Ice Breakers and Team Building Games for Trainers, Managers, and Facilitators
There’s nothing worse than an unresponsive and sceptical audience when you’re leading a training session or group.
Fortunately, there’s a lot of things you can do to prevent that from happening.
Conducting fun ice breakers or a team-building game is a great way to kick off a training session, team meeting and group activity be it for your students, peers or employees.
These interactive and simple activities not only make your participants comfortable with each other but also get them to buy into the purpose of your session.
After all, if you can get your learners to engage with one another and believe in what you’re doing early on, then your chance of making a positive difference is likely to go through the roof.
Just remember that ice breakers should prepare your learners for the actual session instead of being a major component of your training course.
Ice breakers are often fun for both the facilitator and the participants, but you risk tiring them out and losing the gains you’ve made if your games stretch for too long a time.
With that in mind, here are our favourite short ice breakers you can use and quickly adapt for any of your training sessions.
I. How to Choose the Best Team Ice Breakers for your Training or Group Activity
To help you choose from the ice breakers below, first, consider what kind of “ice” you need to break for your audience. For example:
1. If this is the first time your learners are meeting each other
The “ice” could simply be their unfamiliarity with the people around them
2. If your learners are from various groups such as departments, backgrounds or corporate roles
The “ice” could be their initial perceptions or prior knowledge about the other groups
3. Answering the following questions will also be helpful for you:
- Do you want your learners to be comfortable with contributing?
- Do you want your learners or the group involved to have a common purpose at the end of their training?
Once you’ve identified what kind of “ice” is present and what you want them to have, you can use the following activities to break the ice, improve communication skills, fast track group familiarity, and encourage employees to work in a group setting.
II. Ice Breakers to Introduce Learners to Each Other
The following activities are particularly effective in making your audience get to know and be comfortable with one another. These ice breakers will:
- Introduce each person’s name to the group
- Give each learner a chance to interact with someone they haven’t met before
- Energise your audience by making them move around the room
- Give your students or participants a common purpose by challenging them to meet a goal or through friendly competition
1. Ball Challenge
- Hand a small ball to one of your participants.
- Instruct the person to throw the ball to someone while announcing their recipient’s name.
- The catcher then has to do the same to another person.
- Do a quick first-round to cover all your learners and then give them the challenge to go through everyone again in the shortest time possible.
- Instruct them that they can rearrange themselves, stand up, move closer, move apart or do anything that can help them reach this goal.
Why It Works:
This great ice breaker game gives your learners a shared challenge where they must all work together.
In the beginning, they may only pass the ball to the people they already know, but they will begin to pass to more people as the game goes on.
Besides letting them learn each other’s names, the ball challenge gives them a chance to strategise and make constant recommendations on how they can improve and meet their goal.
If your training session has a similar theme of teamwork, performance assessment or planning, then this is a simple exercise to introduce them to it.
2. Human Bingo
1. Prepare a 5×5 grid with boxes similar to standard bingo cards. You can adjust the number of boxes depending on how big your audience is.
2. Fill each box with either an interesting trait, an achievement, or any fun fact that can describe a person. Here are some great examples you can use to get started:
- Has travelled to another country
- Has more than 1 pet at home
- Plays an instrument
- Can speak another language
- Knows how to sing
- Likes watching romantic movies
- Has a tattoo
- Favourite food is pizza
- Knows how to breakdance
3. Distribute 1 card and 1 pen to each of your learners.
Instruct them to:
- Go around the room and talk with their fellow training participants to find someone who fits the description in one of the boxes.
- Once they find someone, they should sign their name on the box that describes them.
- The first person who fills up all the boxes with signatures will be declared the winner.
Why It Works:
Human Bingo takes little preparation but is a sure way to get your audience interacting with each other.
This is particularly useful when you are handling a big group or a large department where there may not be enough time for individual introductions.
Playing bingo allows them to get to know the names of their fellow participants, and something memorable about them, in only a short amount of time.
3. Memory Name Game
- Instruct your learners to form a circle.
- Choose 1 person to begin the activity by saying their name and an adjective that begins with the same letter. For example, “Dashing Dexter”, “Majestic Marie”, or “Lovesick Leo”.
- The 2nd person will then say their own name and adjective, and then repeat what the previous person said.
- The 3rd person will also introduce themselves and then repeat what the 2nd and 1st person said.
- This will continue until it is the 1st person’s turn again who will now recite all the names and adjectives of the entire group.
Why It Works
The Name Game is particularly useful because it makes your learners listen and pay special attention to each other.
