- First, what’s an icebreaker?
- Benefits of icebreakers
- 5 practical tips to make the icebreaker work
- 36 Totally Fun Icebreakers Your Audience Will Enjoy!
Are your go-to icebreakers not working anymore? Are people not enjoying your usual tricks? Well, today, you’re in luck because I’m sharing my 30 favorite – and definitely – fun icebreakers which you can use in your next presentation, meeting or conference. Plus, I’m also going to walk you through the importance and benefits of using icebreakers.
First, what’s an icebreaker?
Imagine you’re in a room with a bunch of people you don’t know. Or perhaps you do know a few of them from the office. You don’t know anybody else, so you decide to sit closer to your co-workers, so you don’t feel so out of place. Right now, you find it awkward to interact with those you don’t know. And when you’re uncomfortable, your attention will probably be divided between wanting to listen to the speaker, and making sure your elbows don’t touch your unknown neighbor. Sounds pretty anti-social, right? If you notice this behavior from your audience, then an icebreaker may be necessary.
An icebreaker literally breaks the ‘ice’ between you and everyone else around you. To break a block of ice, you can use something with a sharp, hard edge. Like a hammer or an icepick. Now, we’re NOT going to get violent during our icebreakers. Quite the opposite, in fact.
As a speaker or presenter, you can use activities like games and exercises to bring everyone’s icy defenses down. The goal of an icebreaker is to make everyone feel comfortable or at ease during the presentation or meeting. The more comfortable people are, the more likely it is they’ll actually pay attention to your presentation.
Benefits of icebreakers
If you’re presenting and you notice your audience members look like they’re not enjoying the event so far, then you may want to consider doing a couple of fun icebreakers. I’ll give you a list of my favorite icebreakers later on in this article. But for now, let me show you the top 5 benefits of using icebreakers in your presentation, meeting or conference.
- It breaks down the awkwardness
This isn’t probably a problem for pure extroverts. But for people who are within the introvert to not-100%-extrovert spectrum, a certain level of awkwardness is to be expected. And having a room full of people who feel awkward around each other can be detrimental to your presentation. You want the opposite to happen – for people to relax and be at ease all throughout your presentation.
- Icebreakers help people relax and have fun
When people relax, they’d be more likely to entertain new ideas. For instance, if you’ve got a bunch of uptight individuals who look like they would rather be someplace else, then an icebreaker may help them feel more receptive to what you’re going to say. This is especially important if you’re going to need some audience participation later on in your presentation. If they feel like they’re enjoying your presentation, they would be more likely to volunteer or join whatever activity you’ve prepared for them onstage.
- Gives your audience an energy boost
Some presentations can take forever. Not literally, of course. But when you’ve been sitting down for what seems like hours, you’d be likely to start nodding off and falling asleep. An icebreaker will serve as a great pick-me-up for your audience. If you notice people drifting off or looking around restlessly or looking down at their phones more frequently, then it’s time to unleash your icebreaker.
- Chance to network with others
Your presentation audience belongs to a certain demographic, meaning they all have something in common. The right icebreaker can get them talking to their neighbors which means opening a new channel of communication. They may find they have something more in common apart from being, say, a middle-aged business owner. Together, they may discover that the ideas you’re sharing in your presentation will be good for them. They’ll probably talk it out amongst themselves. If you do a good job convincing them, then they can also convince their peers to follow your call to action, whatever it may be.
- Creates a positive atmosphere
A positive atmosphere is created when people lower their barriers and defense mechanisms. A negative atmosphere, on the other hand, is felt when people don’t feel at ease and give their neighbors the cold shoulder. ‘Breaking the ice’ needs to get done as soon as possible. Just ask everyone to cooperate and soon you’ll create a positive environment that’s conducive to learning!
5 practical tips to make the icebreaker work
Unfortunately, not all icebreakers are created equal. Many icebreakers work in certain situations while others don’t. It depends on a lot of factors. That said, here are some tips to help ensure your planned icebreaker actually does the job:
- Know your audience
Take the time to research your audience. And figure out their similarities and differences (you can even use this as an icebreaker question – winner gets a prize!). Doing this helps avoid awkward situations later on.
For example, you know there are a couple of guys who are outliers in the group. You wouldn’t want to say or do something that will offend them. Even if you do it unintentionally, the damage will still be done. So, it’s better to be prepared and do your assignment. Better yet, just stick to an icebreaker that everyone can actually relate to.
