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I occasionally hear from my clients that their employees do not like icebreakers. Why is this? If you are on social media, you may have seen a few memes that reference this topic—introverts and icebreakers. I’ve seen one with a man looking away from the camera, one hand on his head and an arm across his chest. The caption read, “Dear Workplaces, PLEASE stop doing icebreakers. Signed, Introverts.” Another is a picture of an ice cube melting with a message from John Spencer, “Extroverts want to do icebreakers, but introverts are happy letting the ice melt slowly.”
This says to me that we are not choosing the right icebreaker for our learners’ personalities or level of comfort. In a sales course, where learners are required to be outgoing and use interpersonal skills, asking them to stand up and introduce themselves while sharing a fun fact or their favorite vacation spot, works well. Using that same icebreaker in a course that doesn’t focus on interpersonal content, with learners who aren’t used to speaking in front of an audience, may cause the learners some discomfort. Our goal is to ensure learners feel comfortable and safe in their learning environment, and that their self-esteem is maintained throughout the training.
Here’s an example of a live polling icebreaker, using modern technology, that will allow you to learn more about your learners without putting them in the spotlight.
What Is It?
Live polling is a great way to engage your group without having them verbalize their responses. An online service like Poll Everywhere makes it easy for learners to respond from their phone, tablet, or other device.
What Will You Need?
The instructor will need an account with Poll Everywhere or a similar service and to create the polls in advance.
Each learner will need to install the Poll Everywhere application on their smartphone or tablet. Alternatively, they can use a browser or text their responses.
Sample Icebreaker Questions
- What was your first concert?
- What do you want to do on your first day of retirement?
- What was your favorite food as a kid?
- How would you describe your morning in a single word?
- What would be the title of your autobiography?
- You’ve inherited a time machine. What time/era do you travel to first?
- You’re trapped in the last TV show you watched. Where are you, and will you survive?
- Suddenly, you’re a wizard. What’s your wizard name?
- What are your expectations for the course?
- What are you biggest challenges/frustrations with your role?
- What other objectives would you like covered that are not listed?
Once the responses come in from the poll, comment on some of the answers and relate them back to the training. This will help connect the icebreaker to the course content. The best part of this icebreaker is that the answers are anonymous. Those learners that feel uncomfortable standing and sharing, will have an opportunity to share without being put in the spotlight!
What types of questions do you ask during icebreakers? Are there any that stand out as well-received and enjoyed by everyone?