During a training program, a great energetic start is crucial simply because it sets the tone for whatever comes next. If the training starts with a fun, energetic activity to set the tone, it makes your job as the trainer easier in keeping it that way for the rest of the day. According to research and also our experience as professional trainers (IPC) one of the best ways to get your class off to a great start, make a good first impression, build an element of surprise, stimulate interest, and get participants excited about your training program is to start with a good tried and tested ice breaker.
From a practical perspective as a professional trainer, it is important to highlight that not every ice breaker you use has to be linked to your content but since time in the training room is too precious to waste on anything unrelated, the big advice about choosing an icebreaker is to choose one that relates to or serves your training topic. If one is training on leadership one should use an ice breaker that has leadership connotations. It may take a little more time and effort to customize or design an interesting activity that’s in line with your topic but if you do, it will surely pay off.
Escape rooms have recently gained popularity as an exhilarating icebreaker for both training sessions and thrilling challenges among friends. These immersive experiences not only inject a surge of energy into the room but also promote teamwork, critical thinking, and collaboration. Participants are thrust into a scenario where they must work together to decipher clues, solve puzzles, and 'escape' from a themed room within a set time frame. The element of challenge and excitement provides an ideal platform for participants to bond, think creatively, and problem-solve, making it an excellent icebreaker choice, especially for sessions focused on teamwork and problem-solving dynamics.
But have you ever been to an event when the icebreaker session went badly? Just as a great session can smooth the way for a great event, a bad session can be a recipe for disaster. A bad session is at best simply a waste of time or worse an embarrassment for everyone involved. As a facilitator, the secret of a successful icebreaking session is to keep it simple: design the session with specific objectives in mind and make sure that the session is appropriate and comfortable for everyone involved.
This article suggests various types of icebreakers you might use. As a facilitator, make sure yours are remembered for the right reasons – as a great start to a great event! Below are some of the ice breakers that can be used in training and these are drawn from extensive research and our practical experience as professional trainers.
Ice breakers to use in your training
1. The one-word icebreaker game
This is an incredibly easy icebreaker game to kick off a training session. The one-word icebreaker game, which, like its name suggests, doesn't need much explanation. Break the training session participants into small groups of four or five people. Ask them a very simple question—e.g., "What one word would you use to describe our company culture?"—and give each team five or 10 minutes to come up with their answers.
Before finalizing their one word, teams will have rigorous discussions among themselves. Then it's time to ask each team to share their answers with the rest of the group—facilitating even more discussion.
2. The Hot Seat
The Hot Seat is a fun way of bringing everyone closer together and learning new things about one another.
Here’s how it works: Select one person to sit on the hot seat. Everyone gets to ask one question (they can be about anything—from something entirely personal to a project that may have caused drama at the workplace). Just make sure things don’t get too personal.
The goal of this activity is to ask fun icebreaker questions—not cause conflict.
3. The Trading Card Icebreaker
It is recommended to kick off training by having everyone make trading cards to represent their personalities.
Hand out index cards and markers
- Tell everyone to draw a self-portrait and write their names, their nicknames (real or imaginary), and a fun fact.
- Everyone jumps up and trades cards. People can trade as many times as they want, but they have to read each card they get before they trade.
- After a few minutes, have everyone announce the name on the card they ended up with. People can even ask questions of the card’s owner if they want.
- Let the conversations flow
4. The Boss Q&A Icebreaker
The trainer brings in the head of a department or project and gives everyone 15 minutes to ask any questions they have, no holds barred. This icebreaker gets everyone thinking about the topic of the training. It might even clarify some of the issues the training aims to solve.
5. The Problem-Solution Icebreaker
This is an excellent strategy to highlight an organization’s culture whereby the trainer gives everyone about ten minutes to pick out the biggest problems they see in the office and quickly dream up solutions. People can volunteer to pitch their ideas. Encourage creative thinking by declaring the room a safe zone, even if the boss is in the room. These quick icebreaker ideas will break the thickest of ice, and they might even inspire some projects if someone pitches an idea that resonates with the room.
Related: What Are The Four Types Of Training
6. The Speed “Dating” Icebreaker
Have everyone sit near people they don’t work with. Tell everyone to look to their right and announce that they’ll be spending the next 5 minutes speed networking with the person next to them. The goal: 5 conversations in 5 minutes. Set a timer; every time the buzzer goes off, it’s time for people to find a new conversational partner.