- Identify your presentation objective
The right icebreaker will help you achieve your presentation objective (so make sure you have one in place before you even start planning your icebreaker). Make it as close as possible to your topic.
For example, if your presentation is on a certain species of animal, ask them if anyone’s seen one in real life. And then perhaps you can ask them to share a few sentences about their experience. Or, for a group activity, you can ask them to solve a puzzle that will ultimately be related to your topic.
- Involve everyone in the audience
The icebreaker should be inclusive, that is, it shouldn’t exclude anyone from joining. For instance, if you have a disabled person in the crowd, then you wouldn’t want him or her to feel awkward for not being able to join. Have a backup icebreaker just in case the first one excludes someone. The point is that fun icebreakers should involve everyone – that also includes you, so people feel more at ease with you.
- Make sure it’s enjoyable for everyone involved
An icebreaker wouldn’t be an icebreaker if it made people uncomfortable. That’s the entire point of doing an icebreaker, right? So, if it does the exact opposite of what it’s supposed to do, then it’s not an effective icebreaker. Knowing who your audience is also helps as you will be able to plan an icebreaker that will be enjoyable for everyone.
- Avoid calling your icebreaker an icebreaker
It may seem harmless enough, but calling an icebreaker by its given name is well, a bad idea. It makes people feel awkward that they need to be subjected to an icebreaker. And it often feels like additional work or an extra step for them.
Seriously, how would you feel if your speaker suddenly said, “All right guys, let’s have an icebreaker!” You’d probably groan and feel like a socially-awkward kid in school.
But if you said something, “Hey, I have an idea. Let’s try out this new trick I read on the Internet.” Or something like that. Make it random. Make it sound fun. And make it sound like music to their ears!
36 Totally Fun Icebreakers Your Audience Will Enjoy!
For this section, I’m going to categorize the icebreakers based on the size of the audience. This is because a small group icebreakers may not exactly apply to a large audience. But do browse through the entire list and try to adapt the ones you like to your specific situation. For instance, if you’re not exactly limited by time or budget constraints, you can apply one-on-one or small group icebreakers to a large group. Or perhaps, try out the medium and large group icebreakers on small groups.
Icebreakers for one-on-one presentations
- Introduce yourself. Obviously, this is one of the first things you should do on 1-1 presentations. Unless, of course, you already know each other, then reintroducing yourself is silly. But if you’re meeting a new acquaintance, always be proactive when introducing yourself. It’s in your best interest for your prospect to warm up to you before your pitch or presentation.
- Say something funny. You can try saying something funny before you even sit down and introduce yourself.
- Have a conversation. Don’t go straight to your presentation. Always warm up your prospect and engage them in conversation first.
- Ask open-ended questions. During your conversation, try to get to know your prospect better by asking open-ended questions. Open-ended questions require more than just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. It can be about anything under the sun.
- Talk about current events. Talk about the latest news in the community or whatever’s trending on social media right now.
- Ask them about their kids. If you love kids yourself, then you know how much parents love talking about their kids. This is one of the quickest ways to break the ice and get to know people!
- Ask them what they expect from your presentation. It’s better to know up front what their expectations are before you give your talk. This way you can correct them if they’re under some mistaken assumption, and you can also live up to their expectations.
- Give them a small present just for showing up. You’ll probably encounter people who’ll stand you up in your appointments. So, be doubly appreciative of those that do show up by giving them a small token of appreciation. They’ll appreciate the gesture and may even recommend you to their friends!
- Ask them if they know someone you know. It’s always nice when you both know someone in common. You can talk about that person for a bit while you get comfortable with each other.
- Talk about their favorite sports team. If you know for a fact that your prospect is into sports, talk about it. You can do a friendly debate if you like a different team. Or, if you like the same teams, then building rapport will be a much easier job!
- Mention the weather. Yeah, the weather. It might sound mundane and so cliché, but talking about the weather is a proven icebreaking technique.
- Ask something related to your presentation topic. Ask them if they know anything about your company, your product, your competitor, or something to that effect. Try to gauge their knowledge so you can decide how in-depth you need to get in your presentation.
- Compliment them. It’s always nice to get compliments. But don’t overdo it. And always, always be genuine. Don’t try to flatter someone just because you’re nervous. If your prospect feels like you’re using flattery to get the sale, then it can seriously backfire on you later on. You’ll lose face and credibility.
Icebreakers for small group presentations (2-10 people)
- Introductions but with a twist. Ask everyone to introduce themselves and state something unusual about them. Towards the end of the presentation, ask them if they remember anything other people said during the introduction. If they get something right, give them a reward.
