Kristinesargsyan's Blog

January 12, 2010

Great Discussion on Orientation Icebreakers (from LinkedIn Trainning and Development Group)

Filed under: Favorite Articles and Posts — by kristinesargsyan @ 1:28 pm

Orientation icebreaker

I’m looking for a successful icebreaker that is useful for a group of 20 – 30 people to introduce themselves to others. Criteria is that it is interesting, fast and engaging and doesn’t make people stand up at the front of the room and introduce themselve to the everyone else.

I’ve also asked each person to bring along something from their desk or from where they work that personally represents what they do. Does anyone have suggestions?

Todd Kaleto

I do introductions by pairing people up and asking them to interview the person they are paired with obtaining the following information. name, new position, favorite thing to do outside of work, 1 expectation for orientation, and perception or view of the employer (in my case the resort) before being offered a position. People are sometimes afraid to speak about themself in front of a group but more relaxed when speaking about someone else. I don’t require them to stand in front…it’s by choice only, whatever makes the person comfortable.

To pair people up…

I’ve asked people to talk with each other as an entire group to determine the years of experience in the industry, hospitality in my case, and then ask them to line up accordingly with most yrs of experience to the least yrs of experience. I pair people by selecting 1 person from each end working towards the middle. This gives people an opportunity to meet someone with lesser or greater experience and sometimes people find a mentor.

Terrence Seamon

I like your idea of bringing something that represents an aspect of the person. Could be revealing and fun!

Tony Park


Just random, high energy, to get people talking and interacting.

They have to introduce themselves to five people they don’t know…..find out five new things… five minutes.

The facilitator manages the clock and ensures people move on after each 60 seconds.
Or create a bingo sheet of paper. 25 boxes with different things in it.

1. £20 pound in wallet/purse
2. Only child
3. Speak two or more languages
4. Lived abroad
5. Has pets
6. Has children
7. Likes country music
8. Watches football
9. Something topical based on current events or time of year like ……finishd xmas shoping
10 etc
11. etc

Hand out the sheets of paper and each person has to fill in as many boxes as possible in a given time period. Basically they find people who can tick a box and then they move on.

Kristy McDonald

I have had them draw something that represents them – their favorite place, vacation, hobby, etc. It’s not for everyone, depends on the group.

Jayanti Prasad

I ask them to tell the others their name and one ( or 2 depends on time available) adjective(s) that describe them as a person and the adjective should start with the first letter of their name or the sound of the first letter. If I have to introduce myself , I would say – Joyful Jayanti ( Starting with the first letter or Generous Jayanti- starting with the sound of the first letter of my name.)The adjective has to be positive.The second person repeats the first persons adjective and name and then gives his/her name and adjective. If the group is small , they repeat all names before their own otherwise at least two names before their own.A few start immediately. The members can help the others. You can also avoid repetition of adjectives if your group responds creatively.It gives a great start and a lot of positive environment gets created along with fun. If it is a new group they get to know one another more quickly.They can introduce from wherever they are. They don’t need to come in front of others.

Andy O’Callaghan

To get things off with a bang, get each person to write three things about themselves onto a piece of paper they then roll up and insert into a balloon. The balloon is then blown up and tied so it’s bouyant. When everyone has done theirs, you give the signal for them to throw their balloon into the air and begin a 30 second bounce around where you push the balloons continually into the air.
When you call stop, you collect the balloon nearest you and wait for the facilitator to give the signal to pop the balloon making quite an impact as 30 balloons pop simultaineously!
They then have to find the person who’s three facts they have by going around and asking questions of the others in the group. The person must also offer up one fact about themselves to the other person so that something new is learned about each contact made and you can help others out if you know where they are.
This has been very useful on several occassions and has even been done as a mass balloon drop from the ceiling!

Todd Kaleto


I love your idea! Fun, interactive, and memorable!

Mark Handel

Jayne, check out Sharon Bowman’s website, . She has a lot of great ideas and resources available; I highly recommend her.

Thanks, Mark

Robin Cook

Have each person get up & tell the group 3 or 4 things that the group might not know about themselves. 1 of those things will be a lie. The group then is to decide among themselves which is the lie.

Andy’s balloon exercise is a new one to me – I like it!

Missy Covington

I’ve used a card exercise (which I think I first saw used by Thiagi) where each member of an audience gets a playing card–then everyone has to go around the room to try to create the best poker hand that they can. This generally involves some negotiation–and people really start talking with each other.

