Ice breakers are important for setting the tone and encouraging engagement during a training session. Experienced trainers will typically allocate between 20 to 30 minutes for a warm up, so that they can get early on participation and tease out shared experiences.
Choosing a good ice breaker
At a recent Train the Trainers session I used the ice breaker question “What is the most difficult situation you have had as a trainer?”. Individuals then shared their nightmare problems which generated sympathy and a few laughs.
The purpose of this session was to bring out the elephants in the room - training is not always plain sailing. It also reminded the participants that they found a way to cope with the challenge and they survived.
For me as the trainer, I shared an example and set myself to be a fellow learner rather than the expert with all the experience. It also gave me some examples that I could reference in the afternoon session where we had a session called “Challenges in the training room.”
However, for the charity team building session I wanted something a little different. It worked like this;
- One week prior to the course I asked each participant for a favourite song.
- On the day I created a list of the songs and a separate list of the participants.
- In small groups they had to guess who chose which song.
- Finally the true connections were shared in the complete group.
To help break up a tiring full-day of Zooming, I played a minute of each song (at the end of each session, before and after lunch) while the individual spoke about why they chose that particular song. Here's one that was chosen.
what does a successful ice breaker do?
1) it got everyone talking, even the shy ones.
2) it revealed something unique about each person.
3) it built some connections between people who like similar music.
The ice breaker itself satisfied one of the objectives of the day which was to create social bonds between team members.
A variation on the theme is when staff share “inheritance” tracks. Individuals choose a song that they inherited (from parents, school etc) and also a track they want to pass on to the next generation and explain why they chose them. Bare in mind that it takes a bit longer to facilitate, so you need to be careful in scheduling if you use this variation.
So, my closing advice to anyone preparing a team building event or training session, don’t skip the positive use of a good ice breaker!