Icebreakers, When Done Right, Can Make All the Difference

It may sound corny, but I have a soft spot for icebreakers. Like you, I’ve sat through my share of icebreaker activities where I’ve either dreaded my turn to speak, or twiddled my thumbs as I counted down how many more answers I had to listen to until we could move onto something more productive. Sound familiar? 

Here’s an example of a particularly painful icebreaker I’ve had to endure in at least half a dozen workshops:

If you could have any superpower, what would it be, and why? 

This icebreaker never goes over well, and here’s why: It makes people feel put-on-the-spot to be clever or creative. The first person who says “invisibility” is going to make everyone else who was planning on saying “invisibility” break a sweat – now they have to come up with a new answer before it’s their turn, and the clock’s ticking. Sure, someone who is naturally witty will come up with something funny. But everyone else (which is most people) will hate answering this question. 

A great icebreaker is “what was the last show you binge watched?” I’ve used this a bunch of times, and can attest to the fact that it has all of the qualities you want in an icebreaker. It allows people to share a bit about themselves, and it gets people equally excited to talk AND listen. If your goal is to loosen people up, get the conversation flowing, and make introductions breezy, there’s no better icebreaker than this.

Icebreakers are also an effective way to get people thinking about a particular focus area, or problem to solve. A sketching icebreaker is great for getting non-creatives to practice visual thinking. There are plenty of effective prompts for these, but they must follow some basic tenets to be successful:

  • Be inclusive – don’t choose a prompt that won’t resonate with everyone. For example, the prompt “tell us about your favorite vacation” doesn’t consider those who don’t travel.
  • Prompts shouldn’t favor creatives (see superpower example above).
  • Don’t set the bar so high that people feel nervous or get performance anxiety. 

So we at Cloudberry developed BerryBreakers, which is an app that provides teams with better icebreakers. We believe that when done right, icebreakers can help even the shyest among us feel at ease – perhaps even excited – as we share a part of ourselves with a group. 

The app includes a variety of icebreakers that are sure to get your workshop off to a great start, organized into 4 categories: 

  • Thinkers are meant to be thought-provoking prompts, often tied into your workshop’s theme. Examples: Describe the best customer service experience you can remember.  Describe your favorite product or service.
  • Draw Things allow participants to put their sharpies to work and start sketching, getting people into a creative mindset. Examples:  Draw how to make coffee. Draw your favorite brand’s logo. 
  • Tell Us Things are great for intros where everyone shares something about themselves with the group. Examples: What was the first concert you ever saw? What’s your favorite movie sequel? 
  • Quickies are meant to be quick and easy, great when there are a lot of participants, or you’re short on time. Examples: Favorite childhood TV show? How many bones have you broken in your lifetime?

We truly hope you enjoy BerryBreakers and find it to be useful. If you’ve got an icebreaker you’d like us to consider adding to the app, or an icebreaker success story, we’d love to hear from you!

Categories: Cloudberry
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