A Great Workshop Ice Breaker

A great icebreaker doesn't have to be complex. Simply allowing your audience to introduce themselves, or get to know each other a little better, helps to interject a little humor and fun into your presentation.

Here is an ice-breaker to get a workshop off to a lively start when most of the participants already know each other. At the start of the workshop, I tell them that to help me get to know them, I’d like each one to tell me his or her name – along with an adjective or descriptive phrase that begins with the same letter as their first name.

The introductions begin: “I’m Ed and I’m Energetic,” “My name is Bobbie and I’m Busier than Everyone Else,” “I’m Sam and people tell me I’m ... uh ... sluggish.” People can’t seem to resist razzing each other and in no time at all, everyone is laughing.

As we go around the room, people often become increasingly creative. I’ll never forget Day-Off Dan, Paul the Portly Procrastinator, and Valerie, who thought for a moment and then described herself as Very Pregnant (which she was).

If someone gets stumped, I invite others to offer suggestions. Thus, Andy, with the help of coworkers eager to lend an adjective, became Ambitious, Avuncular and Articulately Accurate.

When the group is too large to have each person “report out” to the full group, I have them divide into small groups of five to eight and introduce themselves to each other, complete with the descriptive phrase. I’ve done this even with groups of more than 100 people. Even though I can’t hear their individual introductions, the quick onset of laughter tells me it’s working.

Since I run highly interactive workshops, this ice breaker has been a great way to set the tone. It gets the interaction off to a rollicking start and tells participants that although we’ll be addressing serious subjects, we don’t have to squelch our sillier side while doing so. An added plus is that the descriptive phrases help me remember their names.Try it yourself. You'll see.

When participants finish, I introduce myself: “I’m Naomi and I went bungee-jumping, so I guess that means I’m Nutty.” No one has ever suggested that Normal would suit me better.

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