Icebreaker game for speaking events


I recently facilitated at a conference for a group of managers and spent some considerable time pondering the icebreaker game that I would use to get the session started.

As the first facilitator of the day I was aware that I would set the one for not just my session, but the entire day.

I didn’t know anyone in the group and was not sure how serious or otherwise they may be, although I knew that the group was only loosely connected.  I had limited time so I wanted something simple and quick.

Searching for right icebreaker game

I searched for various search terms in the hope that I might find something innovative that would fulfill my requirements and I found some very interesting and innovative game ideas.

Some did the old trick of falling backwards and catching your workmates (the trust game), with others requiring in-depth rule explanation and activities that would eat into my precious facilitation time.

I specifically wanted people to get their name on the table, but leave professions and more to the point positions at the door.

Whilst I was confident that the few higher level leaders in the group were self aware enough not to unduly influence others, I still tend to follow the mantra of ‘individual over position’ wherever possible.

I found nothing on the internet that suited my specific needs, so my solution was simple and had the potential to become whatever the group wanted it to be.

The simple icebreaker game

I ended up asking them to introduce themselves by their first name in alphabetical order.

It seems simple but it encouraged discussion between the broader group, highlighted differences between individuals that gave me some valuable insight into the dynamics. For example I could see the ‘organiser’, the ‘one that followed the rules to a T’, the ‘one that would bend the rules’ and the ‘one that required a small prod when it was their turn’.

There were a few laughs as people encountered the ‘funnel letters’ (J and L for this particular group) but after a bit of debate we got through the whole group.

In summary

Icebreaker games are funny things, they are valuable, they kick start and set the tone for the day.

I find that removing the label that comes with a position in an organisation, creates an environment of equality and openness that enables free flowing interaction and heightened sharing, a state that can be limited once positions that individuals hold are known to the broader group.

In my experience, listening to what a person has to say rather than what the position has to say, can pave the way for an opportunity that might otherwise have been either dismissed or blindly followed.