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Icebreakers! Valuable relational tool or Cringe Making Waste of Time?

January 28, 2022

How do you feel when you see that the agenda for the next team away day starts with an icebreaker?  Does a knot form in your stomach or does a smile form on your face?

Like Marmite, some people love icebreakers and some hate them.  Normally, those that love them are the people that administer them, while the haters are the poor souls that have endured too many badly facilitated and contrived examples.  Like the most popular karaoke tracks, the most common ice breakers started as hits but come across less well when performed badly, by a nervous amateur.  Or, that hilarious game from the pub last week doesn’t seem funny at all at 9am on Tuesday, as Hilary from accounts reluctantly reveals her porn star name.

Despite this, there is a benefit to setting the right tone to a meeting.  If you simply want people to sit still and appear to listen then, follow the example of a traditional church service.  Sit people in rows, speak in a monotone and create an environment where the merest cough sounds like anarchy. 

We’d suggest that meetings are more productive and engaging when people feel able to share their opinions and ideas.  Icebreakers should be an easy way for everyone to have a voice and to feel good about themselves for speaking up.  An icebreaker should also help people to get to know one another better in order to be able to communicate more effectively. 

Think of icebreakers as a communication aid and a tool to unlock the creativity and wisdom in the room.  Bear in mind that different approaches are required for different audiences.  Introverted software developers are unlikely to respond well to an activity that succeeded with an extroverted sales team.  And an induction programme requires a different opening to team away day.

Whilst you’ll find a plethora of icebreaker ideas and suggestions online, for higher profile events, it is worth engaging a professional facilitator.

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