Every guide for giving a speech, launching the first day of class or getting started with employee training starts with one piece of advice – Use an icebreaker to warm up the crowd, get to know your audience and make everyone feel more connected with one another.
That’s good advice but, as any of us who have sat through dull, awkward opening activities can attest, simply adding an icebreaker isn’t enough. The key is to plan an exercise that fulfills all of the typical icebreaker goals, while keeping anxiety low for the participants.
Since getting to know one another can put participants at ease, asking for some personal information during the icebreaker is only logical. TurningPoint displays results in aggregate, so that takes away some of the vulnerability that people might feel if they had to answer individually in front of the group, or even raise their hands.
You still need to tread carefully, however, since nobody wants to reveal too much too soon. The perfect icebreaker questions in this case reveal just enough to get a sense of the group makeup, but do not cross the line into sensitive territories.
- Where are you from?
- What is your favorite sports team?
- What is your major?
- How long have you been with the company?
- If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?
These types of questions provide the opportunity for some good-natured competition combined with the pleasure of learning new things. This is particularly fun if your participants are from out of town.
- Delve into the history of the area with questions about famous residents, milestone events and local stories and legends.
- Located in a place known for delicious cuisine? Work in a few poll questions about local food traditions and restaurants.
- Ask questions about the history of your company or school.
Sometimes, the best icebreaker poll questions are the ones that do nothing more than wake up everyone’s brain. In addition to the trivia mentioned above, here are a few more ways to challenge the intellect.
- Analogy questions are a great strategy to get everyone’s brainpower online. In such a low-stress environment – a marked contrast to the college entrance exams where most people last saw these – they can also be a lot of fun.
- Word scrambles are also fun, and require very little knowledge beforehand. Just leave a few blank spaces, and add some multiple choice options so that participants can pick the missing letters. Tie the word to the day’s topic for even more engagement.
Icebreaker questions like this serve the dual purpose of getting participants engaged with the subject matter and giving the presenter insight into how they need to approach the material to best serve this particular group.
- Ask a few simple questions to get a good knowledge baseline. This ensures everyone is on the same page, and makes for a solid point of reference when determining how much learning has taken place.
- If participants had assigned readings prior to the session, poll to check comprehension and preparedness.
- Speaking on a topic that is controversial? Do a quick poll to see where everyone stands, and to set the stage for whatever points you are about to make.