Your favourite ice-breakers

We asked readers to nominate the best ways to kickstart a course or meeting
and were inundated with replies. Here is just a selection of our favourites

Memory game

In my favourite icebreaker, each person is asked to stand in a circle. A
ball is thrown to each participant in turn and as they catch the ball they are
asked to say their name and their favourite thing.

Once everyone in the circle has had a turn the ball is then thrown back to
the organiser. Then the ball must be thrown to someone and the thrower needs to
say the name and favourite things of the person he or she is throwing the ball
to. This again continues until everyone has thrown the ball and recited the
name and favourite thing of each participant.

Why use it? This is a great memory game and ‘getting-to-know-you’
exercise for all participants.

Jackie Marsh, training officer, Robert Bosch

Pass the postcards

At the start of a workshop, even before introductions, split people into
pairs or threes or more (with a minimum of four groupings and a maximum of
six). Give out postcards.

Ask delegates to write three questions they would want to ask of the tutor
during the course on three separate postcards. They then fold the postcards and
play ‘Pass’. When the tutor shouts ‘pass’, postcards are passed clockwise to
the next group which has to scan them in half a minute (you can vary the
timing) and delegates grade each question on a scale of one to five. They then
pass again and, if you wish, you give them a shorter time for evaluating the
next set of questions. Keep playing until the postcards get back to their
owners who total their score.

At the end, the best questions are used as the focus for discussions.

Why use it? The exercise is quick, it gets people talking freely to
each other, it makes them think about the course and they enjoy the pace and
competitive element in this opener.

Anne Hollier, management tutor

Leading questions

I use the following questionnaire during the first day of our induction programme
. However, I cannot claim credit for its authorship as I saw it used on a
little- known TV programme called Inside the Actor’s Studio.

The questions include:

– What is your favourite word?

– What is your least favourite?

– What turns you on and off in life?

– Which sounds do you love or hate?

– If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at
the pearly gates?

Why use it? The questions encourage delegates to let down barriers
gradually and by the conclusion of the exercise every delegate has had the
opportunity to share their sense of humour with others.

Darren Harris, learning and development executive, Arval PHH

Favourite hat-tricks

I put old copper coins into a hat and then ask each person to pick one out.
They then have to tell the group what they were doing the year the coin was
made.

Why use it? I find that although these games are cheap and cheerful,
they always work!

Karen Stern, training adviser, Claire’s Accessories

Sell! sell! sell!

I have always believed that before you can enable people to
learn something, you need to engage them, and the best way to do that is by
entertaining them.   If you entertain
your audience, you’ll also find that people remember what they have learned.  

My personal favourite is a session starter featuring the
Muppets called Sell! Sell! Sell! because it reminds us in a very rousing way
that every business is based on one thing – selling.

Martin Addison, director, Video Arts

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