An icebreaker or “warm-up” is a wonderful technique to start a meeting. If done properly, these team activities create an energizing environment, enhance the team’s work, and get people talking/acquainted.
Some people love to start with icebreakers, while others want to dive right into the content of the meeting. So when you do warm-ups,
Follow these guidelines for success:
Make It Quick. Especially the first few times you do a team activity, make sure it lasts no more than five minutes. If your meeting is more than an hour long, you can increase the time accordingly.
Involve Everyone. Make sure the activity has everyone actively involved. This means no wallflowers — everyone has something to do or is expected to contribute in some way.
Make It Okay to Pass. Some people may not want to participate — for whatever reason. In the introduction, tell your teammates they can say “pass” if they don’t want to participate.
Tie It to the Team. Most folks will go along with the activity if it has some relevance to the team’s work. Introduce the icebreaker, why you chose that activity, and what the benefits are — especially if the activity is a game or is unusual.
Start Out Easy. Many teams start out with an easy icebreaker where a question is asked and then each team member answers the question. For example: “What is the best team you have ever been on?” and then each member answers the question. Stay away from “getting to know you/what’s your hobby” perfunctory questions that add little value.
Keep It Lively. After the team has done a few easy icebreakers, try a different type of activity. There are dozens of books on icebreakers, warm-ups, team activities, games, etc. that may inspire you to try something different. If you want to encourage flexibility of mind, look for imaginative or creative activities.
Be Prepared. Bring instructions, handouts, or supplies with you.
Enjoy Yourself. If you are looking forward to the warm-up, then others will too.
Thank Them. At the conclusion of the activity, thank everyone for participating, and continue with the agenda.
After a while, the team will expect these icebreakers and you can experiment with the length, content, and different methods. Encourage other team members to bring in new team activities and build the team! You’ll find that team members learn from each other what they like and dislike, what works and what doesn’t, and how they work together as individuals and as a team.
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF | Master, CSP is a high-stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator. She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years. She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.