I was asked a few weeks ago by Faye Dicker of Freelance Mum if I had any ideas for discussion starters and ice breakers for her networking events. She organises networking meet ups for freelance mums so they can bring their children along and talk shop at the same time, and this particular one started in the park. So I delved into the memory banks and gave her some ideas for things that she might want to try. This did have me thinking a bit harder than usual as I have never really facilitated anything much outdoors, let alone on the move with a buggy! Fortunately I was then able to go to the last event (which was really inspiring) and was pleased to see one of my ideas put into action. I’m also hoping to go to the next one……..

So I thought it is probably time to write down a few of these activities. That way they are much more useful.  I am not sure I have ever really been taught ice breakers and I am much less sure that I know who invented any of them. They are for the most part not ideas that I have dreamed up (although I have adapted any modified many) but things that I have picked up along the way. Some of them have come from courses I have been on, training sessions or facilitated workshops that I have given with other people, or simply things that I have heard about and then tried to apply to a workshop.

As most of these can be adapted and changed around I have put them all together under the ice-breakers/energisers/warm up games/discussion starters tag. However, there are subtle differences in these things and how and when I might use them:

I see an ice-breaker as something that is useful when you have a group of people who don’t know each other and when you want to shatter the silence and get a bit of movement in the room. An ice breaker doesn’t really need to have a point to it other than to simply break the ice.

A warm up or energiser is similar to an ice breaker in that it gets people going and injects some energy into the session. It might be something that is a bit more physical and I might use more after lunch to get participants back in the zone and to avoid that post food sleepy feeling.

A discussion starter is something that I would use to lead onto something bigger, a discussion that I might want to go on for a while and that has a bit of content to it.

I do think that there is a time and a place for these activities and they are not appropriate with every group of participants. Just like any of the other vast array of facilitation tools and techniques, they need to fit with the type of workshop you are doing. Often I don’t use any of these at all, especially not when people know each other well, or if the session is very short. They are not always needed and just because they exist as activities, it doesn’t mean that you have to do them. Similarly it doesn’t always follow that people from community groups and perhaps less formal structures will love doing these activities, and people from the more corporate world will hate them. I have facilitated sessions for charities where participants have seen most of the usual warm up games and are bored by them (not warmed up at all) and businessmen who love to do them because they are something different. The usual rules apply, plan well, get to know your group, have ideas up your sleeve but don’t do them becasue you think you must.

Anyway, for a networking event they seem to be just the thing.

So click on the link below and download a small selection of ideas. Hopefully there are more to come…..


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