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Dynamic Icebreakers

10 strategies to get attendees engaged and connected

By Brandie Weikle

To make sure people get the most out of conference sessions, workshops and meetings, you’ve got to get them engaged with each other and the subject matter.

“When you’ve got a group with a bunch of strangers, you want them to feel comfortable,” says Laurel Crossley, a profes­sional speaker who runs an annual women’s retreat.

That’s where icebreakers come in—simple activities that help people overcome initial shyness.

Productivity coach Clare Kumar says icebreakers help make good use of session time. “You want to build trust and rapport quickly and this gets everyone talking and sharing confidently.”

Here are 10 icebreakers guaranteed to get attendees engaged with each other and ready to learn.

Three words
Ask each person to describe themselves with three words: “Cathleen, entrepreneur, mother,” or “Garry, accountant, cyclist.”

Two truths and a lie
Have each person state three things about themselves, two true and one fiction. Then, the group guesses which is the lie. Encourage participants to share outlandish truths to throw others off the scent.

Trace or draw a big map of your province, country or world and have everyone write their name on their hometown.

The toilet paper game
Tell participants to take the num­ber of squares they normally use from a roll of toilet paper. Then instruct them to tell the room (or smaller breakout groups) one thing about themselves for each square they took.

Word of the year
Have each person pick a theme word that represents their hopes for the year ahead, then share.

People bingo
If you’ve got the time before­hand and can gather informa­tion about participants, create a bingo card with a fact about each person. Send everyone on a mingling quest to find the people who match a row of squares.

Two of a kind
Give each person a playing card and instruct them to find their buddy—the person holding the card with the same colour and number.

Folding story
Organize into small groups and give each an envelope containing slips of paper bearing one word each. All groups have the same word selection. Group members work together to write a story, one sentence or phrase at a time, incorporating words from the envelope as they’re drawn. Read out the ridiculous stories.

Seating plan
Ask guests to order themselves alphabetically by first name or in order of their birthdays.

Would you rather?
Put a piece of masking tape down the centre of an open space in the room, then pose a series of questions with two possible answers: “Would you rather take a train or plane? Skydive or bungee jump? Visit the beach or pool?” Have participants step or jump to one side of the tape or the other to select their choice.

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