7. The Shoe Icebreaker
This icebreaker requires zero prep and very little time to complete, but it’s pretty unforgettable. Have everyone leave one shoe by the door. Redistribute the shoes so everyone has one shoe that doesn’t belong to them. Set a timer for five minutes, tell everyone to find the shoe’s owner, and then strike up a 2-minute conversation, preferably about a subject other than shoes.
8. The Minefield: The Obstacle Icebreaker
This classic classroom activity makes the perfect training icebreaker especially if you are training a team. Set up “obstacles” around the conference room table. (As IPC recommends something harmless and funny, like squeaky toys.) Now everyone takes turns navigating the obstacles while blindfolded, guided only by the shouts and directions of their teammates.
9. Human Billboard
This is a fun way to break the ice and get participants to share and know more about each other
- Give one flip chart sheet to each person in the room along with colored markers.
- Give everyone 10 minutes to use the flip chart and the markers to use words, symbols, and pictures to describe themselves.
- Once the 10 minutes are over, instruct each person to cut an X at the top of the flip chart so they can put their head through it and wear their flip charts like a human billboard and its draping in front of them.
- Give the group 5 minutes to walk around the room, chat, and explain to each other what their human billboard says about them.
10. Guess who
This icebreaker works well with teams that know each other well or teams working together
- Pass around blank 3” X 5” cards to each of your participants
- Ask each person to write down one personal thing about them that no one else knows
- Collect all cards and mix them up well
- Distribute the cards once more making sure no one gets the card they wrote
- Ask each participant to read out the card they have been handed and ask the whole group to guess who the writer of the card is.
11. Getting to the nuts and bolts
As participants file into the training room, give each person a nut and bolt of different sizes that don’t fit together. Participants will have to go around the room in search of the nut or bolt that completes their set. This is a fun icebreaker that gets people right into the conversation with each other, making quick trades which usually promotes a great deal of discussion and laughter especially when someone ends up with a stuck nut on a wrong bolt. Tell the participant that the person who completes his/her set can go back to their seat.
12. Name Salad
This is another fun icebreaker that gets people to quickly get introduced and bond together. Each person approaches another person, shakes their hand, and gives her their name. after the introductions, each participant takes on the name of their partner as their own and then goes on to introduce him/herself as their partner, this should go on until the person gets his/her name back.
13. Candy Introductions
This can be a quick, fun start to any training class on any topic. Prepare in advance a small bag with five candies of different colors, and hand one bag to each participant at the beginning of class. Explain that each person needs to decide their favorite candy color and go around the room and trade candies with others to finally end up with the five candies of his/her favorite color. This quick fun activity will require participants to move around and make an introduction and quick transactions with others serving as a fun light-hearted introductions ice breaker.
14. The ‘Randomised Q&A Icebreaker’
Allow either 10 to 15 minutes.
This activity can be done with any number of participants but it works better if there are at least 5.
Purpose of this icebreaker
This activity is good to help people to get to know each other better, even people who work for the same company but never had a chance to talk to each other.
1. Give each participant a notecard and ask them to write down the first non-work-related question they can think of. For example, “What was the last film you watched like?”.
2. Each person should then pass their card to the person on their right and write an answer to this question on the back of their new card.
3. Encourage people to think out of the box and have fun.
4. At this point, each participant should be holding a notecard with a question on the front and a separate answer on the back.
5. Mix the cards in a bag (or shuffle them) and hand one to each participant.
6. Select someone to introduce themselves and to read out the unconnected question and answer, written on the card they are holding.
7. Then ask a different participant to do the same and continue moving on like this, until everyone has both asked and answered a question.
8. Many of the sequences won’t make any sense, but some connections will be hilarious and make people laugh
- A fun way to know more about each other.
- The participants will laugh and relax in preparation for the training session ahead.
15. The ‘Name Volley Icebreaker’
We suggest allowing 10 minutes for this activity. If you have a larger group though you may wish to give them 15 minutes, to allow extra time for them to get organized.
Participants play individually in turns with the whole class. This is suitable for relatively small classes.
Purpose of this icebreaker
This is a great activity to share people’s names dynamically and actively.
It helps to improve the energy levels in your group of participants.
Instructions to run this icebreaker
1. With everyone standing in a circle, grab a ball.
2. Shout your name and throw the ball to someone else in the group (it helps if you make eye contact with the person you are going to throw the ball at).
