An Ice-breaking Session: Why is it Necessary?

Icebreaking session, Photo source: Wikimedia Commons
Icebreaking session, Photo source: Wikimedia Commons
Masum Billah
Written by Masum Billah

Ice-breaking is an activity that is conducted when a group of unknown or semi-known or little-known people gathers in a particular place for receiving training or attending a workshop or similar purpose. To do activities and do something together they need to know each other and mix closely. So, an ice-breaking session is used to welcome and warm up the conversation among participants in a meeting, training class, team-building session, or other events. It is an event through which it is attempted to make people comfortably interact with each other. An effective ice-breaking event warms up the conversation, training, class, or meeting, reinforce the topic of the session, and ensure that participants enjoy their interaction and the session. It is an attempt to drive the shyness and initial hesitation away of the participants in a gathering or meeting to start speaking, interacting and working together.

Ice-breaking can start with and can be for fun. It is usually when the participants know each other. They laugh and converse with each other and warm up is generated by the ice-breaker. When participants are strangers, the ice is broken and participants learn something about each other. The third type of ice-breaker is an activity based on the purpose of the session. The ice-breaker activity is a full session while they flow chart their hiring process as it exists at that moment. Ice-breakers play a significant role in events in which communication and participant comfort level are important factors. They help make sure that all attendees are equal participants. They break down the barriers that exist inherently and by design in workplaces. These are some of the reasons why people want to consider using an ice breaker.

In a new class where students of various background gather, icebreaking must be an important activity there. Many students feel shy to express themselves even though they have immense potential. An unknown environment stands as a great barrier to exploring their hidden potentials. Here successful icebreaking by a teacher can ensure a safe environment to explore the latent talents of the students. Until and unless the new students feel free and friendly with each other, they will hardly start a conversation let alone will try to bring the success of the program.

When participants know each other and work in different areas or departments, an ice-breaker will bear the ice that can occur between silos. When participants know each other but have different job titles and levels within their organization’s chain of command, an ice-breaker can break down the barriers that might inhibit honestly, comfortable communication. When participants are strangers, an ice-breaker is a comfortable, simple way to make introductions, help people start communicating and sharing thoughts, and generally, warm up the room. When participants don’t know each other but share a mission, an interest or an idea and have a lot in common, an ice-breaker warms up the group prior to a more serious discussion of the topic.

Often brainstorm workshops are being held for groups of people who normally don’t work as a team. In the workshop, the group is expected to brainstorm about a topic in a very short time. These points must be taken into consideration while doing warming-up exercise (i) forming a group within a short period of time, (ii) learning to think out of the box, (iii) learn to innovate, (iv) keep the ice-breaker exercise short; 5 – 7 minutes. Show a real-life version example.

Ice-breakers can be an effective way of starting a training session or team-building event. As interactive and often fun sessions run before the main proceedings, they help people get to know each other and buy into the purpose of the event. If such a session is well-designed and well-facilitated, it can really help get things off to a great start. By getting to know each other, getting to know the facilitators, and learning about the objectives of the event, people can become more engaged in the proceedings and so contribute more effectively towards a successful outcome.

As participants come from different backgrounds, they need to bond quickly so as to work towards a common goal. The topics being discussed in the sessions may be new or unfamiliar to many people involved. So, the facilitator needs to make a good ice-breaking to get them involved and know things better. It makes avenues get a trainer or facilitator closer to the participants.

Participants can be asked to share their name, department or role in the organization, the length of service, and one little-known fact about themselves. They can be asked to introduce themselves and make three or four statements about themselves, one of which is false. Now get the rest of the group to vote on which fact is false. The facilitator can tell participants to get into twos.

Each person then interviews his or her partner for a set time while paired up. When the group reconvenes, each person introduces their interviewee to the rest of the group. Create a simple problem scenario for them to work on in a short time. Once the group has analyzed the problem and prepared their feedback, ask each group, in turn, to present their analysis and solutions to the wider group. Choose a fairly simple scenario that everyone can contribute to. The idea is not to solve a real problem but to “warm-up” the group for further interaction or problem-solving later in the event. The group will also learn each other’s styles of problem-solving and interaction. Finally, it can be said that icebreaking is an important tool to start a new class or session.

About the author

Masum Billah

Masum Billah

Masum Billah works as an Education Expert in the BRAC Education Program, BRAC, and President of the English Teachers' Association of Bangladesh (ETAB), Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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