Icebreakers: great fun or excruciating in the extreme? Whatever your views on icebreakers they can be an effective way to get people engaged and connected, quickly
When you’re short on time, and need to maximise the value of interactions between attendees or delegates, event organisers need some tried and tested icebreakers in their toolbox to get people working together.
The trick is to pick the right icebreaker for the group and environment. The reason people can feel uncomfortable about icebreakers is because the organiser hasn’t given enough thought to the nature of their audience.
Having attended hundreds of conferences and events over the last 20 years, I’ve seen some interesting icebreakers to get the audience engaged from the get go. Here are some that have worked particularly well:
Good for: Fundraising events.
How to: The MC prints bingo sheets and put them under everybody’s chairs. The MC then announces an amazing prize to whoever wins the bingo competition.
What the audience don’t know is that everyone has exactly the same bingo numbers. So when the final number is called the whole crowd erupt because they think they have won. Everyone instantly gets the joke and it creates an immediate connection between guests.
2. Find the Person
Good for: Networking Event
How to: Give each delegate a 2nd name badge (in addition to their own). The 2nd badge has the name of another delegate at the event. Then ask attendees to go and find the person whose name is on their 2nd name badge by interviewing as many people as possible. It’s a great way to encourage people to meet new people.
3. Action! Selfie!
Good for: Audience Engagement
How to: It’s really simple: get everyone in the audience to take a selfie! Then ask them to post the selfie to a Twitter hash-tag. Put the stream up on a big screen and you’ll see photos of everyone in the room. It’s really effective way of getting everyone connected to the event, plus engages the audience with key social media streams.
4. My Event Objective
Good for: Audience Feedback and Discussion
How to: Crowd sourcing information or opinion helps get discussions started. Using an event app or polling system, the audience messages a single word into the system about what they want to get out of the event.
The messages are broadcast on a big screen. The audience gets to see each other’s objectives (and maybe enjoys a few humorous responses). Event organisers can award a prize for the most ingenious response or ask the audience to vote for their favourite comment via the polling system.
Good for: Fun!
How to: Most people are familiar with karaoke so very little explanation is required. It works with an MC conducting the whole audience in a sing-a-long to a cheesy or well known hit (Bon Jovi’s ‘Living on a Prayer’, was one that went down particularly well at a recent event). The MC sings the first verse and the whole audience sings the chorus. It’s great fun and it puts a smile on everyone’s faces. Plus, it avoids any awkwardness of individual interaction.
Icebreakers can make a positive difference to the event experience, for organisers and attendees alike. Just remember to think about your objectives and what type of exercise will work best for your audience.