A Facilitator’s Confession: Why Icebreakers Are Important

why icebreakers are important

As an engagement facilitator, my job is to guide people into meaningful and productive conversations within online meetings and at large live events.

My big mistake was to think that small talk was a waste of time!

But this article on The Power of Small Talk completely changed my perspective. Here is the quote that summarizes everything:

“[Small talk is] the human equivalent of dogs sniffing butts.” 

— Intrapersona on the Philosophy Forum

Small talk is essentially unavoidable and serves a number of important purposes: establishing a connection, testing the waters, gauging a person’s character and temperament, and establishing a sense of safety and readiness to share and risk vulnerability. All this is done through both verbal and non-verbal cues.

This is why icebreakers (for groups that have never met before) and opening check-ins (for small groups of people who have already met before) are so important.

In the past, I have always tried to design icebreakers that had a “productive” outcome. Now I truly understand the importance of starting off with simple, low-risk interactions that have one key outcome: build trust and readiness to share.

My Favourite Icebreakers

Here are my favourite tools for opening check-ins and icebreakers:

The Innovation on Deck Visual Cards

A variation of the Weather Report in Stormz: I use this at the start or end of online meetings.

The socializer exercise in Stormz (requires Ipads and special expertise)

Visual Explorer Cards

The Lego Strategic Play Diagnostic Cards

If you have any questions about how to combine digital and analog tools to enhance the productivity and engagement at your meetings or events, schedule a 15-minute call with us here. We are always happy to share what we know works well and doesn’t work so well.

Leave a Comment

"NeOle's virtual facilitation services were an eye-opening experience for our globally-dispersed organization. The level of engagement and productive work that we accomplished rapidly turned skeptics into rabid fans, which is why we continue to hire Neolé." - J.Vehar, VP Products, Dale Carnegie & Associates
"I have had the pleasure of working with NeOlé in a number of settings over the past de​cade. Their creative and collaborative approach to training, group facilitation and problem solving greatly influenced the work we did with frontline workers across Ontario. I have adopted a number of their strategies into my own work, and never hesitate to call on NeOle to lead a session at our annual event." - P.Cross, Legal Director, Luke's Place
“I loved the use of the interactive technology for real-time engagement. And the facilitators were wonderful, intuitive, intelligent, able to manage group ebs/flows and adjust accordingly.” - Participant in a 3-day training on Leading Innovation

© 2018 NeOlé

Toronto, ON

​Website Powered by RapidWebLaunch

Sol Santos-Pyne Chief Innovator and Prototype Evaluator. He is always ready to help design, paint, cut and install. Sol will show you what’s possible and will also try the impossible. He is the bravest monkey of all.

Ayla Larzabal Zavitz Artist-in-Residence and Director of the Safety Patrol. She makes sure that everyone is following the rules and having fun at the same time. She is the time-keeper and turn-taking monitor. She helps paint the wood for the monkey bars and will give you great advice on the best accessories.

Beto Santos-Pyne Video Producer and Editor as well as a Reliable Helper during heavy installations. When he is not building intricate systems in Minecraft he is the top ranking swinger on the monkey bars. 

Mateo Larzabal Zavitz is our Media Relations Expert and Installation Helper. Mateo knows what’s cool and what’s not cool. He helps us maintain a realistic outlook on the world and stay up to date on the latest movies and video games.

Matias Larzabal Designer and Lead Installer. Matias has more than 20 years of experience working in construction, 14 years of experience as a dad, 11 years of experience as an uncle, 10 years as a helpful Canadian neighbour and handy-man, and a lifetime of experience as a monkey. Matias is also an artist with a unique upbringing. You can learn more about him and his art on his gallery.

Ginny Santos Monkey Supervisor, Visionary and Managing Director. Ginny is a nutrition coach and entrepreneur who is always looking for ways of involving children in creative thinking and problem solving. You can learn more about Ginny’s other work on NeOle Coaching.

%d bloggers like this: