Here are five icebreaker questions that I have used over and over again that produce great results in terms of getting people to open up and find some common ground to bond over.
1. Take as much as you need…
As the meeting facilitator you walk around with a roll of toilet paper asking the each person to take as much as they will need.
When they ask, “What it is for?”, you simply say you will find out. Once everyone is in the room and ready to go, and everyone has as much as they need. You simply say you want them to tell one thing about themselves for every sheet of toilet paper.
Some of those people that took lots will be wishing they hadn’t, this is when you can let them off the hook a bit: Kids names, pets names, favorite vacation, best party, coolest thing you own all count.
In other words help them out by giving them ideas and asking them questions that key off something they have already said.
I have used this one several times, it has always produced a very fun vibe in the room, and even if people have worked together for a long time, they have always discovered information about one another they never knew before.
One time I used this and the group leader Jennifer had climbed Mount Everest and because of the amount of TP we learned things about coming off the mountain you probably wouldn’t have heard any other way!
Another one of my favorite icebreaker questions is…
2. Your best vacation ever and why?
This is a great question because it is easy for people to talk about their vacation.
They don’t feel like they are opening up their deepest darkest secrets about themselves. You often discover what is really important to that person in there answer.
Is family really important to them, is fun activities really important to them, did they pack in a lot of historic sites, did they investigate the points of interest.
As the moderator you will need to prompt with follow up questions from time to time, or get the other participants to ask follow up questions. Once it gets started people will find out what they have in common and it gives everyone and easy conversation starter.
I had the fortunate experience of having the same person in two different workshops and Cheryl was a vacation time maximizer – she could pack more into the time frame than anyone thought was possible.
Her stories about how much she was able to see and visit in a short period of time were amazing and inspiring.
You can twist this one with best business trip ever and why? If you know everyone in the room has done business travel, but don’t ever flip this question to the Worst – it will backfire on you – as the vibe in the room goes negative!
Another one of my favorite icebreaker questions is…
3. One thing nobody knows about you?
Would you imagine someone’s answer to this funny icebreaker question would be, “I have been in the back of a police car.” Your mind is making up all kinds of things right now, I’ll bet.
Some people keep their personal life private for the most part therefore others don’t know much, and have a hard time finding common ground. This question will definitely get everyone on the same page.
When they ask nobody in the room knows – you have to stay firm and say – yes, nobody. This will force the person that feels they share everything to open an up and share that one they were holding back.
4. Funniest most embarrassing thing that has happen to you and why?
When you ask this icebreaker question don’t expect to the absolute most embarrassing thing, but I can guarantee you will feel like you are watching an episode of Funniest Home Videos.
If someone is really stuck – have them tell you what situation would be most embarrassing if it happened to them.
This can be a great question to use after lunch in an all day team meeting when the group has already jelled a bit, and they have the post lunch sag in terms of energy. This will revitalize the room with energy and good spirits.
Here is my absolute favorite icebreaker questions is…
5. What is your “one of them” story?
The way this works is you have to explain that when they are looking at what someone else is doing – and inside they are saying “I wish I was one of them.” You have to trust that everyone has one.
This started when some friends of mine decided to be on a sailboat for the 1999/2000 New Years – back when everybody thought there was going to be a big melt down of computer systems. They were walking along the beach where there where hundreds of people camped out in tents looking out at the boats anchored just off shore when one of the women said, “Were one of them!”
Meaning we are one of the fortunate ones to be on the boats instead of on the beach.
The biggest problem with this question is people will not realize what they have done in life qualifies.
One night when we were asking people this one woman looks at us and says – “Does going to the Superbowl count?, I mean we were only in a box?” – it was like – ya for sure! Getting to watch the Superbowl from a box is definitely a “one of them” story.
Until next time, keep Discovering your Natural Abilities.
P.S. I look forward to hearing about your experiences and questions about using these icebreaker questions.
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