Many facilitated sessions start with an ice breaker. This technique can be an opener for a workshop or seminar and effective way to start a team building program. Participants engage in interactive and fun activities before getting to the main course of the discussion. Ice breakers also allow people to get to know each other and help them work together as a team.
The use of ice breakers in a session is not just to start the program but it also break natural barriers among the group members, increasing the level of comfort of the participants, so that the atmosphere is conducive for learning. These are not just simple games or energizer activities; ice breakers help establish rapport and promote interaction among the participants. In creating a positive tone and setting a supportive learning atmosphere for the attendees, this tool is very effective for facilitators to use.
In the same way, applying humor in a session also sets an enthusiastic and energetic environment. Some facilitators start an ice breaker that is humorous to set the mood of the program. But a facilitator does not necessarily have to be funny. He can simply use it as a technique to break dullness or boredom during the session.
An ice breaker that is well-designed and well-facilitated can help kick off at a good start. A simple secret to successfully break the ice in a session is to keep it simple. Facilitators should have a purpose for using ice breakers. An ice breaker must be chosen to reinforce a key point that is crucial to the learning process and must be appropriate to the type of program.
This type of facilitator’s technique is often used when the participants do not know each other or the team is newly formed, when the group needs to establish a relationship quickly to achieve a common goal, or when the topic for discussion is unfamiliar to the attendees.
In designing and choosing an ice breaker, the facilitator has to identify the “ice.” This could be the differences in backgrounds, perceptions, and status or identities of the individuals. Always focus on bringing together the similarities or shared interests of the members rather than on their differences.
Once the “ice” has been identified, confirm the objectives for using such ice breaker. The objective should be targeted on breaking the “ice.” In fact, after the ice breaker session, you need to discuss the outcome and the relation of such energizer to the subject matter. The participants should come up with a realization or a change of perception after doing the ice breaker.
Kinds of Ice Breakers
There are various types of ice breakers, each with a given purpose or objective. Ice breakers may come in the form of games or energizers, brainstorming, and other facilitation techniques. There are ice breakers for introduction, team building, and topic exploration.
Introductory ice breakers are openers of a session and are popularly used by facilitators in the getting-to-know stage of the participants and in initiating interaction within the group. An example of this type is the “Body Greeting Game” where the participants introduce themselves to each other and greet using that part of the body that the facilitator will announce.
Team-building ice breakers are designed to bring the participants together and promote cooperation in the group toward a shared goal. “Breaking the Knot” is a popular team building activity. Participants form a circle with hands stretched out in the center, and they start grabbing another person’s hand. Once tied in a knot, their challenge is to break it and form back into a circle without breaking the grip.
Topic exploration ice breakers are often used during the course of the discussion for a more creative approach in facilitating learning. Brainstorming is a very common ice breaker for this type.
Humor Keeps a Vibrant Atmosphere
A facilitator may also make use of humor as an effective learning technique. Humor may come in the form of jokes, puns, and funny experiences. Just as ice breakers increase comfort level among participants, so does humor. It even helps ease tension and sets a relaxing and vibrant atmosphere. Humor can be an ice breaker in itself, too. The learning process becomes more enjoyable when humor is incorporated in the content of the discussion either as planned or a spontaneous humor.