Building ‘community’ starts with attending to people’s need for social connection, whether or not they know each other. At the start of meetings, new people begin weaving the social bonds that create human networks capable of collaboration; intact teams re-establish the links that enable norming and high performing.
When is an IceBreaker most appropriate?
Icebreakers are opening activities that often have little to do with the course topic or reason for meeting; their purpose is to help strangers to ‘mingle and meet’ around safe, easy, and fun topics and exercises. Icebreakers are perfect for networking functions; at the start of conferences; and when folk who are new to each other have just arrived for an event. The activities provide a ready-made way to greet others and share information in a relaxed and informal way. Many Icebreakers/Warmups can also help energize a group quickly, have fun, and shift the energy in an otherwise lengthy or full session.
For most facilitated meetings or learning programs, while Icebreakers can help to break the ice socially, they may be seen as wasting valuable time. It is okay to skip Icebreakers in these settings, but NOT Connections Activities, which add to building the meeting/session community.
When Are Connections Activities most appropriate?
Connections Activities are intended to immediately provide participants with opportunities to contribute to the session/course content in a safe, easy, natural, ‘can’t fail’ exercise around the meeting purpose. They serve to ‘ease’ people into interaction with each other while simultaneously advancing the desired outcomes of the meeting in some way. Examples of Connections Activities that achieve this include:
- Appreciative Inquiry Interviews around questions that matter to the meeting/course topic. Option: An appreciative start that does not involve pairs interviews would be to complete a ‘go round’ where participants share a ‘best of…’ experience or story.
- Sharing individual hopes/concerns around desired meeting outcomes, and what participants are willing to contribrute to meeting success shared. This can be done in small groups (or the whole group) depending on number of people, and the time available. Invite high notes sharing from small groups into Plenary, or posting of key points to a chart for reference.
- Inviting participants as they walk in to grab a marker and to complete a Gallery Walk around posters/charts with focused questions related to the content, e.g., “two things I already know about….”; “my burning question around…”; “my most important learning goal…”. Quickly summarize some of the themes and patterns in the Opening, and then relate to the meeting agenda.
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