The list of eighteen ice-breakers and event openers is not exhaustive; however, there is nothing on this list that I have not used with great success. All of these are winners.
But one caution, if you haven't read, "The Four Deadly Sins of Leading Ice-Breakers," click here.
I. Getting to Know You Ice-BreakersDoor Opening Questions
Volunteers often don't really know much about each other. We can help by using a "disclosure" question to break down the masks that people often wear at meetings. When people get to know one another at a more personal level, they have more fun when working.
Have everyone get in groups of about six (if your entire board or volunteer committee is ten or under, you can all stay in one group). Have each one answer one or all of the following questions.
Two Truths and a LieHave participants say 3 things about themselves - 2 true and 1 lie. Others guess what the lie is.
My Favorite ...Have everyone write on a piece of paper their answers to these questions: What is your favorite food, animal, TV show, hobby, and color? Sign your name. Don't let anyone else see the answers. The leader then reads the answers to the whole group, and members try to guess whom each set of answers belongs to. Award one point for each right guess. The person with the most points wins a prize.
Common TraitsGive each person a list of 5 to 10 traits that they must find in common with the people around them. Sample items could be: "Find someone that was born in the same month," "... someone who lives in your state," or "...drives the same model of car." A prize is awarded to the participants with the most in common.
What Do We Have in Common?Have everyone get in groups of three and stand in a circle. Tell them that their assignment for the next two minutes is to find five distinctive things that the three of them have in common. The three things cannot be job related or obvious (all are women). Common items are the following:
All born in the same state
All parents of three boys
All drive a Lexus
Have the first groups that finish sit down. When the two minutes are up, tell the first three groups to introduce themselves and find out what they have in common. I had one group of three men, who had never met each other before, discover that they all had back-packed the same trail in Colorado.
The Hot SeatEvery year I would take our board of directors on a retreat and we would spend a weekend together visioning for the coming year. We always started out Friday evening with a dinner and then an activity like the following:
Everyone sits in a circle and one by one each of us take the hot seat. Sitting in the "hot seat" we had to answer a series a questions asked by another board member. Some of the more memorable questions were:
II. Event and Meeting Planning OpenersThe following openers are used to set the stage for the event or meeting.
Our Organization _________ (Planning-Meeting Opener)
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:
Simple Lead-InsAsk participants to state one or two "burning questions" they hope will be answered in this session. Have participants describe one strategy/resource they have used successfully (relevant to the topic of the meeting/training). Have them state their personal definition of the topic (i.e., team, community, mission, a cause).
The Check InHave each person say, "I am _____ % here today. The rest of me is ______." Let each person talk about where his/her mind is. As a leader you discover how big a job you have to get everyone focused on your meeting agenda.
At the beginning of a strategic planning retreat, I assign (or get a volunteer) a member of the board to prepare a 10 minute presentation on the following three topics. I send the topics out to all board members in advance and ask every one to clip articles from newspapers, journals, and magazines on the topics. After each presentation, I lead a discussion as we develop a picture of the external culture of our organization.
A. The World We Face: The broad environmental analysis. (Assigned topic for group member)
What is going on in the world today
Will tomorrow's environment be different still?
Can you give relevant statistics and information from media and other sources?
B. The World of _____________ (Fill in the blank with what ever your organization represents—i.e. Hospital volunteers, Museums, Churches) (Assigned topic from group member)
What is happening in other like industries?
What can we learn from their strengths and weaknesses?
Who are the competitors in the field? What do we need to know about them?
III. Team Building ActivitiesBuilding Interdependence
I have used this exercise with fantastic results. It took over two hours with just five executives who were each operating independently. Our goal was to get them to see the need to work interdependently and become a synergistic team. We gained a lot of ground with this exercise.
You will note at the end of the instructions, I say that we will start with the executive director. The E.D. sets the pace for the sharing time.
Copy the following Instructions and hand them out to each participant.
You each have four 5 x 7 cards. Write one name on each of the cards of the other four executive-team members.
On one side write all the things that you appreciate and admire most about this person.
On the other side answer this question:
"If we are to move from where we are today to became a synergistic, interdependent team, what do I need from this person that I am not currently getting?" (In other words, what behaviors must this person change if we are to become a high performance, trusting team?) Be specific.Take about 20-30 minutes to fill out the cards. Give each one careful thought.
When you receive your cards, take 20 minutes to read them carefully, and then write a response. As you write your response, think of these questions:
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