3. Then, after catching the ball, that person shouts their name and throws the ball at someone else.
4. Continue until everyone has had a chance to shout their name.
5. Then, instead of shouting their name, ask participants to shout the name of the person they want to throw the ball at.
6. As participants get comfortable you can introduce more balls.
Benefits of this ice-breaker
- Remembering each other’s names can be quite hard at first. This activity helps memorize names in a fun way.
- It is always good to raise energy levels at times, to avoid apathy and distractions.
16. The ‘Two Truths and a Lie Ice Breaker’
An ideal time frame for this icebreaker is 10 to 15 minutes.
Separating participants into small groups of 4 to 6 is ideal for this activity.
This activity is also useful for groups whose members know each other if you need a warm-up activity that stimulates creativity.
1. Split the class into small groups of 4 to 6 people.
2. Ask each person in the group to write three statements about themselves: 2 true and 1 false.
3. Explain that each person, in turn, will need to share their three statements with the rest of the group, who will have to guess which statement is the false one.
4. After the first person has shared their statement and the group has decided which statement is false, the first person will reveal the truth.
5. Move one until each person in the group has shared their statements.
- This is a fun and creative activity.
- This activity can be useful as an icebreaker or also to resume training after a lunch break or lighten the mood.
17. Finding Common Grounds
These icebreakers for meetings & training seminars are another personal favorite of mine. This activity is pretty much similar to the aforementioned activity, but the difference is the actual sequence of events. You start by dividing your organization’s team members into different groups.
Each group gets 10 – 15 minutes where they chit-chat with one another and come up with a list of ten words that describes the group’s team members. After the session, one person responsible for representing his group gets up and reads out those words. The idea of the ‘finding common grounds’ icebreaker is to harness a frank culture where everyone gets to laugh and learn about other people in the company.
Often, there is a Silo mentality in offices where apart from traditional ‘Hellos’ and ‘Hi’s’ people don’t talk much. As a result, there is a communication gap that widens over time. This icebreaker is exactly meant to nip such issues in the bud.
Overall, it is a fun way of getting to know your fellow employees, and what their interests are, and vice versa. Do it, and you will probably learn a few things about certain people in the company who seemed “too smug” to begin with. Share the results to see which group did better and why.
18. Low-Stress Icebreakers
Low-stress icebreakers are part of stress-relieving rituals. Usually, companies warm up their teams with a dose of laughter and fun. Just like the aforementioned activities, low-stress icebreakers are where the organization is divided into different groups.
Each group constitutes a mix of senior and junior members. This is done deliberately because due to the hierarchical structure of any company, junior employees feel hesitant around seniors. Each group shares their favorite activities, such as; vacations, pets, casual outdoor ventures, and stories.
This helps everyone to share their side of their personal lives. It is the stuff that makes us human after all. Such icebreakers are not very common. But wherever they are exhibited, organizations flourish tenfold.
19. Meet and Greet Icebreakers
Meet-and-greet icebreakers focus on a team-building experience. What’s more important is that if the meetings are sales-oriented, the team members are trained to focus on building a relationship with the client.
20. Introduction interviews
This activity is a simple way for participants in the team or a seminar to get to know their neighbors. The way it works is that the participants are put in pairs so they can interview each other. This takes the edge off and the rules of the awkward obligatory introduction round can be altered.
The duration of this activity depends on the host or the person conducting the meeting or the conference. Usually, the duration of this activity is five minutes. Because that’s enough time to get to know about “just on the top of their head” introductions, passions, or professional experiences.
When the duration is complete, conduct the introduction round but this time the people sitting next to each other will introduce their neighbor and not themselves. This is an excellent technique because it takes the edge off and makes the introductions a lot less stiff while helping the people connect easily.
Below are some additional icebreakers that can also be used in training:
21. Five of Anything.
22. The Good and the Bad.
23. The One Question.
24. Sneak A Peek.
25. Blind Drawing.
26. The Desert Island.
Below are some additional icebreakers that can also be used in virtual training:
27. Emoji check-in.
28. Sketching or Drawing.
29. Candy Love (remote version).
30. Share an embarrassing photo.
31. If you could be anywhere in the world right now.
32. Tour guide.
33. The Five of Anything Ice Breaker
In conclusion, icebreakers play a significant role in events in which team communication and participant comfort level are important factors. They help to ensure that all attendees are equal participants and they fully engage participants when you want them to own the outcomes of the training session.