor this game by changing the questions in part one to better match your industry, company, etc.


8. Candy Confessions

You have just taken a job as a candy tester in the Candy Confessions factory. What makes this candy different from other candy is that each flavor is associated with a fact about you. Your job is to select and “test” four different candies from a bowl/box that will circulate among all testers.

Choose four candies from the bowl without looking. In a moment, a key code will be revealed, indicating which truths you should tell.

Once the code has been revealed you may begin your confession.

Materials Needed

Basket of Candy

Key Code (e.g. Kit Kats = Favorite Movie, Favorite Magazine, Favorite Song, or Favorite Book, Krackle = Favorite Vacation Spot, Place You Would Like To Visit, Place You Would Least Like To Visit, or Worst Vacation, Lollipop =Number of Years in Current Position, Where You Work, What You Do, or Brief Description of First Job, Gum Drops = Something About Where You Live, Something About Where You Grew Up, Something About Your Family, Something About Your Town/City, Kisses = Wildcard [tell us anything])

Time: Allow ten to 20 minutes for the entire process.


Allow people to take as many candies as they like from the basket and reveal something random about themselves for each candy they take.

Use a ball of string. Allow each person to take as much as they like. For each inch, they must reveal something about themselves. (Additional material: string, scissors, and ruler)


9. True or False

You have just entered a new society of truth-tellers and liars. You and the others sometimes tell the truth and sometimes lie. The key to this society is knowing when you are being lied to and when you are being told the truth. Partners must guess if a statement is the truth or a lie. If both players are correct, move on. If both are incorrect, move on. If one is correct and one is wrong, the wrong person is out.

First, flip a coin. If it reveals “heads,” you tell truth; if “tails,” you lie.

Find a partner, swap stories. Your partner must then guess if you told the truth or a lie. If both are correct, move on. If both are incorrect, move on. If one is correct and one wrong, the person who guessed incorrectly is out.

Repeat steps one and two until one person remains and is declared the winner.

Materials Needed: Prize, Extra Coins

Time: Allow ten to 20 minutes to play the game, depending on the size of the group. Award a prize to the person who remains standing.


10. The Magic Lamp

You and your team have just found a lamp. You rub it, and surprise! A genie appears. The genie grants you three wishes. You are allowed to make three changes at work. You may change yourself, your boss, your job, the people around you, etc.

The facilitator will soon divide you into groups of three to five people and give your team a piece of flipchart paper and a marker.

Once you have your materials, design your wish list for your genie. When you are finished, post it on the wall.

Materials Needed: Flipchart Paper, Markers

Time: Allow five to ten minutes for setup, writing, and posting lists on the wall. Allow five minutes for debriefing. If possible, leave the lists posted throughout your training to encourage further introductions and discussions.

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