Facilitation Skills

Not another icebreaker! (And what to do instead)

October 20, 2022

I can't believe it took me 10 years to read this book. I feel so seen! Yay to harnessing the quiet power of the introvert.

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I'm Sarah, The Learning Strategist and Catalyst. I'm here to help you create high quality workshops, courses, and programmes that get results.  

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Sarah Thinks...

Love them or hate them, traditional icebreakers can have an important purpose…IF they aren’t too childish, cheesy and cringey.

Warming up your audience with some lighthearted activities helps the creative juices flow by getting the conversation going.

However, it’s helpful to think about your audience and remember, some people in your group may be introverts who absolutely dread hearing the word “icebreaker”!

With this in mind, why not consider calling them starter activities instead?

When planning your next workshop, think about a starter to have ready. These don’t have to be extravagant or “showy”. 

Starters feel much less threatening and they serve a great purpose, as long as you connect with your audience and don’t alienate them.

In this post, you’ll find 3 simple starter ideas:

  1. Pointless Questions
  2. Your First Job
  3. One Word

And all of these starters can be adapted for remote and hybrid workshops too! 

Starter 1: Pointless Questions

Create some fun questions and ease the group into non-threatening natural conversation.

What next?

Go round the room and have everybody take turns answering the questions. Nothing needs to be written down – it can be a quick, verbal activity.

Keep the questions light and inclusive. Be sure everybody can answer so avoid topics that are too specific or irrelevant, such as certain TV shows or music genres. 

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  •  If you could invite any celebrity over for dinner, who would it be and why?
  •  What is your most prized possession and why?
  •  You can have an unlimited supply of one thing for the rest of your life. What do you choose?

Starter 2: My First Job

This is simple yet effective and doesn’t take any time or effort to set up.  Connections can be built when you discover your colleague also loved their paper round or waiting tables in the local pub!

What next?

Everyone in the group is invited to write down their name, their very first job, and what they learned from it. Go round the group and have everybody read their responses out. 

This is a chance for the group to learn something new about each other without getting too uncomfortably personal. It’s also a great warm-up as it doesn’t require too much thinking in this first, less relaxed stage of your workshop.

Starter 3: One Word

The goal of One Word is to ease your workshop participants into your topic in a lighthearted way.  It encourages creative thinking without any strategising at this stage.

What next?

Divide the group into pairs or small groups. If online, you might set up breakout rooms. 

Ask each pair/group to come up with one word that sets the scene for the workshop topic.

For example, if the goal of the workshop is to learn about improving sleep, you might ask the group to come up with a word to describe their current sleep situation. 

If you’re leading a session to brainstorm ideas for a new campaign, you could ask the group to come up with a word to describe what they think the main goal of the campaign should be.

Set a time limit and when time is up, ask everyone to collate their words on the whiteboard (either physical or digital) so you have a visual compilation of everybody’s ideas.  This can be referred back to at the end of the session. 

The purpose of the activity isn’t to come up with actionable ideas, but rather, to get people thinking about the topic ahead of the main workshop activities. 


Would love to know what you think and do let us know if you try any of these ideas in your next workshop or training session.  

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