How to improve your workshops using Icebreakers

As first seen on ADMA’s blog here.

Workshops are a great solution for organisations to sink time into nutting out various issues, coming up with creative ideas or even just discussing what everyone wants out of a certain upcoming project. They  are a great way to achieve various business goals within a relatively short period of time and when done properly, are conducive to collaboration and stakeholder management.

Yes, properly is indeed the keyword here. Workshops in theory are easy, but in practice they are far from it. You are confronted with a room full of people who do not necessarily want to be there, and it’s your job to turn that frown upside down and make everyone involved feel like they have contributed positively towards the workshop goal.

Many factors are integral to the success of a workshop, but often you are confronted with the biggest one straight away: improving everyone’s mood and receptiveness.  Icebreakers or energiser activities are the answer. This is an age-old solution, but all too many a workshop is held without implementing at least one of these.

We recently had Sharlene Zeederberg, who is an expert facilitator, to come into Zuni and inspire us all about better ways to run workshops. My favourite part was by far using icebreakers as a tool at the start of the workshop.

Tip: the sillier you can get your attendees to be the better and the more engaging the better. If you can generate animated conversation and ramp up the laughs you are onto a winner!

Workshop coming up? There are numerous resources out there with literally 100’s of icebreaker ideas, but here are my top 4 collected from a range of different resources:

1. Three truths + 1 lie

Why it’s one of my favourites: This one is brilliant, we recently used it at an internal Zuni workshop and it worked wonders for refreshing everyone, having a good laugh and encouraging everyone to feel more open and responsive to what was to follow. Works best in smaller groups as it can take a while  for everyone to take their turn.

How it works:

  • Grab a piece of paper, write down 3 truths about yourself and one lie
  • You then have to present your 3 truths and your 1 lie to the group
  • Go around the group and get everyone to present, while the rest of the group writes down on a piece of paper what they think the correct answer is
  • Who got it right?

2. Would you rather…?

Why it’s one of my favourites: This one is great for getting a low energy group up and producing endorphins! You will need a size relative to the group you have. This activity works particularly well in bigger groups.

How it works:

  • Come prepared with tape to generate a line down the middle of the room (or part of the room) and ask attendees to all stand on top of the line (yep, that means you have to make it long enough so that it fits everyone!)
  • Have a list of pre-prepared ‘would you rather’ questions to ask the group. For each question you need to define which side is which
  • For example: ‘Would you rather drink Coke or Pepsi – left for Coke, right for Pepsi?’, ‘Would you rather be rich or famous, right for famous and left for rich?’ etc. Remember – the sillier the better!
  • Once you have run through a few of these, turn it back on the attendees and give them all a go at coming up with a question on the spot that the group must answer

3. Candy bar matching

Why it’s one of my favourites: This one gets people thinking and usually it is quite surprising who knows the most! Quick and easy, this icebreaker can be done in small or large groups.

How it works:

  • Pre-prepare a list of different clues that you can read out to the group that relate to a certain chocolate/candy bar and see if the group can guess what it is
  • Note down points as you go so you can reward the winner with…you guessed it – chocolate!
  • Examples include:
    • Bumpy street (Rocky Road)
    • Our Galaxy (Milky Way)
    • Type of laugh (Snickers)
    • Activity that involves grass, sunshine, blanket and food (Picnic)
    • If this was a person, they would be unreliable and cancel out on plans at the last minute (Flake)
    • Beautiful flowers (Roses)
    • A famous rapper (M&Ms)

4. Just say hello

Why it’s one of my favourites:

This one is SO EASY!! You don’t need to do any preparation and it can be done in large or small groups.

How it works:

  • Get your group into a circle either on the floor on chairs (or even standing!) and challenge them to say hello but every single time in a different way, starting with one person and continuing until you reach the original person
  • It becomes harder and harder the longer it goes on, as foreign languages and slang increase!

Have you recently conducted an icebreaker activity? Comment below and add to our list!

A big thank you to the following resources for the above activities – well worth a look for many more ideas on workshop energiser/icebreaker activities!


Image credit – Vlad Andrianov, ADMA

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