(It’s also good for the metaphor that we can do more together than we can do alone–if that’s something you’re trying to communicate at all.)

Diana Hauman

Similar to the desk item, I’ve asked people to bring a hat or a t-shirt that represents a part of their life outside of work. to share with others in small groups why they brought that particiular item.
Another way is asking people to pair up and get to know one another; then after a few minutes ask two pairs to form a quad; and keep the group expanding until it is one large group. Time permitting, you can ask for folks to share any interesting info — relevant to work! — that they learned from their colleagues.

1.      To respond to Alan’s comment, I’ll often use “What’s in Your Wallet” to tie the ice breaker to the content. Everyone is asked to take an item out of their purse, wallet, or pocket at the start of the session, but they are not told why they need it. Then people are asked to introduce themselves using whatever criteria you wish. They must finish by saying how the item they selected relates to the training they are about to start. People get very creative and often very funny!

 Doug Caldwell, Facilitator Extraordinaire’

Think chocolate or other candy. Get an assortment of candy which is passed out to the audience as they arrive. What you want to achieve is that depending on audience size is to get groups of 3-5 people who all have the same type of candy. At some point there is any audience breakout where they find others who have the same type of candy. If eaten before the breakout, save the wrapper. Once in their small groups proceed with your activity of choice.

Susan Reed

I’ve used several – 2 I particularly like:
1) either hand as they come into the room (like this as I get to meet each person) or place at the tables coloured candies. Ask people to find others with the same colour candy as them, find out an interesting fact from each person in that group that incorporates the colour – if time report the most interesting out to the rest of the group.

2) place random words for each person, facilitator starts with a word too, using a ball of yarn start a ‘story’ with the word, throw yarn to someone else int eh room and they continue the story while also telling us who they are. You can either use personal anecdotes or any other type topic. Idea is to get them up and talking.

Karen Carlson

I also like to use the Bingo! game. I put up a slide with the instructions about 15 minutes prior to class starting. The instructions have the participants immediately using their Bingo! sheet to interact with others as they arrive. Whenever they get 5 in a row, they need to yell out “Bingo!” and they continue on hoping for a Blackout. To tie it to the learning objectives, I used terms and acronyms for items on the agenda. They have to find someone who knows (or can give a good guess!) as to what that term means. The best part from a facilitator standpoint is that the icebreaker takes NO TIME from the training day as they are doing it as they arrive. Plus, they get to meet several people and thus are more likely to interact once official training begins.

Missy: Love the Poker game idea! I’ll be using that one!!

Bob Makarowski


I must be teaching on a different planet.

I’ve got a huge list of skills to cover, and ensure that my attendees achieve a decent level of competency. Instead of breaking the ice, put on the skates and start gliding. The clock is ticking and the person(s) paying your invoice will be judging you using their metrics, not kumbaya.

A number of years back I attended a one-day seminar entitled “50 ways to liven up your training.” Whatta waste! None of the techniques covered had anything to do with improving the assimilation of workshop content. They were all touchy-feely, pop-psychology relics.

Want repeat business from your clients? Create workshop graduates who can effectively use the material you are teaching. If you truly create graduates that are competent in the skills you’re teaching, they’ll be able to fund their own warm and fuzzy enlightenment.

Stick to the syllabus people.

Lynda Robitaille

Interesting point of view Bob, but I beg to differ and if you will allow me I will explain a further.

A new group coming together to learn or work on a task needs a facilitator/leader who can manage both task and maintenance. Icebreakers are one way to build trust in groups and is the beginnings of good maintenance.

I for one, like my groups to be open enough to discuss topics, ask questions and feel at ease to do so. Icebreakers are a good way to introduce and get comfortable. Always remember there are introverts in every group, with bright ideas and have reflected long enough to have some pretty good ones. They need to feel comfortable or they wont talk.

On another note, you can’t enter the “zone of proximal developement” (ZPD) without trust and without an icebreaker trust is very difficult to establish quickly.

If you are just lecturing using a syllabus …..different story and people learning in relationship is I guess not what you are looking for.

Cherie Bescript

The distinction, clearly, between “training” and “facilitating” makes all the difference. I do both and when facilitating a group of folks that do not already know each other but must address deeply personal work…well.

