The Best Ice Breaker Ideas to Drive Engagement at Your Next Event

Ice breakers have earned themselves a bit of a negative reputation in corporate events but they serve an important purpose. The best ice breaker ideas help your event attendees to warm up, network with each other, get to know the event facilitators, and they can create a memorable experience for everyone involved.

Bad ice breakers are at best a waste of time, and at worst can do the opposite of what you’ve intended by making your attendees even less likely to engage.

To help you avoid the cringe-worthy experiences we’ve all been forced into in the name of corporate warm-up activities, here are some ice breaker ideas that will kick-start engagement and avoid taking anyone out of their comfort zone too far.

Quick Takeaways:

  • The best ice breakers are simple, non-intimidating, and help attendees to relax and mingle.
  • Use live and anonymous polls to know your audience better and get their opinions.
  • Encourage the audience to give/ask co-attendees for help and even mentorship.
  • Photo ops and updates with hashtags on social media is still the best way to promote the event live and reach/engage a wider audience.

1. Speed Networking

You’ve probably heard of speed dating, where potential couples have only a few minutes to talk with each other before a buzzer goes and they have to move onto the next person.

Speed networking works on exactly the same principle. Pair attendees off and set a time limit of two to five minutes for them to introduce themselves. When the time is up, they move onto the next partner. This helps attendees to meet a large number of people in a short time and provides an easy way for even the shyest introverts to mingle and network.

2. Audience Polls

Live polls are a great way to engage your audience, and with apps like Poll Everywhere, participants can provide their answers from their cellphone. Making answers anonymous means that your audience can be truthful and there’s no need to put anyone on the spot.

A mix of fun and informative poll questions can act as both an ice breaker and provide useful information about your audience that you can use to direct the rest of the day’s events.

Some examples of informative questions could be:

  • What’s your level of understanding of the subject?
  • What position do you hold in your company?
  • What do you hope to get out of this event?

Fun questions could include:

  • Which decade would you travel back in time to?
  • What is your favorite food?
  • If you had a superpower, what would it be?

3. Ideal Manager

Take photographs of famous people from the worlds of business, technology, sports, and entertainment and post them around the room (it’s best to avoid any controversial figures). Some ideas include:

  • Bill Gates
  • Richard Branson
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Stephen Hawking
  • LeBron James

You could even include historical figures such as Albert Einstein and William Shakespeare.

Ask the attendees to stand next to the person who would be their ideal manager or mentor. The group can then share their reasons for choosing that person. This discussion reveals the leadership skills that each person considers to be the most important and can be an interesting insight into the personality of each individual.

4. Human Scavenger Hunt

This is an easy activity that encourages your event attendees to mingle and learn more about each other. To promote teamwork and make the game extra fun, you can split your attendees into groups and award a prize to the winning team.

Give each person a list of statements that could apply to an individual. This could be a mixture of things that are relevant to your industry and more fun personal facts. Some ideas might be:

  • Has worked at their company for more than 5 years
  • Manages a team of more than 10 people
  • Speaks more than one language
  • Has read all the Harry Potter books

The idea is for everyone to find another person in the room that fits each description. They find this out by walking around and talking to other people and writing the name of the person when they find someone who fits each description on the list.

The person or the team who manages to fill out names for all the statements on the sheet first wins the game.

5. Photo Competition

Ask the attendees of your event to post photos on their social media accounts during the day using a pre-planned hashtag. Make a competition out of it by awarding a prize to the best or most creative photograph, or something a bit more challenging such as the biggest group selfie. Encourage photographs by providing backdrops and photo props and leave reminders of your hashtag in strategic locations.

 

This is not only a great way to engage people at your event, but it also helps to market the event itself – particularly effective if you’re running a regular event.

6. Snowball Fight

It can be really helpful for event facilitators to find out what their attendees hope to get out of the event, their biggest challenges, or other important questions. However, not everyone is willing to put their hand up and volunteer this information.

Instead, ask the audience in a different way. Ask them to write down their answer on a piece of paper. Then instruct them to crumple up the paper into balls and throw it at a target.

This is a great way to raise the energy in the room and get everyone fired up for the day ahead. After the snowball fight is over, you can ask individuals to pick up a ball and read what’s on it. Not only is this a fun way to start off your event, but it’s also an easy way to gather important information about the motivations of your audience.

7. Business Card Collection

Make sure to tell all attendees to bring plenty of business cards to the event and collect them from everyone they speak to. You can then turn networking into a competitive sport by setting a timer for 15 to 20 minutes and instructing your attendees to walk around and meet as many new people as they can.

When the time is up, the person who’s collected the most business cards, and therefore met the most people, gets a prize.

Thinking about marketing for your next event?

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Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.

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