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Energisers and Icebreakers

This week I facilitated a successful strategy development day with a small team. It got me thinking about general work meetings and how, although deep down we know these things, we often forget them in the day to day working with our own teams. Here are a few of my tips for anyone running meetings.

First and foremost, have clear and transparent objectives for the meeting and plan the agenda and structure beforehand.

It’s never a waste of time to do a fun icebreaker.

This helps new teams to get to know each other and established teams to find out new things and re-energise. It also helps to raise the energy level and set the tone of the meeting. My favourite icebreaker is ‘Two truths and a lie’ (AKA Call my bluff).

With their best poker faces, team members have to relay 3 ‘truths’ about themselves to their colleagues – except one of them is really a lie. The rest of the team have to guess which is the lie. If the presenter manages to fool the rest of the team, give them a small prize – a chocolate bar or an item of stationery.

Accept our natural ebbs and flows and work with them

People have natural ebb and flows in the day, if you want your team to maintain their energy and motivation levels you need to re-energise regularly. I’ve been to so many meetings where the agenda is just too long to allow for a break and colleagues sit for hours, trying to maintain concentration and focus. This isn’t effective and you won’t get the best results and decisions by working in this way. Our physiology means we need to re-energise and re-focus. Let’s be a bit creative and offer more than just a coffee and a loo break.

Paper plane energiser

Get everyone standing up, hand out sheets of paper and ask them to make a paper aeroplane (most people haven’t done this since they were kids!). All go outside the room if you can, set up a starting block (piece of paper or tape on the floor) and then one at a time everyone sends their plane across the room. The one that goes the furthest is the winner and gets a small prize! Make sure they add their name to the plane before they fly it.

WIBNI /WIBAI (wouldn’t it be nice if/ wouldn’t it be awful if )

You can also combine this activity with some thinking and reflection. How about asking colleagues to make and fly two planes? On the first plane, finish the sentence: Wouldn’t it be nice if…… On the second plane, Wouldn’t it be awful if……….

I did this recently with a group after completing a SWOT analysis and it was amazing how many additional threats and opportunities emerged from this activity.

Picture postcards

Another great icebreaker and energiser is using a bag full of postcards with a wide range of images on, to draw out creative and imaginative responses. These are great to use with visual learners and work with teams of all abilities. You’ll need lots of cards!

Back in the day, an ex-colleague of mine, spent years developing her card collection and viewed it as her most valuable facilitation tool. Thankfully you can now buy sets of ready-made cards (see link below). These can be used when working with individuals or groups.

Participants are asked to choose a picture that best responds to the question posed to them. They then have the opportunity to verbally explain and expand on this.

Question examples:

  • Find a picture that best represents your vision of the organisation in five years time (strategy development).

  • Find the picture that sums up how you are feeling right now. (Good starter when working in a coaching situation, or debriefing after a team meeting).

So come on managers, when you’re arranging your next meeting, be realistic with your agenda, give some thought to how long you expect your team to sit for, and how effective this is. Plan energisers and icebreakers into your agenda and see what a difference it makes.

Resources to check out:

I’ve got both sets of these cards and can recommend them

School of Babel Coaching Cards

Other essential resources– Flip chart, post-it notes, scrap paper

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