Training for Trainers – Ice breakers for the jaded audience

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If you’re looking for a list of ice breaker activities that will “unjade” a jaded audience, then you might be out of luck.  There is no magic 10 minute activity that can achieve that outcome.  But if you are working with a group that is really cynical or have done this too many times before, it pays to think about a couple of things:

1. What’s my outcome for this session? I know, I know, this is our answer to everything.  But if you ask the question – “what am I wanting to achieve by doing this activity”, you will have narrowed your options already.  On a recent workshop I used a simple participant continuum, getting them to line up firstly by name (they didn’t know each other), then by date of birth (but not the year!) followed by length of time at the organisation.  Good pieces of information to share in a more active way than having everyone simply introduce themselves.

2. What’s the topic? If I know what our topic is, then I can direct my thinking to ice breakers that are “appropriate” to the topic.  My favourite activities reflect something of the content and give us a chance to make some key points that help set the course up for the day.  On the workshop described above, we added a couple of additional criteria.  The first was “experience at training” (it was a training for trainers).  It’s great for all of us to see the level of experience we have in a group.  I got to make comments about how much more experience there is collectively with them suggesting that they know more than me and that their experience counts for something.  The second was “confidence at training”.  There wasn’t a lot of movement.  The perfect opportunity for me to comment that so much of our confidence comes from having experience, and setting up one of the key concepts for the day – that the more experience they have, the more confident they will feel, and here on this course, is the place to start.  Giving me total permission to give them lots and lots of opportunities to practise.

3. What’s the point? If you can’t think of any icebreakers that will help you achieve your outcome, or help you with some of the content, maybe you need to ask yourself this question.  What’s the point?  If you can’t think of a good one, maybe you shouldn’t bother with an icebreaker.  Just because it might be considered “best practise” to run an ice breaker at the beginning of a session (or after a lunch break), doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.  In fact, with a “jaded” audience, you have to be extra careful that you can answer this question because nothing will make them more jaded, than you forcing them to participate in a pointless activity for the sake of it.


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