How to Break the Ice at Your Next Meeting

How to Plan a Meeting

At their best, meetings and events harness the power of the group in order to generate, teach and spread good ideas. Unfortunately, large groups of people can be just as intimidating as they are inspirational. In order to best achieve their goals, meeting planners need to find a way to make attendees who might be skeptical of the group feel instead like they're part of it.

Enter the icebreaker.

"If planned and executed well, icebreaking sessions can be a wonderful way to help people get to know each other, meet facilitators and learn more about the goals of your event," author Juraj Holub writes in a blog post for Q&A and polling platform Slido.

To break the ice effectively, you must start by defining your objectives.

"When planning ice breakers, you need to understand what the ice that you need to break actually represents," continues Holub, who offers four possible types of "ice" and their related objectives: helping strangers meet in order to bring like-minded people together; helping people overcome stereotypes in order to unite those from different backgrounds and cultures; erasing perceptions of status differences in order to unite people from different levels within an organization; and helping speakers promote their credentials in order to unite them with their audience.

"Knowing what ice you need to break, decide on what you want to achieve at the end of your icebreaking session," Holub says. "Should people just get to know each other? Should people start collaborating more closely? Or should the audience pay attention to the speaker?"

From there, you can design the most effective icebreaker for your unique meeting. One idea, for example, is human bingo.

"Prepare 5-by-5 bingo matrices filled with various statements that range from personal stuff (visited more than 15 countries, have a pet, etc.) to business (have you ever fallen asleep during a conference call, been with the company over 10 years, etc.)," Holub explains. "Tell the players that they must interview each other. Have each player go around the group and ask other people to check off one box that applies to them. The person with a completed card is a winner."

Or, play "Find a Friend." "At the networking event, give a delegate someone else's name tag," Holub says. "He/she needs to find the other person, interview him and introduce him to the group. It's great fun and forces delegates to approach new people."

The options are endless. The goal, however, should always be the same: lowering interpersonal barriers so attendees can dive into the meeting comfortably and confidently, ready to advance its objectives.

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