Icebreaker: The 6-word Memoir (and a Variation)

Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway used six words to pen his shortest work of fiction: For sale: baby shoes, never worn. Whether true or not (Snopes.com can neither confirm nor deny this is a true story), trainers and presenters have been inspired by this anecdote to break the ice by challenging attendees to write a 6-word memoir.

How a 6-Word Memoir Works

6-word memoir sampleIt works quite well. About a year and a half ago, I watched as the CEO of my organization opened a 2-day meeting of about 60 surgeons, medical professionals, and administrators from across the United States, India, Nepal, and Ethiopia with this very activity. Attendees wrote their 6-word memoirs on a flip chart, posted them around the meeting room and referred back to them throughout the 2-day meeting.

(If you’re interested, this is the 6-word memoir that I penned: “Love is cookie dough ice cream.”)

A Modern Take On A Classic Icebreaker

The 6-word memoir works as an icebreaker because it’s quick, it forces participants to be succinct as they introduce themselves, yet you can learn so much about someone in just six words.

your life as a tweet icebreaker templateFor those that want a fresh spin on an icebreaker that’s quick and forces participants to be succinct yet can say a lot about a person, you can look to Twitter for inspiration. Challenge learners to share their life story in 140 characters (or 280 if you are feeling super modern) or less. One note about this challenge: you can make this task a little easier on your participants if you give them a worksheet with 140 boxes so that they don’t spend valuable session time trying to count each letter (and space).

Have you used the 6-word memoir icebreaker? How did it go? Have another activity that you find works extremely well to break the ice with a variety of audiences? Please do share in the comment section below!

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