Training Tips: De-briefing an Icebreaker

Icebreaking activities and energizers should always be de-briefed, or else they’re just wasting participants’ valuable time.

When I led workshops with professionals in the foster care system, I would often use an icebreaking activity that required participants to close their eyes and, as a group the participants were given instructions to count up to 15.  However, if two (or more) participants spoke at the same time, they would have to start all over.  This is a surprisingly difficult challenge, and after about 5 minutes of counting, re-starting, and counting again, I allowed participants to open their eyes.  This made the challenge a little easier, and after one or two more attempts, most groups would be able to count from 1 to 15 without two or more participants speaking up at the same time.

Once this activity was completed, I simply asked: what do you think this activity has to do with the foster care system?  It got participants thinking and offering all sorts of answers.  The answers participants offered during this icebreaking activity were then referred to over and over again throughout the remainder of the multi-day session.

When I led youth leadership conferences, I watched in awe as a colleague held the attention of 50 6th and 7th grade students packed onto a tour bus, rolling through the streets of Washington, DC, with this simple activity:

“Right now, we’re driving by the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center on the left-hand side of the bus.  There is a frozen yogurt machine in the center of the building.  Do any of you know why there is a frozen yogurt machine in the center of the building?”

The students began to shout out answers such as:

  • “President Reagan loved jelly beans.  Maybe they have jelly bean-flavored frozen yogurt.”
  • “Frozen yogurt is supposed to be healthier than ice cream.  Maybe it’s an ironic commentary on President Reagan’s nutrition program. Reagan tried to label ketchup as a vegetable.”

Whether the activity is counting while having your eyes closed or coming up with reasons that a frozen yogurt machine would be located in a federal building or something equally as stimulating, simply asking participants to attempt to connect the activity to the topic at hand can lead to conversations that are fun and relevant.

The Train Like A Champion blog is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  These brief “Training Tip” posts are a series of quick reference tips that are published while your beloved Train Like A Champion blogger is currently enjoying a little vacation.  The more in-depth posts will resume again in August.

Icebreaking Activity: How To Introduce Knowles’ Theory on Adult Education

No Train-the-Trainer class would be complete without mentioning Malcolm Knowles and his theory on how adults learn.  Unless your audience is full of true training geeks, not many people are going to dote on the theory part.  They want to connect the theory to their jobs, how it’s going to help them better reach their audiences, how it can be applied in real life.  And they want all of this to take effect tomorrow, whether or not they can regurgitate what Knowles had to say. Continue reading

Icebreaker: Crossword Puzzle

Sometimes a fun activity for participants to work on at their seats is a nice tool to have at your disposal.  Here’s a training skills icebreaker in a crossword puzzle featuring a variety of training terms. Feel free to use it at your next train the trainer session (download the icebreaker).

04262013 - Crossword


3    Learning style attracted to handouts and graphic organizers

5   “M” from WIIFM Continue reading

Is Your Training Icebreaker Any Good?

I was going to post my top 5 training icebreakers.  Then I remembered that if I give you icebreakers, you can break the ice for a day.  But if I teach you how to design a good icebreaking activity, you can break the ice for a lifetime!  Here are five questions to ponder when designing training icebreakers:

Question 1: Is your icebreaker relevant?

Fun and relevant don’t have to be mutually exclusive.  When I used to facilitate workshops for professionals working in the foster care system, I used to begin sessions by asking people their names, positions, organizations, tenure and favorite ice cream.  Asking tenure as part of the icebreaking question set can be helpful, especially if you add everyone’s experience together (“Wow, we have a combined 147 years of training experience in this room.

Continue reading

A 17-syllable Icebreaker Can Reveal A Lot

In the beginning

I want to know my learners

Their Challenge: Haiku


I model the task

I’m not “too good” to do this

I write on flipchart



My haiku reveals

I really like Mr. Sketch

And lifelong learning


Breaking the ice – smiles

Or sometimes they roll their eyes

But now I know them


Their expectations

Their subject matter knowledge

Three intriguing lines


Use this icebreaker

The next time you meet learners

What will they reveal?


Actually, don’t wait!

Leave a comment in haiku

What is your story?


You may also like 6-Word Memoir as a concise way to break the ice!