People are seen, heard and therefore more invested if they've spoken at the start of the meeting. Great for team-building.
Sharing information means personal and professional connections can be made between participants in just a few minutes.
Beth Kanter breaks down her favorites here.
Your opening activity can set the tone for a productive session, so, choose questions and activities with care. Remember that human laughter and/or interaction means we often let down our guard and truly learn.
Each person circulates and introduces themselves with a fact "Hi, I'm Susan, I speak Spanish." "Hi, I'm Dwayne, I'm from Detroit." Then these people switch identities, go introduce "themselves" to someone else, and switch identities again. Repeat a few times, then circle up. Each introduces as their last identity, at the same time identifying the real person who has that name/fact.
Start every gathering with a check-in question; it can inspire short or long answers. It can be personal or professional. It can inspire laughs, connections or maybe tears. There are a million examples...like "What book have you given to a friend?" or "Who did you look up to in elementary school?" or something related to the subject of the meeting (puts participants in that head space). If it's a small group, go around. If it's a big group, divide into subgroups then ask for examples when you report back.
1) Movement Name Circle Icebreaker. Everyone introduces themselves with their name and one movement. Everyone else immediately repeats the name and movement. Great for kinesthetic/aural learners.
2) Memory Match-up Icebreaker. Sometimes referred to as "Going on a picnic," folks share their name and something that begins with the first letter of their name. It could be food, or a city they've visited, or a job duty they have. Each person says their own match-up as well as the people before them (gradually adding more) until everyone is introduced. Big memory challenge for those at the end!
Have folks partner up, and take one minute to introduce themselves (eg. name, where from, job). Then ask icebreaker pairs to share some of their skills and superpowers with each other, with the goal of finding something in common within a few minutes. Circling up at the end, each pair shares their mutual skill, and if others in the group share that skill, they proudly lunge forward, saying "SuperStar!"
This is longer but worth it for the music, 3 deep connections made, and the conversation. To prep, write 3 questions of increasing intensity, and set up a bluetooth speaker w/ good song. For the Partner Round, tell folks when you play music they mingle, and when you stop music they find a (new) partner. You'll do this 3 times to establish pairs and name/practice the partnerships (eg. High 5 Partner, Booty Bump Partner & Secret Handshake Partner). Then it's Question Round, so they'll mingle, you stop music & yell to find their "High 5" partner (scramble ensues), then you ask the first question and they both answer to each other. Then they mingle again, stop, yell to find 2nd partner, scramble, ask 2nd question. Then 3rd. Do mini-debriefs to the big group as you go, if time permits.
Those of us lucky enough to work for Playworks have facilitated lots of icebreakers, so if you need more of these kids of ideas and inspiration, go to www.playworks.org and explore the Games Library.
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Thanks for the dozens of diverse suggestions y'all sent in -- books, podcasts, TED talks, web resources -- check 'em out & keep 'em coming.
“We’re going to win this war, not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.”
-- Rose Tico (Star Wars: Episode VIII, The Last Jedi)
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