What if the ice breaker was the workshop?

Do you enjoy ice breakers at workshops? I worry they’re becoming just another box to check. I wonder: What if the ice breaker was the workshop?

What exactly is an ice breaker?

An ice breaker is an activity, game, or event that is used to warm up the meeting or event participants, get them talking and engaging. An effective ice breaker gets every person in the room talking and is usually something non-threatening. You could equate an ice breaker in a workshop to small talk at a party.

Ice breakers have been used with presentations, workshops, meetings, and events for as long as I’ve been conducting them.

There’s usually an element that requires the facilitator to make sure each person in the room answers a question or shares something that is supposed to help us get to know one another and get us talking about something easy before we get to the real topic.

The Trouble with Ice Breakers.

The trouble I’ve experienced both as a participant and facilitator is the sense of urgency to get through the activity. The unspoken message is often ‘let’s just get through this so we can get to the real stuff.” What value does that bring?

You’ve been there. Sitting in seat number 29 of 60, you’re writing your answer to the question, as everyone else before you is sharing their answer. You’re supposed to be paying attention to them and learning something you didn’t know about them. But are you really listening? Maybe you listen to get ideas on how to answer it. Or you listen so you can be more cleaver or impactful or have a better answer? Be honest.

What if the ice breaker was the workshop?

Imagine the first meeting (or first hour of your workshop) devoted to an hour long discussion that helps you truly build rapport, empathy, and get to know one another? What would that look like?

Even with a seemingly harmless question as ‘what’s the most recent book you’ve read?’ or ‘what’s your favorite color?’ you can expand, ask follow-on questions, and even have an actual conversation!

Wouldn’t an exchange of thoughts be more engaging than simply going around the room and sharing one meaningless item?

Let’s get deeper with our conversations.

What sparked my curiosity with this topic was a video posted on an anthropology course website. The video was done by a journalism student as a social experiment.

She went out into the world and asked deep meaningful questions of perfect strangers.

Watch the video to get a true understanding of the experience.

Are they perfect strangers now?

I’ll let you be the judge.

Challenge: What can you do with this idea in your next workshop?

My new book Everyday Questions For Success is now available and has 365 powerful questions to inspire business and personal growth. My hope is these questions will inspire you to have a deeper conversation and build stronger professional relationships.