Volunteerpower News October 2003
Volunteer Power News October 2003
Author: Thomas W. McKee
"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter
©2003 Advantage Point Systems, Inc. Publishing
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October Newsletter Content
This month: Ice Breakers, Meetings Openers, and Team Building Activities
Several of you have asked, Tom, why dont you put all of
your ice breakers together in one easy-to-navigate section so I can find what I am looking
for. Great suggestion.
So we have added a new section on our website under resources entitled,--what else, Ice
Breakers, Meetings Openers, and Team Building Activities. We have 18
activities organized in three groups: Ice breakers, Event and Meeting Planning
Openers, and Team Building Activities.
1. Community Building Ice-breakers -- Getting to
·Eight door opening questions (i.e.
"In high school . . .")
·Two truths and a lie
·My favorite ______
·What do we have in common
·Common traits (second version)
2. Event and Meeting Planning Openers (Retreats,
Strategic planning, Meetings)
·"Our organization . . ." opener
·The check in
·Cultural analysis before a strategic planning
3. Team Building Activities
·Developing team focus -- Stranded in the Desert
I have used all of them with great success. You can copy them and use them:
Before you use these activities, read the Four Deadly Sins
of Leading Ice-Breakers.
The Four Deadly Sins of Leading Ice-Breakers
Thomas W. McKee
Not seven? Sorry, I only have four common sins of using ice-breakers; however, if
you avoid these four pitfalls youll be able set the pace for your volunteer event,
focus your meeting, and build community.
Deadly Sin One: Announce that you are going to play a game.
The worst thing a facilitator can do is to say, To get started we are
going to play a get-acquainted game. (Groans from everyone.) Instead
just start doing it. For example, if I am looking for an opener for my regular volunteer
committee meeting of people who know each other very well, I sometimes use the Check
In. Have each person say, I am _____ % here today. The
rest of me is ______. I have heard people say things like, Im
only 60% here tonight. My daughter has her first date and the guy is a jerk.
Let each person talk about where their minds are. As a leader you
discover how big a job you have to get everyone focused on your meeting agenda, but you
also discover what each of your team members are dealing with.
If I am facilitating a group of over 20 people who dont know each other and are
gathered for a training session or planning meeting, I will often say: "Hey, before
we get started today I want everyone to find someone they dont know and ask them
these three questions on the screen. In five minutes Ill call on a few of you
to introduce who you met.
Here are three questions I often use:
Who are you?
What do you do for fun?
What is your expectation today?
Deadly Sin Two: Expect community to just happen.
One of the most important roles of the volunteer leader is to build team
community. In my early years of leading volunteers, I was very naïve, and I thought
that community would just happen if we just spent time working together. I was so
wrong. Fortunately, years ago I discovered that one way to build community is to use
community-enhancing exercises. I have used the following ice-breakers in two
formats, meetings and board retreats.
A favorite of mine is the When I was in high school . . . ice-breaker. I
love this ice-breaker and use it all the time with various groups. It is amazing how
much we learn about each other.
Have everyone get in groups of about six (if your entire board or volunteer committee
number ten or under, you can all stay in one group). Have each one complete the
sentence, In high school you would most likely find me _________________.
Some of the answers I have heard include the following:
¨On the stage
¨In the gym
¨On the track or football field
¨In the quad talking
¨In the library
¨In the bathroom smoking
¨In the deans office
The facilitator will ask follow-up questions to find out more about what each person did
during their high school days. I remember learning that a very serious-minded engineer,
with very short-trimmed hair, revealed to the group that when he was in high school he was
a long-haired drummer for a rock band. No one believed him so he brought pictures
the next day.
Deadly Sin Three: Use an ice-breaker just because everyone
says to do it.
The ice breaker is not just an ice breaker. It must have a purpose and it
can be used effectively as an introduction to the purpose of the event. The
following icebreaker can be tailored to the meeting purpose, or the theme of the retreat,
meeting or training session:
Our organization can . . .
Write the words "agree," "disagree," "strongly agree"
and "strongly disagree" on separate pieces of paper and post them on four
different walls of the room. Then make a statement such as:
1. Our organization can change the world.
2. Our organization has a focused mission.
3. Our organization is facing a major threat.
4. Our organization is living in the past.
5. Our organization stands on the threshold of
6. Our organization is alive and growing.
Have everybody move to the part of the room that matches their opinion. Have the group
discuss why they chose their response.
Deadly Sin Four: Let the ice-breaker go too long.
The 21st century volunteer is time pressed and
will not respond to long, drawn out huggy feely ice breakers. They want
to get to the core of the meeting FAST. The ice-breaker is not the event--it is the
introduction. If it is too long the serious work of the meeting will not be given
enough time, though It should not be so short that participants feel it was a perfunctory
exercise. In some retreats I have used ice-breakers that last thirty minutes, but a
one-hour meeting merits not more than five minutes.
Ice-breakers are tools to have participants reveal something personal about themselves, or
which encourage participants to get to know each other personally. They also
provide the opportunity to have participants talk about their perspective on the
discussion topic. The idea is more than just having fun, the ice-breaker will truly
help to create group understanding based on trust and understanding.
- IS YOUR ORGANIZATION LOOKING FOR SPEAKERS or VOLUNTEER MANAGEMENT
Is your organization part of a larger professional association, or a statewide,
regional or national organization? Does that group have local, regional or national
meetings and conferences? Would you like a Volunteer Power Session presented at one of
Our fast paced 1.5-hour session is a stand-alone training designed to introduce staff,
board and volunteers to a systematic model for building the volunteer team. Participants
learn a practical, effective approach for dynamic volunteer teams.
For more information, or to recommend an organization looking for such a program, please
go to our Web Site at:
http://www.volunteerpower.com/ and fill out the
For more articles by Thomas McKee, visit the Articles Section on our
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Thomas W. McKee
Tom McKee is a leading volunteer management
speaker, trainer and consultant. You can reach Tom at (916) 987-0359 or e-mail him at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Other articles and free resources are available at http://www.volunteerpower.com.