- Ask people to line up alphabetically. You can do this with their first names or last names. Or even their nicknames. This gets people talking as well as getting to know each other’s names.
- Charades. This is one of the best fun icebreakers on this list. It’s a party favorite, but can also be used in presentations, meetings, and conferences. You probably already know how this works, but if not, here’s a funny charades video on Jimmy Fallon’s show.
- Finish a puzzle together. This is great for groupwork as everyone can contribute. For example, you can give them a few pieces each and they’ll then work as a team to complete the puzzle.
- String a story together. Storytelling is a powerful element in presentations. But for this icebreaker, you’ll need everyone’s help to create a story. Start the first sentence yourself and then ask the first person in front of you to continue the story. Each person gets to decide the direction the story takes, one sentence at a time.
- Play word games. There are many different kinds of word games. But this is something you may find useful. Identify the subject or category the words should belong to. For example, if you choose animals, you can start off by choosing DOG. The next person must identify an animal that starts with the last letter of the previous word. In this case, it would be something that starts with letter G, like GOAT.
- One word to describe him or herself. Give your audience one minute to think about the perfect word that describes them. And let the others assess if they agree with that word or not.
- Social media icebreaker. Let people open up their favorite social media accounts and then share a photo they’re most proud of. Ask them to share a line or two about why they love that photo.
- Problem-solution icebreaker. Present a real or hypothetical problem, and ask people to pitch in their solutions. You can ask them for their input individually or you can divide them into pairs. As the saying goes, two heads are better than one.
- Toilet paper icebreaker. Pass around a roll of toilet paper and ask people to pull as many squares as they like. Once everyone’s gotten their square(s), tell them they’ll need to share as many personal tidbits as the number of toilet paper squares they got! For instance, the people who pulled 5 squares will need to share 5 facts about themselves.
Icebreakers for medium group presentations (11-30 people)
- The no smiles challenge. Tell people smiling isn’t allowed in your presentation. Then tell a very funny joke and watch them try to hold their laughter in. The ones who don’t laugh (they probably didn’t get your joke) gets a small token.
- Switcheroo. Ask everyone to stand up and switch seats with the people in front of them. Do this when you notice people are starting to get drowsy and need some stimulation.
- Early birds get the worm. Be at the venue first and take note of the early birds. Then during your presentation give them a shout-out or a reward to acknowledge their effort!
- Human rock paper scissors. This is a fun, high energy game which may not be feasible for older participants. Check this video to see if this is something you can use in your presentation.
- Stereotyping game. You can assign people to various hobbies. For instance, you can say the tallest guy in the group loves to play basketball. If you get it wrong, you need to do something like do jumping jacks. But if you get it right, the person does the jumping jacks.
- Human bingo. This is a fun way to get to know people. Prepare the cards and the pen/pencil. The cards should already be filled out with various traits, characteristics, hobbies, etc. Then your participants need to go around and interview each person and check off a box that applies to them. The person who completes their card first gets a prize.
- Brainstorming session. Group brainstorming is another great way to get people to exchange ideas. You hit two birds with one stone – an icebreaker and idea generator rolled into one!
- Friendly debate. Group your participants into two. One should be the ‘pro’ group and the other is the ‘anti’ group. For instance, you can choose pizza lovers and pizza haters. Give them a few minutes to present their arguments and let the great debate begin!
Icebreakers for large groups (31+ people)
- Stretch. This one’s easy and straight to the point, but helps break the boredom. Ask people to stand up and stretch for a few minutes. You can lead the exercise or play a short video on stage. After this short exercise, you can expect to see a bunch of awake and attentive faces.
- Name thy neighbor. Ask them to learn their neighbors’ names because you’ll be randomly asking them later on.
- Treasure hunting. Hide a few prized items throughout the venue and send your participants on a treasure hunt.
- Stress buster. Hand small slips of paper to everyone and ask them to write down the things that are causing them stress lately. Then during or after the presentation, ask them to rip it to shreds.
- Small groups. Divide your audience into small groups. You can choose your own category and then ask them to play a game that will encourage socialization and teamwork.
As a speaker or presenter, it’s important that you prepare fun icebreakers for your audience. You want people to be comfortable not just with you, but with their neighbors and groupmates as well. Use the icebreakers I’ve shared in this article to start with. But don’t be afraid to think outside the box and get creative with your icebreakers!