The 3 Keys to Effective Icebreakers and Team-Building Activities
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The 3 Keys to Effective Icebreakers and Team-Building Activities

Icebreakers

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The 3 Keys to Effective Icebreakers and Team-Building Activities

Typically when people come together for an activity such as a meeting or a workshop, they are a bit anxious. They are filled with questions. What's going to happen here today? What will I need to do? Will I be able to perform adequately? Will people like me?

Not only are they anxious, but they are also preoccupied. They're thinking about children at daycare, work projects, or errands that will be run after work. If you are looking for some creativity from the group, you'll be hard-pressed to find any.

For fun meetings in a business setting in which participants are professionals, icebreakers that require actions not normally associated with day-to-day behaviors in the office generally make people uncomfortable. Successful icebreakers for these types of groups generally consist of having attendees share memorable information, creating innovative ways to get people to introduce themselves to each other, or having group members collectively work on a problem where everyone must contribute. Icebreakers cut through both distractions. They help people forget about their anxiousness and preoccupations, allowing them to focus on the task at hand.

Icebreakers come in many flavors. Some are focused on helping people quickly and easily become acquainted with one another. Others present the participants with a challenging activity that requires their full attention. Still, others are just plain fun, giving people a chance to laugh and smile.

People sometimes skip icebreakers because they want to immediately get down to business. A 5-10-minute icebreaker investment is never a waste of time. It's a great first step on the road to a productive and creative session.

You may be looking for team-building activities to fill time or keep the energy high in a meeting, but keep in mind that the best learning occurs when people are enjoying themselves...having fun! With that, consider the importance of selecting well-thought-out activities that capitalize on the "fun quotient" to teach a point or reinforce behavior or capability. These "Teachable Point" activities usually involve some type of group activity where the teachable moment is facilitated by the leader at the end, during the debriefing session. In selecting your team-building activity, keep the following considerations in mind:

Determine the needs of your team or group...what do they need to learn, improve on, have reinforced, or practice? Find a way to adapt your activity to build on the real-world goals of your team or organization.

Identify sources of meeting ice breakers, team-builders, and energizers that allow you to continually present fresh, new activities. Teaching and reinforcing the skills you want to develop in your team should involve ongoing events and keep team members engaged from meeting to meeting. Continually give them something new to do as a group. Take the team-building beyond just a meal and an off-site event, get people moving, thinking, and working together to do a task, and then reinforce the activity with teachable points.

Keep the teachable point alive to continue the right thoughts and behaviors beyond the event day. Reward people when they demonstrate the desired behaviors both during the activity and afterward. You could use an inexpensive trinket, a token, a coupon...anything that recognizes the behavior. Reinforce the teachable points in a post-event memo, letter, or newsletter. Build on the points at the next meeting with a different activity that reinforces a complimentary set of behaviors and needs.

If developing an activity that will allow you to do all of this seems daunting, keep in mind that you don't have to be the expert with all the ideas, just the expert with access to the ideas. Doing a quick web search for keywords related to icebreakers or team-building activities will reveal the plethora of books, binders, CDs, eBooks, and websites with turn-key ideas ready for your next meeting. The big convenience of having a few of the commercial products in your library is that the authors and publishers have done all of the hard work for you and laid out the details of the best way to conduct the activity, even organizing the content by categories to help you quickly find the right activity for your group. This leaves you with more time to plan for the rest of your meeting.

Remember, having fun engages the senses, which leads to a better learning experience. It's your job as the leader or facilitator to create an atmosphere where people can have fun.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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