Information retention is a handy skill to practice at the beginning especially if you have a lengthy training program and plan on giving learning exercises to your audience.
During the game, you might even notice them practising the names of their fellow learners while waiting for their turn.
This is a simple way to get them in the mindset of active listening in preparation for what you will discuss.
4. Spot the Truth
- Have each person prepare 3 sentences about themselves. 2 should be true, while the 3rd one should be false.
- Each person will introduce and describe themselves using their prepared statements, but without saying which ones are true or false.
- The rest of the audience will then have to vote on which sentence they think is the false one.
- The person will then reveal the answer.
Why It Works:
This activity allows groups of all kinds to actively think about the person in front.
This is perfect for groups who already know each other because this allows them to use their prior knowledge about a person.
You can observe how much they know and how they use it to figure out which statement is false.
This also works for learners who are meeting for the first time. In this case, it becomes a conversation starter since your participants will likely reveal something unique about themselves.
It’s a great way to “loosen up” your audience and prepare them to interact with each other later on.
III. Ice Breakers that Act as Learning Activities for each Team Member
The following activities also introduce your participants to one another, but they also have the added benefit of presenting the purpose of your training workshop.
These ice breakers will:
- Give each learner a chance to introduce themselves and be comfortable with each other
- Make your audience think about what they want to get from the course
- Allow you to introduce your topic while they engage in other activities
- Hone problem-solving skills
1. Word Exploration
- Quickly introduce a concept to your learners by sharing a short phrase. This can be related to your actual session such as “conflict resolution”, “safety in the workplace” or any other topic.
- Hand out small sheets of paper and give your audience 5 minutes to write down any words that come to mind about your chosen concept. Emphasise that there aren’t any right or wrong answers since the goal is to take note of what they first think.
- Stick all words on a board in front.
- Choose 1 word at a time and have the person who wrote it explain how their word is related.
Why It Works:
Word Exploration works best when your learners have different backgrounds or work experiences.
You can take advantage of the fact that they are not from the same department, have different roles or varying educational backgrounds by pointing out similarities and differences in their perception of your topic.
Because they each have their own focus, this activity makes each group realise there is more to it than what they currently know.
Sometimes you’ll notice there are certain themes to the words they write down.
You can use these themes to outline your training course and describe what they can expect to be covered and which topics will be left for the session.
2. The Quiz Show
- Come up with 5-10 questions about your topic. These can range from basic questions with simple answers to advanced scenarios where learners need to think of the best solution. The exact number depends on how comprehensive you want your session to be.
- Split your learners into at least 3 groups.
- Go through your prepared quiz by asking 1 question each round.
- Award 1 point to each group that answers correctly.
Why It Works:
Quiz and trivia games are simple ways to encourage a group to work together. You can observe their team dynamics such as how they discuss the question and agree on which answer to give.
This is also a unique opportunity for you to identify which areas your learners actually need training in. You can make your quiz cover specific aspects to determine what you should focus on when your session begins.
Don’t forget to go back to some of the questions at the end of the quiz and discuss them so you can transition to the actual training.
3. Wild Expectations
- Instruct each training student or participant to introduce themselves to the group along with their:
- Specific expectations for your workshop or class (example: “Hi! I’m Jeffrey. I expect to learn how to win back unsatisfied customers.”)
- Wildest or even silliest application or prediction of how they can use what they learn (example: “I hope to use this skill to make the world a better place by comforting every cranky person out there.”)
- Take note of their expectations for the discussion after the activity.
Why It Works:
This ice breaker combines the silliness of making wild predictions with the formality of setting expectations.
By coming up with wild applications, you are making your learners think about how useful your training session will be and its wider applications.
Wild Expectations makes it easy to open up your training with a fun light-hearted activity, while still enabling you to transition into your actual purpose at any time.
When you’re ready to move on to the rest of your program, simply go back to the specific expectations and point out which goals, skills or outcomes will be covered.
IV. Training Ice Breakers: Recap
Ice breakers are quick and effective tools you can use if you want to kick off your training session on the right foot.
When choosing which game or exercise to do, ask yourself the following questions:
- What “ice” do I want to break?
- How are my learners different and similar to each other?
- What do I want to know about my learners?
- What do I want my learners to get used to in this training?
Through ice breakers, you can:
- Make your learners buy into your training
- Eliminate initial tension or discomfort
- Lay the foundation for their participation later on
- Make your audience realise the need for further training
- Foster teamwork or other work values
Use these questions to help you choose the right activity that will help your training become a successful one — break the ice and watch your team grow and improve together, whether it’s smaller groups or large groups.
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