Stop Participants from Saying “I Hate Icebreakers”

The phrase “Let’s get started with an icebreaker” will inevitably be followed by groans and mumbles or shouts of “I hate icebreakers!” from your participants. Yet, breaking the ice at the beginning of a workshop or presentation is an essential ingredient to building rapport between audience members and establishing a relationship between the audience and you.

Choose an Icebreaker Related to Your Content

The first step is choosing an activity that is related somehow to your content and sets an appropriate tone for the remainder of your time with your audience. Here is a list of sixteen icebreaking activities that you may keep you from screaming ‘I hate icebreakers!

Five Questions About Your Icebreaker

Once you think you have an icebreaker that’s going to work for you, here is a list of five questions you’ll want to ask before you finalize your choice of an icebreaker.


I Hate Icebreakers Bracket Challenge

I hate Icebreakers Challenge

In the spirit of the Sweet 16 stage of the NCAA basketball tournament, I’ve concocted a little game – a bracket challenge – if you’d like some help narrowing your selection of icebreaking activity.You can fill out the I Hate Icebreakers Bracket here. If you do decide to take me up on this bracket challenge, I’d love to hear which ice-breaking activity would be your champion. Drop a line in the comment section.

Do you hate icebreakers? Do you have a preferred ice-breaking activity that didn’t make it to my Sweet Sixteen list? Let’s hear about it in the comment section below.

12 thoughts on “Stop Participants from Saying “I Hate Icebreakers”

  1. Ice breakers are a waste of time pushed by managers who are out of touch. Teamwork is built through respectful, supportive relationships at work. Learning something personal about a coworker does nothing if they are terrible to work with. Just. Stop.

    • You’re a goofball and from your email address, you’re clearly a coward who gets their kicks from posting pointless anonymous notes online. That said, it’s New Year’s Eve and I’m still feeling festive, so I’ll respond. The problem with you and your attitude is that you make too many assumptions and dismiss potentially powerful learning activities because of that close-minded nature. (I’m kinda surprised you’re gainfully employed… although I suppose that’s an assumption of mine that I need to check because perhaps your attitude prevents you from holding a job and that’s the reason you have time to set up anonymous email accounts to post silly musings on blogs.) There’s nothing about an icebreaker that requires you to learn anything about a coworker, though many icebreakers are intended for people to get to know other learners with whom they’ll be working throughout a training session. Icebreakers, at their core, are used to help “warm up” the learners to content, the learning environment, and yes, sometimes to one another. Done well, they’re also debriefed and key learning points are identified and can be referred back to throughout the remainder of the learning program. Just. Do. It.

    • Laura – that’s pretty sweet (literally!).

      Just be careful how many you take… if you take a handful you may be talking in front of the large group for a while! Though I suppose if they’re peanut butter M&Ms, it might be worth it…

  2. Dude. This was awesome! So much fun!! “I Got Your Back” was my winner – I haven’t used it as an icebreaker before, but use it as an illustration during a customer service training class that I do. May have to try it as an icebreaker sometime!

    • Thanks Michelle. It’s actually an activity that a friend of ours uses as an “icebreaker” for his annual Christmas Party & Game Night (so if you want to get REALLY geeky, you can use this stuff outside of work, too!).

  3. Brian, I am unable to open the List of 16 Ice Breakers. Is anyone else having the same difficulty? Can you check the link? The other links seem to work well for me. Great topic, thank you.

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