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Ice breakers are activities or games, which are used to warm up a conversation among participants (especially when they do not know each other) in a meeting, training session, team building event, etc.

In any situation when people have to feel comfortable with each other, you can use an ice breaker. You use them to make sure that people interact successfully with one another.

Generally, we differentiate two main types of ice breakers:

1. Ice breakers for fun. If participants don't know each other, this is a chance for them to meet and get to know other people in the meeting better. If they know each other (co-workers in the office, foe example), it is a chance for them to relax, laugh, and warm up a little).

My favorite "for fun" ice breaker is SPEED DATING. Ask the participants to number off by one and two; half of them become ones and half become twos. Ask them to introduce themselves to the person sitting directly across them. They are allowed 2 minutes with each person. You can suggest topics for conversation. They can start with their name, job, why they are here. Keep the topics as simple as possible, as they don't have much time to respond.

If the participants are co-workers, ask them to discuss their favorite TV show, food, restaurant, vacation destination, etc.

2. Related to the topic of the meeting or training session.

My favorite activity of this kind is ONE WORD activity. Divide the participants into groups of 4-5 people. Tell the groups that their task is to think for a minute and then to share with their group the one word that describes X. X can be anything you decide, it hast to be related to the topic of the session, this way you segue into the topic. The participants (and you sometimes, as well) will be amazed by the variety of the words chosen.

For example,

• What is one word that you would use to describe your team?

• In one word, how would you describe your relationship with your boss?

• In one word, what is your challenge of the week?

• What, in one word, is your relationship with co-workers?

After short discussion within the group participants can share their words with other teams and you. You can ask them follow-up questions. Usually they generate not only more ideas, but also laughter and more jokes. After that, you can start your session and you will definitely see how smoothly it will go after team members warm up.