Almost every trainer uses an icebreaker, but a poor execution can cost valuable time or make participants feel uncomfortable. Understand the role that icebreakers play in facilitation. Icebreakers should help participants feel more comfortable, connect participants to the content, and use an appropriate amount of time. Discover when and how to use an icebreaker. Observe a sample icebreaker from a live training program.
- Chances are nearly every training class you've attended has started with some sort of icebreaker. That's because they're helpful tools to make participants feel comfortable and encourage interaction. A really good icebreaker has three characteristics. The first is it connects the participant to the content. So, if I'm doing a customer service class, the icebreaker should be something about customer service. The next is it should be appropriate in length. You don't want to take too much time breaking the ice because that means less time for the rest of your workshop.
I generally keep icebreakers to about five minutes for any class less than half a day. Finally, icebreakers should break the ice. The goal is to help participants feel comfortable so the icebreaker should be simple and nonthreatening. Let's take a look at an icebreaker I facilitated for a half-day train the trainer workshop. See if you can spot the attributes that make it an effective icebreaker. So, you're probably wondering, if you've been to a training program before, you know by law we have to do an icebreaker.
Well, maybe not by law, right? But every training program you go to, you've got to do an icebreaker. We've reached that critical moment in the training workshop where we're going to do an icebreaker. I like to do something really, really simple and that is just at your tables, you could expand if you'd like, but I'd say let's keep things easier. At your tables, I'd like you to be able to answer three questions about each person, your name, because we've got some different organizations represented, maybe your organization and your role. And then training project refers to one opportunity to apply what you've learned in this workshop so maybe you're working on developing a new training program or maybe you're working on developing an employee or maybe you're developing your skills as a trainer and there's something that's coming up in the next couple of weeks where you hopefully will be able to use what you've learned in this workshop, so kind of the answers to those three questions we were just talking about.
So, that's what I'd like you to discuss and because we don't want to take too much time, let's just take about five minutes. Have this conversation with the people at your table and then we'll bring it back to the workshop. (audience participating in the icebreaker) Okay, what did you notice? First, the icebreaker connected to the content by asking participants to discuss how the workshop was relevant to them.
Second, the icebreaker lasted just a few minutes which is an appropriate amount of time for a half-day workshop. Finally, it broke the ice by encouraging participants to interact with each other in a low-key way. These same characteristics apply to webinars too. For instance, if I'm doing a webinar on corporate budgeting, I might launch a poll to ask, "How many participants have prepared a budget before?" Then I might break the ice a little more by starting a brief chat discussion around the benefits of having an accurate budget forecast.
I want to make it easy for you to come up with terrific icebreakers for your next training class so I've created a list of books and websites that have a wide selection of icebreakers for you to use. You can find it in the downloadable additional resources file.
- Identifying employee training needs
- Creating an individual development plan
- Developing learning objectives
- Preparing employees for training
- Evaluating a training program
- Presenting with confidence and clarity
- Facilitating discussions and learning
- Managing breaks effectively
- Delivering training via webinar