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.

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