Icebreakers serve a valuable purpose in training. Not only can they energize participants, but they can also educate and inform. But it can be a challenge finding creative activities. During the American Society for Training & Development 2011 International Conference & Expo, held in Orlando, Fla., Marc Ratcliffe, CEO of MRWED, an Australian consultancy specializing in trainer training, shared a few favorites.
- Human treasure hunt. This activity is a great way to get participants to learn more about one another. Ask them to go around the room and identify people who meet certain criteria, such as someone with the same shoe size, someone with a Nokia mobile phone and someone wearing gold. The first participant to find someone meeting all of the criteria wins a small prize.
- Laughing round. This is great with a large group. Break the room into four sections, and have each group laugh in sequence. One group will start with “ha, ha, ha.” The next will “ho, ho, ho.” The third group will “hee, hee, hee,” and the last group will “haw, haw, haw.” This activity is great for conference sessions. Just imagine what the group next door must think.
- Out of the box. Perfect for a smaller group, this activity encourages interaction and creativity. Put a group of unrelated topics in a box – say, deep-sea fishing, ice-cream sundae, Abraham Lincoln and violin practice. Each group pulls a topic from the box. The first group starts to tell a story using its topic. After a few moments, the second group continues the story using its topic, and so on.
- Review roulette. Another group activity, this one is appropriate at the end of a session, or you can make it an opening activity during a multiday event to review material from the previous day. Divide participants into groups and assign them a section of the covered material. Ask each group to write two review questions as well as the answers. Collect all of the questions, then use them to quiz the class.
- U-turn card. This activity is applicable for any kind of conflict or problem-solving session. Each participant gets a U-turn card. When someone in the group says something “can’t be done,” another participant can use his U-turn card and request that the person rephrase the comment to discuss something that “can be done.” This minimizes negativity and keeps participants accountable to one another.
A bonus: If you’re looking for an exercise to get people out of their chairs, try Zoom. Ask everyone to stand up and write the word “zoom” in the air using their backside.
Got any tried-and-true training activities that you can share? Leave yours in the comments.