When Should You Use Icebreakers?

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Icebreakers are short questions, activities, and games that groups participate in as a way to create a fun environment before a meeting begins or to help people get to know each other. It's a great way to break the ice, but when should icebreakers be used? Are there meetings and gatherings where icebreakers should be avoided? Read on to learn more about icebreaker etiquette, plus tips for effective icebreakers when they are necessary.

When Should You Use Icebreakers

Icebreakers are designed to bring people closer together when they have to work together towards a shared goal. It's often used when people who do not often work together or may not know each other well, whether it's to start work on a new project or learn new skills. Icebreakers can be an effective way to bring people together from all different backgrounds. It's important to understand when it's best to add an icebreaker to any meeting.

Consider adding an icebreaker to the agenda when you have people joining from different backgrounds or groups within the organization. Other reasons to consider trying an icebreaker include:

  • When people need to bond to collaborate better on a project or a shared goal. 

  • When new people have joined a team or a new team has been formed.

  • When you have to share a lesson or topic with people unfamiliar with many people involved. 

When you bring people together, whether energizing or getting to know one another, be sure to choose icebreakers based on who is attending and that it's inclusive for all. You don't want to plan an icebreaker for a meeting that has to cover serious topics that require focus and more discipline. 

How to Choose Your Icebreaker

Icebreakers can create a fun environment when meeting to kick off a new project, start a training session, or build better collaboration. It can get meetings off to a great start. When choosing an icebreaker for your meeting, you'll want to consider a few important factors before you settle on a plan. 

Determine Your Goals – What is the purpose of your icebreaker? Are you trying to bring people closer together on your team? Or introduce multiple teams who need to work better together. Once you have your goals, you can better choose an icebreaker that will help you achieve them. 

Who is Attending – Who is attending the meeting? Are there multiple teams from different backgrounds? Understanding who is in attendance can help you better determine your goals.

Should You Choose an Icebreaker that Connects to the Theme? – Do you want to have an icebreaker that seamlessly moves into the subject of the meeting? If you can choose an icebreaker that relates to your topics, it can create an effective way of opening up a dialogue that makes people more comfortable and open to discussions moving forward. 

Determine the Time Needed for Icebreakers – You'll need to consider the time needed depending on your plan. Additionally, you want to ensure your icebreaker isn't too long, or people may begin to disengage, defeating the purpose.

How Many People are Attending – Choose an icebreaker fitting for the group's size. Some icebreakers work better in small groups, while others are designed to engage larger groups. If you have too many people for the icebreaker, you can consider splitting people up into groups.

Tips for Effective Icebreakers 

When it comes to icebreakers, you want to ensure you meet your objectives when gathering people in a group. These tips can help ensure your icebreaker activity runs smoothly.  

  • Customize the icebreaker for the Meeting or Event – Icebreakers can set the tone for the meeting or learning session ahead. They can help the team relax, get comfortable with the tone, and become more open to learning and absorbing direction. You can choose an icebreaker that leads into the topic and fits seamlessly into the experience.

  • Keep it Simple – An overcomplicated icebreaker can disengage your audience. Choose icebreakers that are simple and easy to understand. Be able to give directions and ask if anyone has any questions before you begin.

  • Make Sure Your Icebreaker is Comfortable for All – Icebreakers can be a little hard for people to get going when they are first introduced in a meeting setting. One of the goals is to break the ice and get people more comfortable with each other. But, if you choose an icebreaker that makes anyone in the group uncomfortable, it will have the opposite effect. Be sure to know the audience as best you can and plan an icebreaker that is going to be enjoyed by all.

  • Involve Everyone in the Group – The icebreaker is meant to be inclusive, and you want to be sure to involve everyone. When you plan out icebreakers, be sure they can be played by everyone on the team.

  • Always Have a Backup – Planning out your icebreakers can have the best of intentions, but if anyone in the group is uncomfortable or is unable to participate for any reason, have a few backups ready just in case.  

  • Make it Fun – The number one tip when choosing icebreakers is to make sure it will be fun. You don't want to start with an icebreaker that doesn't excite the team. 

You will have a healthy mix of people on your team who will be comfortable being social while others may have a little harder time opening up. The right icebreaker at the right time can help encourage interaction in a healthy way that allows everyone to open up and connect. 

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