What’s in Your Bag of Tricks?

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about icebreaker questions to help spur on conversation among attendees in a group. Last week, as I began our small group discussion at church with an introduction time (we had a lot of new faces), I was put on the spot for a fun question to have each person answer as they introduced themselves. My mind drew a complete blank, and we ended up answering an awkward question about our Christmas holidays, weeks after the decorations have been put away. I remembered the post I wrote, but not a single question came to mind!

How can you be prepared for situations like these? I’ve met group facilitators/event planners who often have what they call a “bag of tricks” (figuratively speaking) – things they know they can pull out anytime that will help get people talking, fill in a spot that may be lagging or just break the monotony of a lecture or presentation. The main component of these ideas is simplicity – no set-up or special supplies are needed so you can use these at anytime, anywhere.

What do you have in your “bag of tricks”? Here are a few ideas:

  • Icebreaker Questions: These are designed to facilitate discussion and help people begin to feel comfortable speaking around each other. Some examples include:
    • If you could eliminate one thing from your daily schedule, what would it be?
    • Would you rather be three feet tall or ten feet tall?
    • How many pairs of shoes are in your closet?
    • What is in the trunk of your car right now?
    • What is the most unusual thing you have ever eaten?
  • Stand Up and Stretch: Sometimes all your group needs to stay focused is a small break to stand up and stretch. Leading your attendees in a few easy exercises (or even breaking out in a small song and dance) can get the blood flowing and even bring a few laughs!
  • Jokes or Funny Stories: Commit to memory a few funny (and appropriate) jokes or stories. Use these sparingly and only if you can tell them correctly!
  • Teambuilding Games: Have one or two teambuilding activities you can do with various size groups with no set-up involved. “Knots” and “Never Have I Ever” are two good options, though a quick Google search can give you many more ideas.

Hopefully, by having a few things in your “bag of tricks” you can avoid awkward moments of silence and be a more dynamic group facilitator/speaker as you interact with your attendees. If you have trouble thinking of things on the spot, keep a list of these on your smartphone or other device you might have with you for a quick reference before your session begins.

What’s in your “bag of tricks”?

Icebreakers Are Just For Kids, Right?

When I think of icebreakers, I think of entertainingly silly games for kids to become instant friends…or at least get to know each other a little bit. But what about adults? Sure, some adults (like me) would be totally content playing child-like games, but they wouldn’t match up with some events and groups of attendees. Here are a 3 non-embarrassing adult activities to use as icebreakers for a larger crowd of about 40 or more attendees.

  1. People bingo. This is a pretty popular icebreaker; I’m almost positive I’ve played this at some point in my life. The idea is for everyone to have a bingo card, and instead of written numbers in the middle of each box like regular bingo, the text would read, “Has three kids,” “Owns a beach house,” or, “Loves country music.” The text should be common enough that it describes a few people in the group, but not common enough that it describes most. Each person has to go around the room and find a person who matches up with the text, then have them initial the square. The catch is that one person can only sign one box, so everyone must talk to a bunch of people! You can even give the winner a small prize at the end, so they’re a little more enticed to really play the game.
  2. “Communality test.” This is another icebreaker that starts in small groups, but this is teeny groups of two. These two people need to find one not-so-obvious common trait. Then, go into groups of four and find a trait all four of them share. Then, eight. Continue that until the entire group has to find something they have in common. Since your group might be too large for that last step, you could go up to 16 or so, then switch up all the groups and start from the beginning. After this icebreaker, everyone will know a bunch of random facts about everyone else.

And here are a couple for a group of less than 40 attendees:

  1. Any “question of the day.” If you have a smaller group, posing a question that could have many possible answers is one way to know people better.  Some example questions are: What would you do with a million dollars? Who is your idol? What is your favorite quote? What is one thing you would you change about the world? If time allows, get a conversation going about some of the answers. Sharing this type of information (and having these discussions) will make it easier to connect during the rest of the event.
  2. Any sport. Depending on the age range (and athletic abilities) of your attendees, there are quite a few sports you could play, that easily make people trust each other and rely on each other. Some include kickball, beach ball, volleyball, and even tug of war. Is tug of war even considered a sport? I think it should be! Having to work together as a team will bring people together pretty quickly.

Have you ever tried these icebreakers, what do you do to help people connect at your events?