• Nonprofit Learning Lab

Icebreakers: Make them Less Awkward During Workshops, Retreats and Meetings


#Icebreakers help individuals get to know one another with a focused purpose. Do you lead meetings, #retreats, orientations or #workshops? Icebreakers can help build energy in the room. And yet, we have all participated in some incredibly awkward icebreakers that had good intentions but were introduced with no context or did not connect to why participants were in the room. I always say when you are #facilitating a great icebreaker, no one even knows that is actually an icebreaker because it flows so well.


Below are some of our favorite tips on how to #facilitate great icebreakers---so try to incorporate some of these ideas, next time you are leading an icebreaker at your meeting, orientation or retreat.


Tip #1 | The Why: If you are facilitating an icebreaker for a group of adults during a meeting or workshop, make sure the participants understand the purpose of why you are doing this exercise. Adults learn best when they understand the "why" behind the purpose of what it is that they are doing. Framing and knowing the "why" connects to principles of adult learning which you can learn more about in Malcolm Knowles' book The Adult Learner. If you can't easily say why you are doing an icebreaker for a group of adults - well - you probably should not be doing it.

Tip #2 | A Strong Connection: A great icebreaker connects to the purpose or reason for why you have gathered people together. Your icebreaker should have meaning and connect to the goals of why you have gathered participants together for the meeting or workshop. Creating meaning may take some thought but your #activity will be significantly stronger because of it and you will be viewed as a stronger #facilitator.

Tip #3 | Do not Attempt Massive Social Risk: You have gathered people together for a meeting, retreat or workshop and most likely this is a professional setting. Please make sure people feel personally comfortable doing the icebreaker activity that you ask them to do. Everyone's level of comfort is different so make sure you are proactively thinking about the icebreaker and not putting it together at the last minute.


Need more tips or ideas? The Nonprofit Learning Lab leads a Train the Trainers workshop www.nonprofitlearninglab.org/workshop and we teach how to create and design meaningful workshops, retreats, orientations and meetings.

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