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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ice Breakers

An ice breaker can be a very useful technique to start a presentation or training session. It can either be in the form of a set of PowerPoint slides designed to get the audience interested – or even better, it can allow some form of audience participation.

We have collected here a range of ice breakers that you may be able to use at your next presentation or training session.

Ice breakers

A good ice breaker is where you get people who do not really know each other to get together. Then you give them five minutes to find out two or three things that they have in common (outside of work).
It could be where they were born, where they went to school, somewhere they have been on holiday, someone they know, hobbies in common.
At the end of the session you get some of them to stand up and say what they have in common. It is amazing how much people really do have in common.

Guess who?

Another technique for breaking the ice with a mid-sized group – it works particularly well in your own company or group – is to ask people to write on a post-it note something about themselves that nobody else would know.

People then have to guess who the answer applies to. You do not have to do all of the answers – just pick a few at random. You can also save a few for later in the day when people return from a coffee or lunch break.

Some of the answers can be really revealing. One person turned out to have been a breakfast TV presenter earlier in his life and another went into the woods looking for mushrooms!

Story of my life

This involves giving people the chance to make a small book about the story of their life. They have to draw in it a number of scenes about their life. They can play these back to each other or to the group.

Straub test

This was always a good one for a set of PowerPoint slides. Make a selection of PowerPoint slides each with the name of a colour printed clearly on it, but make sure that the colour of the text does not always match the name of the colour (see below). Present them in quick succession and ask people to call out the colour of the text not the word it spells. This has become more difficult to do of late due to the popularity of the Nintendo Brain Training game.


Get the audience to do it quickly. They will soon start making mistakes. When they get it wrong you can call out the real colour.

Which finger?

Here is a good one for breaking the ice. Do this to members of your audience in turn.

Get your audience to hold out their hands with their arms straight in front of them and their thumbs pointing straight up.
Ask them to rotate their hands so that their thumbs are pointing downwards.
Ask them to cross their hands over so that their palms are flat against each other.
Get them to interlace their fingers to make a fist.
Now – point to a finger (without touching) and ask them to move it.
Now try another. They will probably find the bottom fingers most difficult.
Repeat the exercise with touching – many people find this easier.

Draw a picture

Another quite simple ice breaker technique is to arrange members of the audience in pairs and then get one of each pair to draw a picture without showing the other person. They then have to describe the picture to the other person, who has to make an exact copy – without being able to see it. All of the instructions have to be made verbally and there can be NO POINTING!

Set a time limit of three minutes.

Most people will find this very difficult. Then allow them a very quick glimpse of the picture. They will then suddenly be able to draw it with ease.
This demonstrates two different learning styles. All too often teachers and coaches rely heavily on verbal communication. Often a picture will help to convey the message far more effectively.


This is an ice breaker that my father (an amateur magician) used to use.

This works well with larger numbers. Ask people to guess how many people you would have to ask before you found two people who have the same birthday. Ask them to call their guess out and write down the answers. Most people think that it will be a number over 100.
Then get people to write down their birthday (just the day and the month) on a big sheet of paper. Get them to call their dates out in turn. Write these down on a flip chart. Statistically, the average is just 26 people to find a pair that have the same birthday.

You can end by saying, “Isn’t that an amazing coincidence? Now, talking about coincidences, my presentation will now reveal…” and then you are off.

Send in your ice breakers

Have you come across any other good ideas for ice breakers?

We will try to publish all suggestions that look suitable.


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