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An Icebreaker When Time is Tight

Posted by Paul Sitter on 4/11/16 4:00 AM
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A table change is a useful tool for trainers to help manage group dynamics. It can also be used as an energizer and to minimize disruptions. A table change can wake people up in the morning or late afternoon, and can build some much needed physical activity into the day. Most trainers routinely include table changes into their training.

 

When a table change occurs, an icebreaker is often scheduled to help the new team members feel comfortable working together. What’s the downside, you ask? Well, icebreakers take time. In a busy training day, ten or fifteen minutes can be a costly activity.

 

When people don’t know each other or aren’t used to working together, spending time on an icebreaker is a good investment. But what about a group that knows each other well or has been working in the same room for days or weeks? Or, conversely, what if your training session is only one hour long?

 

An effective solution in these situations is the A-B-C icebreaker. It is a quick activity that uses a set-up statement something like this:

 

“Here’s what you will do. In your groups, identify something you physically have with you (and are prepared to show the other attendees) that corresponds to the letters of the alphabet. Make note of this on your chart. For example, if you have an apple in your backpack, “A” is taken care of. The ideal outcome is twenty-six letters on your chart, each with one item beginning with that letter. It is a mild competition. The winning team may be eligible for a not-so-fabulous prize. Here’s the kicker: the total maximum time for this activity is three minutes. If you finish in less time, let me know. Otherwise, at the end of three minutes, the team with the most valid letters will win. How can you tell if the objects corresponding to the letters are valid? The other teams will validate your list. What questions do you have about this activity? Go!”

 

You can add a sense of urgency by doing a countdown like, “one minute gone, two remaining, one minute left, forty-five seconds, thirty, ten, nine, eight, seven, etc.” At the end of the time say, “pens down, everyone!”

 

The final step is to find out who has the most items. If time permits, it can be fun to have the other groups ask the winning table to show the items they have come up with to correspond to the letters of the alphabet. Of course, stay within HR guidelines and make sure the prize for the winning table group is fairly trivial.

 

Trust me! It’s a fun, brief activity that hasn’t failed me yet.

 

If you're looking to add some fun and excitement to your training, check out our 25 Creative Ways to Add Excitement to Your Training workshop!


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Paul has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. He graduated from the University of San Francisco with a Bachelor’s degree in History. Throughout Paul’s career he’s had the pleasure of training for a variety of industries including sports, military, technical, aviation, and academia. Paul firmly believes with the right training and support, people can be competent performers in most positions. The organizational trainer is the key to providing that performance boost. In his spare time, you might catch sight of Paul on the sidelines of a soccer field, biking through Napa Valley, or spending some quality time with his family.

Topics: icebreakers

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