Do you need an effective ice breaker for your upcoming training?

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Answered by: Michelle, An Expert in the Training and Icebreakers Category
The job of a trainer is hard! You want your training to be interactive. You want participants to feel comfortable sharing and asking questions. So, how do you get a large group of participants warmed up for a day of highly interactive training?

Take a tip from me and you are sure to have a crowd-pleasing ice breaker that sets the tone for an upbeat, engaged day of learning. After almost 15 years of training groups in all sectors of the business world, here are three of my tried and true ice breakers that have successfully warmed up even the toughest crowds. Be warned, these tips are for trainers that want to have a little fun and add humor to the day. Be sure to consider the content of your training first and that will dictate the type of effective ice breaker you choose.

Trainings with serious subject matter should have ice breakers related to that topic to stay on point with the subject matter. Also, please note that It is critical that participants not feel singled out during the ice breaker segment of your program. If this happens, you will achieve the opposite effect and have a room full of quiet, disengaged people. Get to know the group as they are arriving. Greet them individually, offer beverages, and make light conversation to create activity in the room before the training begins. This starts to shift the fears that adult learners have when they enter a learning environment.

Instead of feeling confined to a classroom where they are expected to sit in silent obedience, you will establish a more welcoming, participative atmosphere where they will feel comfortable and relaxed. Studies show that the best learning occurs when people feel comfortable. When you are ready to begin the ice breaker, make sure you establish the time allotted for the activity so that your participants know what to expect and don't feel rushed. Giving your audience an agenda and schedule for the day ensures no one will feel lost or anxious.

My favorite ice breakers are surprisingly simple, which is in essence what makes them so effective. In no particular order, here they are:

1) "What's in a Name?": Have participants write down their full name on a piece of paper, (including first, middle, and last names). Have participants turn to the person beside them, explaining the significance of their name, including such items as who named them, who they were named after, and what their name means. There are a surprising amount of stories that come from how people got their birth names, and you will also find that people generally love to talk about themselves. Then have each participant introduce their partner and explain their name and the meaning behind their name. In this way, the group learns everyone's name and no one has to stand up and talk about themselves.

2) "Little Known Fact": Have participants write down a little known fact about themselves. Make sure to tell participants that it has to be a fact that one would not be able to easily guess. Collect the facts from participants and read them aloud one by one, encouraging the audience to guess who the fact belongs to. This warm up is ideal for groups where the participants have worked together. You will find that even in groups where participants have worked together for years, they emerge from this ice breaker feeling much closer due to the nature of this fun and enlightening activity.

3) Dinner Guest: Have participants partner up with the person sitting next to them and share who they would invite to dinner (whether living or dead) and why. Participants will be surprised to hear the variety of answers that emerge and span the range of family members to celebrities. This effective ice breaker can be designed to have participants introduce each other or themselves. You can gauge which is more appropriate by observing the body language and interaction of the participants.

Final tip: the trainer has the greatest influence over the mood and tone of the group. Remember to stay upbeat and energized. This will also fuel your audience to keep the tempo up throughout your training. Good luck and happy training!

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