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How to break the ice and get people talking

Whatever the timing, location or reason for running a corporate event, gathering a large number of disparate people in one room and expecting them to instantly gel is a big ask for most of us. Even if people know each other well, placing them in an unfamiliar setting to discuss new topics will inhibit the most extrovert amongst them.

One secret to getting ideas flowing and discussions underway is to kick things off with an engaging ice breaker. This will allow everyone to relax, laugh, become more alert and feel more comfortable talking to and in front of each other. Ice breakers don't have to be embarrassing or cringey. Here are five ice breakers to get things underway with minimum fuss.

What to expect...

Find out what your audience is hoping to get out of the training session, seminar or conference by asking them for their expectations at the beginning. You can address any concerns people may have, or manage any unrealistic hopes for the day. People will be pleased to hear form others with the same expectations, and interested in hearing what others are hoping to achieve. Get people to discuss in pairs and report back if they wish, or to write their thoughts down on paper or a white board.

My favourite things

Get your audience to open up with a personal, yet safe area of discussion. Ask them to think about their favourite things to relax them and get them thinking about something positive from the off. You might choose favourite food, colours, countries, cars... the list is endless. Extend the discussion by asking them their reasons, or see if they can guess other people's choices before they are revealed.

What if...

What would you do if you were Prime Minister for the day? What would you wish for with a magic wand? How would you spend a week being invisible? Which secret superpower would you most love to have? This kind of exercise gets creativity and imagination flowing ahead of a brainstorming or planning session. It also offers fascinating insights into your audience and their aspirations and attitudes to life.

Energy boost

This works well if your session is just after lunch, or if you sense some lethargy in the air. Get your delegates moving with a physical game, such as musical chairs, conga dancing, scarf juggling or even modelling with play dough or similar. If there is an outside space available, this can also offer a great chance for some fresh air to inject new energy into everyone.

Pocket scavenger hunt

This is a great option to build teamwork. Get participants into groups and give each one a different list of items they must find and present to the other groups. Only catch is that they must find each item in their pockets, wallets or bags without leaving their places. Items could range from paper clips, pens and water bottles to stray Lego pieces, something written in a foreign language and an old school tie.

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