Deborah Moroy, AIC, IIA

I agree that icebreakers done professionally do help jump start a class. Professionally is the key word. I witnessed a carrier staff group that included as ice breakers some taboo ideas such as having everyone going around the room and telling their marital status, kids, etc which are questions not even allowed in an interview never mind in front of a classroom of staff employees. Another felt free to let an ice breaker get side tracked into off the cuff sexual comments so it’s important if ice breakers are used that the instructors are mentored on off limit questions or any planned ice breaker topics be preapproved. In today’s world, I was quite surprised this wasn’t common knowledge to the instructors before hand.

Susan Landay

President at Trainers Warehouse


You certainly have a point when it comes to making sure each activity is purposeful and linked to your training goal.

And, I wouldn’t write off the value of icebreakers too quickly. The key reason so many have embraced the concept of icebreakers, interactivity and fun is that they reduce stress and induce laughter. Here are a couple of brain research facts that help it all make sense:

Stress causes your body to release cortisol into the bloodstream, which destroys glucose, the brain’s only source of food.” (Tina Konstant, Teach Yourself Speed Reading

Laughter reduces stress. Actually it reduces at least four of neuroendocrine hormones associated with stress response — epinephrine, cortisol, dopac, and growth hormone. Paul E. McGhee, PhD, Health, Healing and the Amuse System, 1999.

Events and information become more memorable when emotions are are involved (as long as they don’t overshadow) the content. David Sousa, How the Brain Learns, Corwin Press, 2006.

Aslam Mohammed

I rather liked the balloon idea. Fun, prop, physical movement and visibility all rolled into one class room.

My favorite which is a must in all my workshops is a game of virtual volleyball. Just divide the group into two teams. The number of members should not exceed 15 in each team. Then just play volley ball where the ball is passed by calling people’s first names. Normal volley ball rules would apply except the ball has to be passed three times before it is sent back to the opposite team.

End of the game – every body is involved – warmed up and best – remember each others first names. Especially in India where people use their initials to introduce themselves it is a very relevant exercise. Also the trainer is able to remember all the participants by first name at the end of the game.

Mohammed Aslam

We use something called a “thumball.” Participants toss it around the room and wherever their thumb lands, they must answer the question asked (e.g. favorite vacation). It’s a great conversation starter for people who don’t know each other well. You can buy a commercially produced one or make your own with questions specific to your organization. They still have to stand up, but it is much less intimidating, and more fun, than simply talking about themselves in front of the group.


          Ciaran Mc Grath

We use the “Who’s Who?” game to good effect, it’s simple and only takes a few minutes.

1. Break out into groups of 3 to 5 depending on numbers.

2. Give each team a flip chart and markers.

3. Assign one person on each team to do the writing.

4. Each team member gives an interesting fact about themselves or something that happened to them.
E.g. “I met Bruce Springsteen in the supermarket recently”; “I am a black belt in Judo”.

5. When each team has finished writing down their interesting personal facts, each team can take turns trying to guess which fact belongs to which person.

6. If you have odd numbers, join in yourself!

You can download a word version here:


Lynda Robitaille

My favorite and one I use often in my workshops is the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. A group of 20 would be perfect.

You line the participants chairs facing each other (10 on one side, 10 on the other)

You ask them to introduce themselves and begin asking a question for a discussion. For example, If you were to visit one place in the world where would it be and why?

Each person speaks to the person in front of them and after 5 minutes have participants move clockwise one place.

Begin the process again.

The energy in this activity is really high!

You can find more information on the net, and you can develop your own interesting questions.
Some of these sound like loads of fun and good ways to get to know each other.
But is fun and knowing each other the only things you are looking to achieve?
If they are all in the room together I’m assuming it’s for some training that isn’t just about having fun or getting to know each other. So is there a way that you can link your icebreaker to the subject being learned?
Us grown ups like to have fun, and we will learn better if we are having a good time but we learn so much better if we see relevance. There is always the danger that an icebreaker just for ‘fun’ will turn off some people who will decide then and there that the whole day is a waste of time.
So whatever you do link to the topic in some way. Do that as part of the briefing for your icebreaker and see the learning start.
All the best

Barb Miller

Here’s another one to add to the terrific list:
Musical People: Have everyone pair up. Shout out a question like: What is your favorite vacation spot. The partners talk for a couple of minutes. Then you ask everyone to change partners and shout out another question like: What do you like to do in your non-work hours? You keep on changing partners and shouting out a different question depending on how much time you have and how many people. I like this because everyone has an opportunity to interact with someone different and they find things in common to talk about at breaks and lunch. If it is an intact team, they learn new things about one another. You can use work related questions like: what do you like about working here? What is one thing our team can improve?
Happy New Year
Barb Miller


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