Icebreakers at events have withstood the test of time. Whether you revere them, despise them, or merely endure them, icebreakers are a fundamental element in fostering connections during business gatherings.
It’s undeniable that poorly conceived icebreakers can cast a dark cloud over an event, setting a tone of discomfort and forced camaraderie that can be hard to shake off. Yet, when executed with thoughtfulness and creativity, a good icebreaker has the transformative power to elevate an event to a whole new level. It can morph a room full of strangers into a vibrant community of engaged and connected individuals, laying the groundwork for fruitful discussions and potentially blossoming partnerships. The key lies in crafting icebreakers that resonate with your audience, fostering genuine connections and setting a positive, collaborative tone for the event.
We’ve gathered a handful of our favorite business networking icebreakers shared by meeting planners and attendees to share with you to save you from the awkwardness of forcing people to do trust falls.
Define Yourself in Five
Most of us want to get straight to the point when we attend a networking event, and when someone only has five words to describe what they do, that’s exactly what happens.
Help participants introduce themselves in a concise manner while adding a fun and light-hearted element to the event.
(Optional): A buzzer or a cowbell
How to play
Assemble all participants in a semi-circle or around tables where everyone can see each other.
Inform participants that they will each have a turn to describe who they are or what they do in five words or less. Mention that the goal is to be as concise and creative as possible.
Introduce the buzzer or the cowbell as a fun element to keep track of the word count. If someone exceeds the five-word limit, they will be buzzed or cowbelled as a playful reminder to stick to the rule.
Begin the activity by demonstrating it yourself or asking a willing participant to start. Proceed around the room, giving each person a chance to share. After each introduction, encourage the group to applaud or show some form of appreciation to keep the vibe positive.
At the end of the activity, thank everyone for their participation and perhaps highlight some of the most creative or humorous introductions.
- Encourage participants to be creative and think outside the box.
- Keep it light and fun to help participants feel at ease.
- Using a cowbell adds a humorous and unexpected element to the activity, which can help to break the ice even further.
Admittedly, this idea spawned after attending BizBash/Connect Detroit in 2022 where their staple is one-on-one networking appointments that’s essentially a mishmash of Match.com, speed dating, and one-on-one networking all combined into one.
To facilitate rapid networking and help participants meet as many people as possible in a short period of time.
A buzzer or a timer to signal time up.
How to play
Arrange chairs in two circles, one inside the other, with chairs facing each other. Or use tables and have participants sit across from one another.
Briefly explain the objective of the activity to the participants, emphasizing the goal of meeting as many people as possible and forming quick connections.
Set a fixed time for each interaction (e.g., 2 minutes). Inform participants that they will have this time to introduce themselves and have a brief conversation with the person opposite them.
Ask participants to take a seat, with one group sitting in the inner circle and another in the outer circle. Start the timer and signal the beginning of the first round of interactions.
Once the time is up, ring a bell or use a buzzer to signal the end of the round. Ask participants in the outer circle to move one seat to the right, initiating a new round of interactions.
Continue this process until participants have had the chance to meet a substantial number of people (this could be until they return to their starting position or for a fixed number of rounds).
After the final round, thank everyone for their participation and encourage them to follow up with any interesting contacts they may have made during the activity.
- Encourage participants to have business cards or contact information ready to exchange with others.
- Suggest that participants prepare a concise introduction of themselves to make the most of the limited time.
- To foster deeper connections, you might provide a few conversation starter questions or topics that participants can use if they wish.
The Spider Web
Visually represent the connections and networks within the group, fostering a sense of unity and collaboration.
A ball of yarn or string.
How to play
Gather participants in a spacious area and ask them to form a circle, standing at an arm’s length from each other.
Demonstrate how the activity will work by holding onto the end of the yarn and sharing something about yourself before passing the ball of yarn to someone else.
The first participant holds onto the end of the yarn, shares a fact or story about themselves, and then throws the ball of yarn to another participant across the circle, while holding onto their part of the yarn.
The next participant then holds onto their part of the yarn, shares something about themselves, and throws the ball to another person, creating a web of connections as the process continues.
Emphasize that the growing web of yarn visually represents the connections and networks being formed within the group.
Continue the activity until everyone has had a chance to participate and the web is fully formed, showcasing a complex network of connections.
Once the web is complete, ask them to reflect on the connections formed and the information shared. You might ask them to share what they learned about others or how they felt during the activity.
- Encourage people to share interesting or lesser-known facts about themselves to foster deeper connections.
- Ask them to throw the yarn gently to prevent accidents or injuries.
- If the group is large, consider using multiple balls of yarn to create a more intricate web and involve everyone more quickly.