You know, there is nothing more uncomfortable for people than to be in a room of strangers and have to initiate conversation. An ice breaker gives them a reason to talk. It can help ease people into networking, but it is not necessarily networking. It is interactive, but it is not a team building activity. It’s main purpose is to make it easier for people to approach each other.
There is a world of ice breaker activities. Easy ways to find good ones:
- Go online and ask (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn groups).
- Online search
- Library—is full of books that have party games and ice breakers
Here are a few simple ones that you can easily prepare and facilitate yourself…
- Mystery Guest—the easiest of all ice breakers. Good for chamber mixers and cocktail parties. Great for when you have forgotten that it would be a good thing to do and don’t have time to prepare anything. Simply inform people that there is a “mystery guest” among them. They should exchange business cards with as many people as possible. After 30- 40 minutes, or even at shorter intervals, you call upon one person to join you (the mystery guest, who can really be anyone)—and you read the names on all the business cards they have collected. These people win a raffle ticket or a lottery scratcher.
- Scrabble- This is a good one for very large groups. Give each person a card (3” x 5”) with a letter of the alphabet on it. The challenge is to find other people who can help them spell a word that is industry specific and longer than 4 letters in length. That means they must hook up with at least 3 other people. When they accomplish this, they take their cards to a facilitator who gives them each a raffle ticket and a new cards—so they can keep playing. You can make it even more interesting by having people put their cards on a large table or the floor—and others need to place words that use at least one letter from something that is already on the floor (like a giant Scrabble game). Give prizes to the group that comes up with the most obscure word.
- Password—Remember the old TV game show “Password?” This was a game in which one person tried to give a one-word clue to get his or her partner to say a particular word. You hand out a 3” x 5” card to every person. Each of the cards has a word on it (usually a noun). These words can be pertinent to the industry or company. People are instructed to write their name on the back of their card, then pair up with someone and attempt to give only 3 clues to try and get their partner to say the word on their card. If they are both successful, they trade cards. They write their name on the back of the new card and go off and find another partner. At the end of the reception or after 30-45 minutes, you collect all the cards. The card that has the most names on the back of it is identified. All the people listed receive a raffle ticket or prize.
- “What I Like About You”— You don’t often get a chance or remember to compliment your co-workers. This is a great ice breaker for small groups of people who work together (know each other). Tape a blank piece of paper on the back of each person when they arrive. Also hand them a pen and a small Post-It pad. Instruct them to write something –two or three words--about each person in the room (or as many as they can) that summarizes what they like about that person professionally. At the end of your cocktail hour, each person removes the paper from their back and can read what everyone likes about them. You can take it a step further and have each person introduce themselves using the words that others wrote. For example: “I’m Cynthia and I (according to the Post-It’s I received) am focused, a good leader, practical, creative and have a good sense of humor.” Finding out what others think of you (all positive) is a nice way to kick off a party or holiday meeting.