“Testing, testing – Three, two, one.”
….is definitely not the first thing you want attendees to hear when they arrive. Wouldn’t it be better instead of having a cold open to try warming things up with a fun activity?
We sense there are still some of you not on board — those of you who are averse to anything termed an “icebreaker” or a “team builder”. Those two-word phrases can often bring to mind uncomfortable situations that you’re professionally obligated to be in for a horrendous amount of time.
These warm-up activities are not that. We promise. They’re tried-and-tested tricks you can use to get conversations flowing as naturally as possible at your event. You won’t find an escape room here, either.
Some are really low-key; others are bigger things that might take you a bit of time. But all of them are nice ways to get your event started on a high note.
Find things in common
This is exactly what it sounds like. All you have to do is put people into pairs and have them find 10 things in common. There are a few variations on it; you can also put people into small groups and find things that each person has in common with 3 other group members (it doesn’t have to be the whole group). You could also make it more specific and have people share their favourites about a specific category of thing — like ten foods or ten films.
Find the person who does…
When people sign up for your event, ask them to add a little fact about themselves. It could be something like their job title, where they’re from, or maybe a special skill they have like speaking fluent French. Print out this list and cut it into strips with a different fact on each strip. When guests arrive to check in at the event, have them take a strip of paper. Their mission is to find the person who the fact belongs to. This is a great way to get people chatting as it gives them the perfect excuse to open a conversation, as well as what they might want to have the conversation about.
Send VIPs and special attendees a welcome package
To make your event’s VIPs feel, well, very important, send them a welcome package ahead of time filled with swag, like a mug, a notebook or a T-shirt with the event name on it. In case you haven’t heard, people love free stuff!
Note: Here are more ideas for swag – 100 of them, actually.
“Three Shining Work Moments”
This one comes from financial platform The Balance, who says it’s one of their top icebreakers (and they definitely know what they’re talking about). The idea is to have each person share their three best-ever work moments. They say “it worked so well that I have used it over and over again with different groups.” That will give each person a chance to talk about what really makes them special, as well as the chance for other people to appreciate what their other event attendees can do. This one does take a little longer but can be very valuable. It’s always good to focus on the positives!
Two truths & a lie
Everybody’s played this game, right? Each person has to come up with three facts about themselves, two of which are true and one of which is false. Everybody else has to guess which ones are the truth and which one is the lie. It can be surprisingly difficult! Chances are you’ll learn some surprising things about the people, even if you know them pretty well.
Find your pair
This is similar to the first item on our list, but rather than having to have a discussion about what things you may have in common, you already know them from the beginning. What you don’t know is who you share a favourite with. Have people write their favourite food (or another category you like) on their name tag when they arrive, then try to find somebody with the same one. Just hope that not everybody loves pizza, otherwise you’ll have a very short icebreaker! You could also have them pick up a card when they check in. Have pairs (or more) of cards with pictures of fruit or something. Then, people have to find their matching pair.
Professional events can sometimes be a bit stuffy, so this icebreaker is a good way to get people feeling a bit more relaxed. It’s from the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), who put on a lot of events and have a solid understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Their suggestion is to get your attendees to come up with a five-word description of what they do. Their examples are “Capturing today’s memories for tomorrow”, “I’ve got your back”, and “Tech help, not tech hype” — for a photographer, chiropractor, and computer support person respectively. If your group doesn’t know each other previously, you could also have them guess what the person does. This is best done in small groups.
Take them out on an excursion
TEDx is doing all kinds of things right when it comes to event planning, including this pre-event activity based on the idea of a field trip for adults. In the two weeks leading up to the first TEDxBeaconStreet in Boston, they had 14 different Adventures that took you to interesting parts of the city, from the biochemistry lab at Harvard to a bike tour to a trip on a lobster fishing boat. Your city may not be the home of one of the most prestigious universities in the world, but it probably has someplace nice where you can take your guests — there’s got to be something!
Hopefully, by now you feel better prepared to get your guests all warmed up before your event actually starts. Whether you choose one of the simpler options like having people find things in common or a planned-out adventure, there are plenty of tried-and-true ideas out there to make your next event really stand out.
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