They spent some hours in transport to get to the training room. Some got up early. Cup of coffee in hand, they don't know each other yet. They are most probably meeting for the first time. How do you quickly unfreeze all these participants into a group?
Participants Introduce Themselves
Dozens of communication games are available on the Internet, and many train-the-trainer courses begin with experimentation with a few of these techniques. Trainees are often given a standard round. But by the end of their career, they will have done hundreds of them, and one round hardly manages to capture attention. A variation is to ask the group members to introduce their neighbor rather than themselves, after having exchanged a few minutes with him or her.
To bring a little subjectivity and creativity, some trainers ask the group members to define themselves based on a personal object he or she found in his or her purse, or pocket... His keychain, his watch, a photo,... and why not his sandwich.
3 Truths, and a Lie
Each person in the group expresses three truths that concern them and one lie. The other participants ask a few questions and try to figure out which statement is false.
"I'm The Only One Here Who..."
Each person speaks up and says that they are the only one with this or that characteristic. This is an opportunity to discover anecdotes and more personal aspects. It is best to limit the amount of speaking time, and to avoid this activity when one or more participants tend to put themselves forward too much!
The facilitator circulates M&M's and suggests that trainees take some for the morning, before returning them to the reception desk. Then each one has to share as much information about themselves as they have taken M&M's...
In this exercise, of course, you have to introduce yourself, but using the non-verbal, and why not mime!
Getting the Trainees into Action
Here we go, the group has entered the room, everyone takes their seats and settles in. They are sitting down, they have got pencils out, and are flipping through the handouts. Why not start by standing?
Taking the Survey
In this game, each participant writes down 4 or 5 pieces of information about themselves on a sheet of paper. The sheets are distributed randomly, and the trainees have to ask themselves questions, to find out who is the author of the sheet they got.
It is possible to go further, by proposing a "bingo". In each box, an anecdote concerns a trainee. You have to go to the others, ask questions, answer others until someone has filled a row or a column.
Making A Label
Each member makes his label with the help of magazines, catalogs, felt pens, etc. he can draw, paste, and write keywords next to his name. He then comments on his "work".
Throwing a Ball
One player has a ball. He has to give a piece of information related to the theme. He then throws the ball randomly to another participant, who must in turn give information, and throw the ball. He is eliminated if he hesitates too long or if he makes a mistake. The game continues until there is only one left. It is as much a game of reflexes as it is of knowledge, and it wakes up a group. Avoid if you have a few notorious klutzes among the trainees!
Creating Cohesion... The Pyramid
Other techniques go even further. They offer a physical challenge that no one can put together alone like a human chain where you have fun tying knots while holding hands, and which can only be unraveled by coordinating. And why not a pyramid? Um, be careful not to overexpose or exhaust your trainees!
The treasure hunt also gets trainees active right away, when you have space, and a little time!
The success of Pokemon Go should inspire app developers... In the meantime, if you're hosting a seminar near a Pokestop, there's no reason not to start with a hunt.
Illustrations: Frédéric Duriez
Training games "40 free ice-breakers" http://www.training-games.com/pdf/40FreeIceBreakers.pdf
OECD "Ice-breakers and names games" http://www.ocde.us/AVID/Documents/icebreakers.pdf
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