Breaking the Ice

Meetings, events, and other facilitated face-to-face gatherings only work if people engage with each other. Doing this requires some kind of interest or ability to connect with one another in person. While there are certainly some people who have little difficulty engaging with new people in unfamiliar settings, many struggle.

This is where the icebreaker comes in.

Software and services firm Atlassian has prepared a great list of practical exercises to help spice up the usual icebreaker. These can be taken as they are or adapted for use at your next meeting or event.


The first cluster of these uses the notion of ‘surprise’ to get people talking about something that is low risk but also gets people curious. For example, questions like these are nearly impossible to predict answers to and also can enlist some creativity in responses without necessarily revealing too much about a person.

  • What animal would choose to be, and why?
  • What is your superhero name?


Another theme within these techniques and tools is fun. One of the approaches to fun is to leverage surprise with an activity that allows people to share in an experience. An example is co-creating something. While design often looks to create the best of something a fun way to engage small groups is to create the worst of something.

This approach is similar to the program flipping exercise we do as part of the Design Loft Experience where we ask participants to design a program in a way that takes the current expectations and makes them a little worse. Do it over and again and you create a space for fun, creativity, and a chance to explore an issue in further detail.

Make your next meeting different and engaging by introducing surprise and fun to the way that people connect with one another.

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